September 17, 2023


110. Leading a Social Enterprise (Foster Carer Wellbeing)

Hosted by

Brendan Rogers
110. Leading a Social Enterprise (Foster Carer Wellbeing)
Culture of Leadership
110. Leading a Social Enterprise (Foster Carer Wellbeing)

Sep 17 2023 | 01:29:00


Show Notes

    Today’s episode is a very personal and important episode for my family. We are foster carers, and my inspiring and dedicated guest is Marcie McGowan, co-founder and CEO of the Hatch Project, a social enterprise aimed at revolutionizing Australia’s foster care system. Marcie shares her experiences with the foster care system and discusses […]
View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Brendan: "Social Entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry." These are the words of Bill Drayton, the man responsible for the rise of the phrase ‘social entrepreneur.’ Today, you’ll meet Marcie McGowan. Marcie is the Co-Founder and CEO of a social enterprise called The Hatch Project. With the help of her brother Nathan, they’re working to revolutionize the foster care system in Australia. And foster carers are the vital link in the revolution. This is The Culture of Leadership podcast. I’m Brendan Rogers. Sit back and enjoy my conversation with Marcie. Marcie: Okay. I struggle with this. I feel like I struggled with this the first time we spoke about it. Hash Project started really a couple of years ago with the opportunity to create change in the lives of some of the most disadvantaged in our country, really around the world. Kids in foster care would be considered extremely disadvantaged. Certainly in Australia, when you look at the issues that we were seeking to respond to around intergenerational trauma, abuse, and institutionalization, these kids are definitely some of the most disadvantaged kids in Australia. They're in our backyard. There are 46,000 of them in Australia. It started with an opportunity from my brother who said, I want to donate funds to this cause. He was off the back of his own successful product development and entrepreneurship journey. He had that bug, I think, and then said, I really want to do purpose-driven work. I want to contribute to something purpose-driven. You come from a purpose-driven field. I was newly out of fresh burnt out from 17 years of working in the New South Wales out of home care sector myself, taking a little break, and vowing never to return to it. He had this idea. He said, let's think creatively, let's think laterally. Let's use innovation to consider new and different ways to respond to these incredibly complex challenges that lead to these intergenerational cycles for these kids. I think it was probably the creativity in this incredible opportunity that made me go, oh, yeah, well, I should probably jump on that, and we should do that together. Hatch Project really was a working title. It stuck because we haven't come up with a better one. It was a broad title, because we really didn't know when we started this project, where we would end up. We talked about this idea of developing some kind of product. I didn't even know what that language meant at that time because that's not the language a social worker uses. We had no idea what that product would be. Other words for that would be a response, a solution. We stay away from that word a little bit, but certainly a response to a problem. We intentionally used methodologies that really call to look at the problem very broadly to begin with. We mapped out this complex problem asking the question, why. Why are kids in care? Probably the line we would use is, why do kids in care have such poor outcomes? Brendan: That's the problem that the Hatch Project is trying to solve? Marcie: Yeah, certainly the question that I ideate on and I diverge around, that big why. Brendan: It's a big question. Marcie: It's a big question. I already had so many thoughts on this from my time of working in the sector. Just for some context around that, I worked across five non-government organizations in New South Wales. Some of them are very large like Wesley Mission, and then some of them are very small as well. I worked across caseworker roles and team leader roles, some management positions. Particularly the last 10 years, most of my work was around foster carer, recruitment, and support training authorization. That was probably the primary space I actually worked in in my time in the sector. I already came in with lots of ideas, perhaps lots of assumptions around what these problems were. When I say we went through a mapping process, it's probably figurative more than it is literally, because if I was to draw this actual map, which I do plan to still do by the way, that's been needed so many times. I don't know if you've ever seen a systems map in complex issues, but you're talking about thousands of interlocking loops. For us, it really involved the key players. You've got a government in the New South Wales space. When it comes to foster care, your non-government organizations play a primary role. Different to other states, each Australian jurisdiction works very differently. But in New South Wales, I'm going to say, approximately 80% of foster care is provided by the non-government sector. This just means that the government does the child protection stuff. They remove the kids, and then they need somewhere for the kids to live. In fact, it's a conversation that's happening right now in the community a lot, that the history of how this all came to be really spans hundreds of years because if you look at orphanages, they were run by charities. That really just moved on into the 50s and the 60s, even, before I think the 70s formal child protection services came into play. We also started looking at this shift from institutionalized care into family-based care. Along those lines, you've got family-based care being provided by foster carers, non-government organizations, and charities being the ones that support those placements. Brendan: Can I just put something into context? Marcie: Yeah. Brendan: You mentioned 46,000 children needing care? Marcie: Yeah. Brendan: How many foster carers are there in New South Wales? Marcie: Very good question. There are currently 46,000 Children in Australia. We have, I think it's approximately 9000 foster families in Australia. You can either ask questions about how that works. Brendan: We don't have to be that smart at mathematics to work out there's a shortage. Marcie: Yes. I can offer some ideas on what is happening there and how that's working, which is pretty simply that there are many children in foster care that are not being accommodated within a foster family. Brendan: What happens? What are the options for