Elise Harper – Senior Consultant, Social Impact at Ellis Jones
Bursting into the office every day as a ball of ideas and motivation, Elise Harper holds the reigns of Ellis Jones’ Social Impact practice.
Originally from Brisbane, Elise is a passionate consultant leading the agency’s social impact work: social mobilisation campaigns, Shared Value strategy, community research and engagement, and the ongoing development of agency models.
An adventurous spirit, Elise has lived and worked all over the globe in her short 27 years. Before joining Ellis Jones in 2015, she worked on integrated communications and advertising for brands like Volkswagon in the UK and USA, in social research and community engagement around education and sanitation for NGO Seva Mandir in India, and on major government behavioral change campaigns like ‘Mates Motel‘ and ‘Reduce Your Juice‘ in Australia.
Elise has also traveled just about everywhere. In 2016 alone, she found adventure in Tibet, New Zealand, Indonesia and USA. She is most happy on a plane with a backpack in tow, learning new moves at Beyonce dance class, or riding her bike through the streets of Fitzroy.
We caught up with Elise to find out more about social impact, her work at Ellis Jones, and what powers her mind.
Q: Sum up yourself in 3 words
A: Explorative. Determined. Impatient.
Q: When you finished school, what industry/role did you want to work in?
A: At 16, I fancied myself a fence-climbing, hard-question-asking, injustice-fighting investigative journalist. I wanted to find “the truth” and make people think and act with powerful words. Instead, I found myself interviewing people about why they think their next door neighbours’ cat is probably the last known Tasmanian Devil. I changed my degree to Business after 6 months.
Q: What drew you to working in the social impact space?
A: Philosophically, a sense of perpetual optimism that we can make the world a better place. Practically, a desire to make sure the systems, organisations and cultures we build give people the best chance of thriving.
Q: What area of your work are you most passionate about?
A: I love working with organisations to respond to, and thrive from, the changes swirling around them; be these regulatory changes, consumer attitudinal or behavioural shifts, or a proactive effort to set the agenda for a sector or region. The process of re-defining organisations – their role in improving society, the way they relate to their consumers/partners, their purpose – is rich in the type of sensing, modelling, creative work I love. It’s complex and at times messy, but then something new is born!
Q: What is the future of social impact? What are some emerging trends in the area?
A: At a micro level, I think the future is about the practice of social impact being normalised – becoming intrinsically part of every organisation (public, private and everything in-between), in every layman’s consciousness, every worker’s role. The awareness of, and understanding about, the social and environmental issues that plague our global society is increasing, and progressively it is not only governments that find solutions; it’s major corporations, start-ups, and individuals from every background. At a macro level, I think the future of social impact is dependent on the global debate about what we define as ‘progress’ and ‘prosperity’. I think this will continue to divide people, form ideology, and set the rules that organisations play by.
Q: What is the most important thing you have learnt so far, working at Ellis Jones?
A: Everything is about frameworks. How a client sees their role in society, what counts as “impossible”, what is “normal” behaviour for different types of people, what story is the “truth”. If you challenge your mental framework, you change your world.
Q: What would you do on an ideal weekend?
A: Anything explorative. It could be a hike or a new exhibition, meeting people I wouldn’t usually cross paths with or reading a brilliant book. As long as I’m experiencing or learning something new, I’m happy! And wine, everything with wine.
Q: What is your must-read book of the summer?
A: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It’s powerful political commentary in the form of a family story. I devoured it on one flight over Christmas and have forced it upon so many people.
Q: If you could change or fix one thing about the world, with the click of your fingers, what would it be?
A: I wish humans had the ability to step outside of our skin. Aside from the obvious benefits of getting to experience something new, it would do wonders for our ability to empathise. It would end racism, sexism, and every other ‘ism’, simply because we would truly understand someone else’s experience, see the world through their eyes, and feel their pain.
Q: Life motto?
A: “Humans are weird”. Sometimes it’s the only explanation.