those? Marcie: There are residential facilities. Brendan: What's that look like? Marcie: They've just changed names a lot, so I'm trying to figure out what they might be called now, but they're a group home. They're staffed usually by youth workers who are on roster 24/7. In fact, my job started as a youth worker in a home like that. That leans much more towards that institutionalized model of care. There are small group homes. You're probably talking a handful of kids. Brendan: What's a handful? Marcie: The ones that I worked in, we had probably three or four kids in the home, very, very high needs kids. The kids that end up in these homes, they end up there because there's no other placement for them, so we can't match them with foster carers. We can't match them with foster carers because we don't have enough foster carers, but also because foster carers aren't in a position to provide the type of care that these kids need. These kids on paper, there's no judgment there. Brendan: Give us some examples of the type of care that a child could need that is determined as high needs. Marcie: There might be high-level physical needs and disabilities, but usually, you're talking about social, emotional, and behavioral needs. Children in foster care usually will have some disordered attachment system that's based on attachment theory. They didn't have those safe, secure, and nurturing relationships with their primary caregivers, their parents, which means the whole model and understanding of how relationships operate is really off. Their entire relationship, all their relationships can look quite dysfunctional. Also, trauma. We know that kids that are in foster care haven't been removed based on small concerns. The Department of Community Services has a process whereby they remove children when it's deemed that the likelihood of harm to them is very, very high. It's either already happened, or it's likely to happen. You get kids that have been in these environments for many, many years with many, many, many allegations or risk of harm reports made that aren't removed yet, because it's a really hard position to understand when to remove that kid. We know when that kid is removed, you're actually creating a trauma in itself that really is undoable. It's not taken lightly. We know that children are better with their biological families wherever possible. The sad reality is there are some kids that if left... Brendan: Is that really the case? Is that what the data says? I guess what I'm thinking about is, I go to the number 46,000 in care, and then with the definition of removing a child or children from their family, that's a massive call. I get that, but there's an unimaginable amount of young people that are in situations that would not be what we would maybe determine based on their own upbringing as model upbringing environment opportunities. Marcie: Yes, that is my understanding. I've never worked for child protection or for the government. But my understanding is, they only remove a portion of the kids that need to be removed because they don't have the capacity in the system to do so. I've got to really be honest and acknowledge the conflicts that I have around all of this. There are several reasons why when it comes to removals. Firstly, I have seen the impact firsthand of children who do not get to live with their biological families. You have to some extent. It's hard when the foster care system was designed as the solution to the problem, and yet our data and evidence suggests that it's not a solution. In fact, I believe there is some research that highlights that kids that are removed on the whole, like talking in broad terms, don't have better outcomes than the kids that stayed with their families. That has to do with the brokenness of the system, ultimately. When you start thinking about that broadly, systemically, you sit there and you go, why are we removing these kids? However, then it just takes one more horrific story that will hit the media, talking to anyone who works in child protection to say what they've seen, and you go, okay. In my view, in my belief system, it doesn't actually have a lot to do with the parents themselves because they've been part of a system as well, but these kids have to be removed. They have to be given an opportunity for safety, nurture, and care, and then you have the foster care system. But there are many that apparently aren't removed. When you're looking at these kids that come into the system, whether it be at birth they're removed, or years and years later, often children will have experienced trauma. In this field, we talk about developmental trauma, which again, I'm no neuroscience, but it is different, for example, to post-traumatic stress disorder because it refers to the developing brain. It refers to this idea that if these kids are in constant flight mode for their survival, their brain is developing differently. It's wired differently. Developmental trauma, which is still a field that's fairly new 10–20 years, I'd say, what we understand is that we're talking about a different brain. When kids come into care, and when carers are charged with the responsibility of nurturing, loving, and caring these kids, it really highlights how enormous that job is when you're talking about neural networks. That's developmental trauma. Kids coming into care have these attachment dysregulation, this developmental trauma, and a host of other problems and needs. All of that culminates into some fairly difficult behavior. Certainly in those group homes, looping it back into where we started there, these kids have very antisocial behaviors, high risk-taking behaviors. There was a stat. I really don't want to misquote it, but it's burnt in a little bit, I remember because the kids that were in the refuge—we call it a refuge at the time, the group home that I worked at originally—that service provider was contracted to really take your highest needs kids. When the government couldn't find placement anywhere else, they'd end up with this service. I think the stats was something like one in four would actually die before the age of 20 or 25, it may have been. I know already of two. Brendan: Through taking their own life? Marcie: Overdose, taking their own life, various, various means. I only worked there for 8–9 months. I probably only worked with a handful of kids, and I know of two that had passed away certainly within that time frame. I don't know where to go with the behavior piece. I can tell you multiple stories in terms of what these kids may say or do, but it's not pretty, and it's really difficult. Brendan: Let's bring it back to these kids out there, young people out there who have high needs and varying degrees of needs, but they're in group homes, or a percentage of them are. There are still a number left. What are the other options for this case? There's this term called alternative care arrangement. What does that look like? Marcie: Very ambiguous, intentionally. Alternative care arrangement, I think, must just refer to any arrangement that doesn't involve a child being in a traditional foster care home. If it's not a residential setting or a group home, it probably looks like a hotel. I've been out of the system for a few years now, but certainly there were scenarios where a house might be rented for a sibling group, which then again, looks a bit like a group home, but it might be for the distinct purpose of keeping siblings together. But again, you'd have a more youth worker model there as opposed to carers. Brendan: Carers coming through rotation. Marcie: Exactly. A very different attachment there as well as your primary 24/7 caregiver. I guess if you reduce it all the way back, you've got people in government, in caseworkers in child protection, that are removing kids based on their thresholds telling you they need to be taken, and then there's nowhere for them to go. What do you do? Certainly, I know back in the day, there were stacks of stories from people that I knew personally or through the system where kids would be dropped off in these unauthorized foster carer type placements. Where can these kids go? A family is saying, I'll take a kid, or I know this person from this person, or whatever. But you have to find somewhere for them to live. The government is the legal parent, but they're a house, so you've got to put them somewhere. That's the problem they're trying to resolve. Brendan: Maybe there is some method to the madness of some of these children being housed in parliament house for a period of time, and some of these people who are making decisions can see what's actually happening on the ground. Anyway, there's an emotional response I had to that. Let's bring this back. You've painted a really good, sad, but truthful picture around some of the context of this. Let's bring it back to the Hatch Project, this social enterprise that you're leading, your brother still has an involvement in, and has provided the funding at this point in time. What does success look like in this future space for the Hatch Project? Marcie: Success looks like better outcomes for kids in foster care. Brendan: Tell us what better outcomes look like. Marcie: Let's start with the intergenerational cycle of kids being in care. If you're in foster care, you've got an X percentage likelihood that one of your parents was in foster care. I want to say, a recent stat is something like one in three or one in four kids who are currently in care had a parent that was a part of the child protection system themselves. These cycles are very evident. Brendan: Repeatable. Marcie: Yes. This was one of my first tastes of the foster care system. I was 22–23 years old, very eager myself. I came from quite a privileged upbringing in terms of very loving, secure, emotionally available parents, lots of great opportunities in my life. I come into this system eager. I'm going to change the world. I get my first caseload of kids. I have a three-year-old on my caseload. She's been brought into care because of many, many reasons. I remember she'd been removed from her mum, who tried to kill herself, commit suicide in the shower, and do that with her baby in her arms. That was the reason for removal, but there were lots of, I would say, other issues involved. I see this stuff in the file as fairly naive. I think to myself, who is this mum? You can't help but make judgments about mum. It's not long before I meet mum because in the foster care system, when you're a caseworker and you're working with a child on your caseload, you're also quite involved with their parents. You do contact visits with their parents. I met mum. From the second I saw mum, I've never seen anyone like her. She had a shaved head, and she was covered in cigarette burns head to toe. She had so many scars on her neck that were scarring on top of scarring. From the second I looked at this woman, she was only 19, so she was 16 when she gave birth, and not really that much younger than me at the time either, you're obviously saying what happened. I soon and very quickly learned that she was part of the foster care system herself. Most of that scarring was self-harm related, but also that possibly, the father of her daughter on my caseload was actually her own father. You sit there and you're thinking, who is this man? Who is he to do this to her? Of course, I learned that he was in care himself. He was in an orphanage. This very early memory or experience really solidified systems for me. I could not unsee systems ever. These intergenerational cycles, what it means is we don't have the luxury of blaming somebody or something. These problems are much, much bigger. One of our ultimate missions would be to have the current kids that are in care that they don't go on to have kids that are in care. That's something that's possibly measurable into the future, too. Other outcomes would look so far as better outcomes for kids in care. Based on the current statistic in New South Wales, 50% of care leavers, so that's 18 years. The caregiving age has just changed to 21. But up until recently, it was 18 in New South Wales. Fifty percent of care leavers will have had a child, be in jail, or be homeless within one year of leaving care. If you're looking at those statistics, and I just like to highlight right now how shocking those statistics are, and the public does not really know the full extent of what we're talking about here, even though they are published statistics. It takes a bit to actually find them and publish them in a good way. Brendan: This is part of the challenge for various enterprises out there. Particularly, the Hatch Project is getting information out for people, the general public, to see. I know as a foster carer, having just conversations with people that aren't in that system and know about it but don't really know about it, they're absolutely astounded by some of the information that they start to. That's just them asking questions because they're interested. There's a real dismay. I have no idea. Not that I have a question to this, but the majority of people in society, and let's talk about New South Wales in Australia, but they want to see these better outcomes, I guess. There are a lot of people going through society very naive about the reality of some of these things that you've just shared. This is the challenge that you have as a social entrepreneur, leader, a challenge and an opportunity. You mentioned earlier, 17 years that you got out of home care space, and you said jaded. What makes you think that you and Nathan, to start with, can make this change? Marcie: Gosh, that's a really good question because I've changed, probably, in terms of how I can respond to that authentically. When we started, I needed a job. It was an exciting opportunity. There was a part of me that wanted to prove the criticizers of me wrong, because I actually left the system when I was made redundant. There's no one who's redundant in this system, obviously. That had a lot more to do with not being valued or maybe being too disruptive. Perhaps, there are several versions of how that looked. That was quite a traumatic experience for me for various reasons. Certainly, in hindsight, gosh, I'm glad the whole thing happened because I was jaded, I was exhausted, and I was burnt out. I probably couldn't see anything positive at all left in the system. I probably wasn't producing very good work, either. But I'm really glad that that happened. At that very initial point, it was like, oh, look what I get to do and achieve now. In terms of will we be successful, I'll be really honest. I'm glad Nathan's not here, he'll probably listen. I'm sitting there going, we've got to take a step. Nathan with his product lens, my brother who has created a product says, you can do anything, it's just how you go about doing it. I'm sitting there, you don't know what you're talking about. You worked in financial technology. It just doesn't compare to the complexity of intergenerational cycles of abuse, trauma, and institutionalization. Brendan: Mind you, financial service has a fair bit of regulation requirements. Marcie: I have been told that there is a lot of complexity. Brendan: Maybe that's where he thinks, well, I can work the financial regulation side for the positive, and I can work within the extreme regulation out of home care. Marcie: I've since been told that actually, it's a very complex problem that he was part of solving as well. Brendan: I'm sure he's making it more complex even. Marcie: I know, that's it. But I always just like, you're kidding yourself. You just don't know what you're talking about. But what an opportunity to think laterally about things. It was not how I was, I'll say, allowed to think when I worked in the system. The system itself is heavily regulated. It survives based on control. Children in foster care are government property and responsibility. Reputational risk is at an all time high if you can imagine. The public knowing that something had happened to a child in care, these are Australia's kids. Reputational damage and risk is huge. Their system survives by creating more guardrails and more regulations. What that results in is a system that operates, its status quo is very rigid, very tightly held, and very controlled. There's no room to look at problems and to think innovatively about how we might solve them because there's a way that things have to be done to keep things safe, essentially. That's about risk aversion. When I got this opportunity to think, oh, my gosh, I can let my naturally fairly neuro diverse brain just go, oh. Particularly with all the knowledge that I brought in and go, let's do this, let's do this, let's do this. That was just such an exciting opportunity as well. At the start, it was a pipe dream. Can we change things? Can we make a difference? I think maybe three years on, I'm a little more convinced just based on the trajectory of the project. Brendan: You're already making a difference. It may not be the ultimate outcome, you're not going to do that three years, but there's already a difference being made. Marcie: And that's been part of the mindset change, too. When I looked at that north star goal, I think we can make a difference there too. But this idea that you're making differences today, I need to try to convince some funder out there that that's worth funding, too. Differences today, because most people also want to invest in the long-term goal, which is a generation away, at least. It's funny. The methods that we're using have a lot to do with my newly found confidence in what we're doing, this idea that my brother said right at the start. If you have a north star, an objective, and if you continue to pivot and move so that your compass keeps facing true north, you can't be wrong. It's very arrogant. You can't be wrong. I have actually experienced what he's talking about now. It's about movement. It's about change. The big thing with that analogy though that I've learned, and this is nice because it's going to loop back—I know, we really need to go—the big thing is, what is your compass? In our case, we actually created a compass. Our true north is better outcomes for children in foster care. Based on our broad system map, we decided that amongst all the opportunities to cause change, the foster carer, foster child relationship was a massive opportunity and fundamental. I won't even go into the attachment science in terms of going, you've got a kid who comes into foster care, and then they leave with more parents 24/7. What role do those parents have in the life of that child? That's a leverage point if I've ever seen one. It's not working. Based on outcomes again, broadly, and I don't want to tarnish every carer, or I'm not even talking about carers, every placement and the whole system with that brush, because absolutely you get some great results. You get some amazing relationships, but you cannot but ignore those broader outcomes. You go, well, what's happening? You're looking at foster care and you go, if this is an opportunity, we all believe this is an opportunity that's arguable, by the way, in the bureaucratic world of foster care, but I think most people with common sense will see that it's a huge opportunity. It's not coming to fruition. Why is it not coming to fruition? Something's going wrong with that relationship with the carer, the child, and the system. It's not the carer, it is the system. Brendan: Although it's not the carer, but let's look at the foster carer role as being employed. There's a payment involved, but it's like anybody in a role. You get some really good performance, and you get some people that in the eyes of their organization, should be redundant. Again, not to be disrespectful to you. I've been redundant as well for different reasons, but it is what it is. I 100% agree, which is why I'm so passionate about you on what you're doing and Nathan on the Hatch Project, but the quality of the foster carer is absolutely critical. You will get diverse levels of care. Let me ask you this question. What does an awesome foster care look like in your experience? What do they look like? I don't mean like, hey, Brendan, they look like me. I mean, what are those skills and attributes? Marcie: Literally, no one has asked me that. Brendan: This is why we are tapping into the most important leadership matters on The Culture of Leadership. We are stuff that people aren't thinking about. Marcie: People ask me what makes a good foster carer, and I tell them based on some very interesting research, the ones came out of California, around these patterns that they found in foster carers that then lead to better outcomes, whatever, blah-blah-blah. It had to do with a whole stack of not necessarily what you think, being flexible, open-minded, and upfront adventure. Often, there might have been some faith-based belief or teachers. Often, there were teachers, health professionals, or there was all this data that came out in terms of the patterns that existed in the best foster carers or the most successful foster carers. That probably impacted maybe my thinking around what I think a good foster carer is, but no one has outright asked me what I think a good carer is in my now 20 years of working with hundreds of foster carers. In true form, I don't even know if I could answer that question without further thought. Brendan: I'm putting you in a position here, but you're in foster care recruitment for quite a period of time. There were things that you were looking for. You may have lost some of that thing out from scouting. But ultimately, if you look at that, there's got to be some things in that process that you're thinking more, this is what I'm looking for and also, this is what I'm not looking for. Marcie: Thank you. That is a good way for me to think about me. When you put it like that, I want to have an open conversation. I want to know from the start that we can talk about important things. I guess I'm talking about transparency, and that's a lot to ask in and of itself. When you think about the position you've been in, that power imbalance that exists. When you're a foster care applicant, and you sit down with your assessor, and they open up your entire life and dissect it, that's a lot I'm asking for. I think I'm getting the most confidence when I'm getting those applicants that are just bringing everything to the table and not hiding anything. But then in saying that, just because you haven't been able to bring everything to the table, doesn't mean that you're not going to be a great foster carer. That's certainly one of my cues that I'm like, oh, we can have this conversation now. This is going to be really important to set you up for the relationship you're going to need to have with your caseworkers. It probably denotes confidence, and it probably denotes a strong sense of self, I imagine, and a lot of self-reflective capacity that I'm going to throw that one right up the top. Brendan: That falls in this big bucket of emotional intelligence in the level of human skill that you have. A big bucket, but in my own experience and my wifes together, if we didn't have that level of intelligence around our emotions, who we are, some ability to self regulate ourselves, as we know, the Hatch Project, there are so many challenges in the system. I want to reinforce this. We had such fantastic opportunities to meet so many great people, both in the foster carers and so many great people that are working in the system. I'm just thinking about the lady I met just the other night when I emceed an event, and she worked for DCJ. I'm like, okay, Brendan, don't judge that because not all people that work in DCJ are the type of people that you… but they're all coming from a good place. They're working on a system that they don't know-how to change. Maybe they don't have the skills that you have that Nathan has. They also don't have the impetus potentially and the appetite to try and create that change. But I guess back to my point, we just have to bring everything to the table, like you said, for the child. We've only been carers for a short amount of time compared to some of these experienced carers, but we love children. We love to make an impact in a young person's life. My life has been about coaching. I see that as an opportunity to coach young people, who have had varied upbringing and the ability to then be curious about that and not judgmental, which to me comes into the emotional intelligence side. If you've got that as a foundation, you want to be able to connect with them, and give them all the love in the world that you can, that's what you need. Recently, this morning in preparation for this, I'm talking to my wife and the little girl we have in our care now and reading, learning some of the history of mum. All these things you talk about being a product of the system have intellectual difficulties, but also made some decisions along the way that was having drunk parties while the little baby was in her womb and making sexual choices, which meant that she had various STDs. There's all that stuff. It's like, how the fuck do you change that? Marcie: Where do you start? I tell you what, your role as a foster carer has to be, as you know, my thoughts on this, hence the Hatch Project. Aside from doing that really early intervention, community work where kids don't need to be removed, and I think we're a long way off that for lots of reasons, but given that foster care has to exist, being the foster carer has to be the most powerful place that you can create. Or you can provide opportunity and you can make a difference. It just has to be. It's closely followed, I think, by people like teachers, probably therapists as well, caseworkers maybe to some extent, maybe not. We're talking about relationships, and we're talking about time, those hard yards. It's the 24/7. It's the who's there at nighttime when you're sick. Brendan: You're investing in a child or children. Whether that child is your own, you're investing in them, and then this is another opportunity that people make a decision. You're investing in a child or children that aren't your own by blood, but you have to treat them as your own. You have to love them on their own. That is challenging because again, it's not like a child comes into care, and then you get a full rap sheet of all their past experiences. Some of that stuff will only present over time through, I guess, what I can only determine as nonscientific weird behavior. You think, shivers, where does that come from? Again, so many aspects. My hat goes off to you and Nathan, and what you're trying to do, and whatever my evolving looks like in the future. Marcie: Can I just say, our hat goes off to you? We're not carers. Brendan: No you're not, but we're all part of the system, and we're all doing our bid. Marcie: We are. Yes. Brendan: What you've done, what you're building, and what you've already built, there's already a community of carers. That group is more than a hundred people at the moment from what I understand. It's not just a hundred who have signed up for the platform. There are 50, 60, 70 of those that are actively engaging in the platform, and there are goals to grow that, improve that. There's an army building, and you're the chief corporal or whatever we call you. Marcie: Yes, and that's the thing. I can't put up my hand and be a foster carer for various reasons, mostly because it takes a very, very special motivation. You got it because you put up your hand and you say, I want to be a foster carer. You've got that. I just wanted to note just one more thing about what you said about emotional intelligence and what makes a great foster carer, because I think you're definitely touching on something really, really important. Even if I haven't framed it necessarily as emotional intelligence, I often think about it in terms of being really open and flexible in your thinking. The way you talk about your version of it is that you also think about things quite systematically. If you meet a case worker or a person, your go-to is not to say that they're the problem. You know that the problems extend beyond that. I think that is not only a way of thinking about things that you're going to end up feeling frustrated, angry, and disempowered. In fact, I think it's a very empowering position. Because when you look at things in that way, and particularly your version of it, seeing the good in people as well, when you see good and you believe good intention, and then when you see things that are being done, and that you you make an interpretation as to what just happened and why it happened, we have so many carers in the system that are so angry, and I and it is for very, very good reason. That piece that you're talking about in terms of emotional intelligence or just being able to see outside of that hurt, the grief, and the shame, I just want to really make sure that I'm acknowledging that there are carers that have been doing this for decades, and they've had hundreds of children actually. They feel like victims at the hands of the system because they genuinely are victims at the hands of the system. I want to make sure that I acknowledge that. However, a victim mentality might cause anyone to remain very stuck as opposed to that mentality that says, hang on, this is all wrong, this is very problematic. But I am part of this system, which means I have the capacity to do something about it. That is a powerful mindset to bring in as a foster carer. That's something I really think could be a game changer in terms of educational mindset or growth opportunities with other carers, because I don't think innately everybody has this due to experiences in life or whatever it might be. You and your wife, I think, have probably come in with a really, really important, whether it be you'd know more. Is it a skill set? Is it an innate trait? I'm not sure that is beautifully aligned and matched with the role of foster caring, I think. Of course, there's all the other practical stuff. There are networks being strong networks, support mechanisms, self-care behaviors, and all that being a really important part of the role, too. I just wanted to highlight that and just make sure I've closed that off about what makes a great carer, because it does have to do with maybe some of the work we want to do at Hatch Project. Also, looping way back around to my analogy about the compass and the true north for Hatch Project, and that we created a compass, because what Hatch Project is is an online platform. It's just basic software that we use to conduct and facilitate a community. What that really is is it's a place for carers to talk. It's a place for them to connect. That's the easy one, because it's an online space, which is exclusively for foster carers and kinship carers. You can meet other carers there, but the safety element has been a main objective of ours, because we know that there are a lot of conversations that foster carers feel they are not allowed to have in the outside world and their outside foster caring roles. That was a really important part of the environment, I guess, that we had to consider when we were both designing the tech aspects of it, but the culture, the values, the mindsets that Nathan and I bring into it ourselves, even some technical thoughts on how we might establish some of those mindsets on the platform and within this community. This community is now a place where carers are talking. You know that, you're in there. In fact, I think the greatest validation I have in terms of the product is that carers are engaged. Measuring engagement on this platform has been a big part of how we are measuring success. Brendan: It's positive. There's a talk, it's a positive talk. Yes, there are elements here and there, where carers feel like they need to let some steam off. I get that. To me, not different from a disgruntled employee. They got to let some steam out. At the end of the day, they haven't felt valued at a certain point. It's been like your own journey and my own journey. At a certain stage, we haven't felt value. We've got a bit annoyed, disgruntled, or maybe we haven't taken responsibility. We've blamed others and things and not only our journey enough, but this is the platform that you've created now. There are lots of positive conversations I'm seeing. Carers, from the language I see, are starting to feel more empowered and safe in that community, which again, that's that trust-building. That's that transparency, that safeness, which allows them to feel like they've got support around them to talk to use their voice more, because that's what's going to change stuff as we build this. This is going to drive the momentum in the direction we need. Marcie: We need the carer voice. We actually have to have the carer voice. If you're talking about carer-related problems or issues, such as in concrete terms, we talk about carer well-being being an issue. That's really when we designed Hatch. We said, you've got foster carers that are doing this primary job. It's a fundamental opportunity. Something must be going wrong because we've still got these poor outcomes. We started digging about a little bit and going, hang on. There are some big problems for foster carers and within the relationship. For one thing, placement breakdowns are common. Even when kids come into foster care, and they may have been placed with the intention of it being a long-term placement, that means forever pretty much, it doesn't end up being a long-term placement, it breaks down. Some of these kids go through 10, 20, 30 placement breakdowns. Something's happening there. Placement breakdowns happen most of the time because carers say, I can't do it anymore. You go, well, why can't you do it? This is where we come to understand that carers are ill-equipped, they are undervalued, they are under-resourced. They really have very little agency in terms of being the 24/7 and the ones that are putting in the hard yards while the child's in the system. They're not given any genuine decision-making powers, because kids are property of the government, essentially legal responsibility to the government. Because the government also holds all the funds, which are then distributed down to service providers who work with carers, you've got this authority structure where you've got all the power at the top, and then you've got the people on the bottom. In this case, let's talk about carers who really are the ones that know what they need to care for that child well. As a parent, you need to provide good care, but they have no agency to say it. In fact, what we're beginning to see is that it's not only lack of agency to be able to say, I need respite care. Can I have respite care, please, or I need some extra resources, or I need this, I need help, or I need that. It's actually to the point that many carers feel that if they put up their hand and ask for help of any kind, they start to get blacklisted in terms of being difficult, being needy, and being incompetent. If I'm being really honest with you—I have to acknowledge that I saw this happen when I worked in the system—in very subtle ways, we didn't know that that's what was happening as such, but I really validate carers in how they feel because I know what the backend looks like. Brendan: You said blacklisted. Okay, we can all understand that term. But how does somebody blacklist a carer? What's happening? Marcie: I'll give you a really obvious example. We've got Sarah the carer who's got two kids. She struggled for all the same reasons that carers might struggle. She pops up and talks to a caseworker frequently, because she needs some additional support, has a problem with this, or contact can't happen today because the child and her carer's too unsettled or won't listen, I mean a hundred different reasons. She's the carer that's calling the caseworker that's getting a little bit difficult. Maybe she's also a bit needy. Maybe there's a determination that there are some mental health issues going on with Sarah, or maybe whatever. When Sarah comes and says, listen, I've got an extra bedroom, I can take another kid, we're not going to give Sara another kid. I put that in black and white terms. There's an assessment process, there's blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. But she blacklisted herself, because she was very needy. Brendan: We all want simple as possible. Marcie: We all want simple as possible. Like you said, on the good intention side, you could equally say, Sara's already struggling, we don't want to give her more and make it harder for her. But Sarah's jumping up and down saying, no, you've got the problem wrong. That wasn't the problem. I can take another child. I've got the room, and here we have thousands of children without homes, but we're not going to give another one to Sarah. That's a really obvious example. Brendan: Again, it's a good example because to me, my head goes straight, and I'm pretty biased. It's a leadership moment. It's like, well, hold on, let me be curious as a caseworker. Again, I may not have the skills or the thinking around it, but let me be curious about that. I really need to have some genuine conversation with Sarah to understand where she's at and whether we can start to better understand the nuances of the situation. It still may be that the outcome is, hey, Sarah, we need to give you some more support from how we are looking at well-being for yourself and things like that and bringing in the right people, or actually, it's just miscommunication, a misunderstanding. Let's talk through that because it pains me. It absolutely pains me to think that even in a system, like we're talking about, 46,000 children, and there's only X number of foster carers. There's this massive gap when you do a mathematical equation that people can look at something and say, well, we're not going to be child-centered because Sarah is potentially a pain in the ass. Marcie: There are so many things that you've just raised. I want to comment on it. From the start of saying that, can social workers or caseworkers be curious? I actually think that innately, the practice of social work is fairly open-minded and very curious. It takes a much more systemic lens than, for example, a discipline like psychology or science, which is fairly reductionist. Social work, in essence, looks at systems broadly and tries to understand. That's a very curious mindset. Many caseworkers or in the child protection, foster care systems, have that social work background. I think many people come to this job with mindsets that are cultivated in that way and thinking that way. Brendan: The best intentions. Marcie: The best intentions always. You're not going into the job for money, that's for sure, or anything else. I wonder that you hit this system and very quickly, everything starts being unlearned because you have a huge caseload, you have time demands coming out your ears, and you have the absolute priority, which is your box ticking. I cannot even begin to explain the box ticking. I started as a young caseworker with some forms, LAC. I can't tell you what they stood for. This was a way that we were going to be able to evidence and that everything was in order. I'm telling you these hundreds, hundreds of sheets, I would print them off the printer. They were color-coded depending on what I was talking to carers about. I, 23-year-old Marcie, very little life experience, fairly naive, would go into your home now as you are as an experienced parent and as a carer. I'd sit there with my forms. I would start asking you questions. I'm not kidding. Michael, how many legumes a week does your child consume? Brendan: You know what I say, can you just define legumes? Marcie: What I would say, I am so embarrassed because I don't know what a legume is, because I've just read it off this form. How many books are on your shelf? How many alcoholic beverages do you have a day? You went through the original system where you are assessed, but I would do this on a monthly occasion or whatever, then I would very much judge your home. Now that I'm a mum, a messy home mum, I would just have my children straight out removed, I think. A 23-year-old would come in with hoards of tick boxes. I wasn't involved in a relationship. If that was innately how I was primed to be based on my social worker background, or even who I am as a person, that was disarmed because I had boxes to tick. And that was my one job for that job. When I got back to the office, I had to put that all into database systems, and I had to write a case. So 80% plus of the role is administrative. You've got people coming in that don't want an administrative job, they've come into social work. They want a relationship-based job. Brendan: Which is you. That's what you wanted. Marcie: It's most of us, actually. I even think, yeah. Brendan: Talking about not playing to our strengths. Marcie: It's incredible, the way that it gets flipped so quickly. Then there's the fear, and the whole system's driven by fear because the fear for the foster carer is this negative and punitive retribution from their caseworkers and their agencies who authorized them. The fear for me as a worker was performance management, and then I wasn't going to be doing things properly. The fear for agencies, service providers of the government, is that they don't provide their service adequately, and then they cease to get funding. The fear for the government is this massive reputational risk. You've got this fear-based system, essentially, that is working in crisis mode constantly, and it undermines authentic relationships. That's not to say that intention wasn't always relationship. I want to believe that, too, that always was a relationship if you go into this work. But that's what is going so wrong with the whole system, the curiosity. There's no room for this. We're keeping ourselves safe, every single person. When you look at that, what's interesting about that is that when you did training for the kids that are coming into your care, you were told that they live in fight, flight, freeze mode, and that those difficult behaviors that happen are about self-protective behaviors. As a result of these behaviors, you've got fairly dysfunctional consequences than her friends because they can't have a social relationship. Replacements break down. There's a whole stack of dysfunctional outcomes because of these dysfunctional behaviors. You look at that little system that's happening with a child and that fight, flight, freeze response. It happens in every sphere of the ecosystem. It happens at the child, then it happens at the carer, then it happens at the caseworker, it happens at the agency level. It happens at the broad system level. It is a fight, flight, freeze response that is happening on a mega level. The solution, the response that is given to any problem at broad levels in this system is to create more regulation for safety. That is always the go-to. You can look that up. You can have a look at the reforms, the inquiries, the investigations, the new legislations, and the authorizing systems for agencies who have to tick ridiculous amounts of boxes. This is how the system works, and it undermines relationships. Brendan: You mentioned a broader system. I just want to specifically mention the health system. Once again, unbelievable people doing unbelievable work. Our experience has been that that fight, flight, freeze mentality is also massive specifically within health. There are checks on checks on checks. I don't need to go into the various scenarios we've had, but the checking and the checking, and then that person checking with the next level of checking. You can literally sit in a hospital for a couple of hours waiting for these authorization levels to go through the process to eventually get back to somebody on the ground who's got to deliver what the decision is. It's mind-blowing, Marcie: It is mind-blowing, yeah. And it's very time-consuming, too. Brendan: Very. I love sitting with my wife spending quality time in hospitals for two hours, we'd love it. Anyway, we try to look at the positive. You mentioned funding, it's super important. You also talked about authenticity. Let me put those two together. Why is the Hatch Project not ever going to take government funding? Marcie: I'm not going to say never, but it is emerging. Brendan: It's a good point, we should never say never. Marcie: My brother would sit here and say, that's not our north star. That's not the objective. Brendan: Why is it important that it's not the first port of call? Marcie: It's just one of those unintended consequences. Originally, it was because we were given this donation. We didn't know where the rest of our money had come. What we have come to now realize is that our independence from anything to do with this statutory care sector is powerful. It's also, I'm going to say, borderline. The fundamental reason why we are establishing a trusting relationship with carers is because we can say that we're not attached to a system that they don't feel psychologically and emotionally safe to talk about their own needs. We can say, we have no attachments to this system. Here is our agenda, it's foster carer’s well-being. Tell me I'm wrong. Tell me where you can see there's some other agenda, and there's no evidence of any other agenda a lot because of our funding is not tied up with anything government related. The reason why right now, it's clear that we need to remain independent is so that we can keep developing this trusting relationship with carers and keep doing this work. It's unlikely that the government is going to fund a mission or an objective to empower foster carers. I know this is cynical. I hate that I have to say it, but in reality when you have a system that is based on control and regulation, that is the antithesis of agency and empowerment. This is not an individual's bad intention. This is survival. To survive, this system has to control. It has to. Therefore, carers having agency, having a say, or having a voice risks that control, because what if a carer pops up and says, well, I want to do it this way, I want to do it this way? No, no, no, we can't have that. Something bad might happen to this kid, and that's our responsibility, and that's our job. An authentic agenda to empower carers and to give them a voice is at total odds with the current operating system in very subtle, passive cultural ways. Not ways that people are openly talking about a lot, but it's fairly evident when you start looking at it. There is a current body within the sector that takes that role of carer-related needs. But from where I stand and what I've been told, they can't do a lot of genuine advocacy work with carers, or they don't do a lot of generous advocacy work with carers. Again, I don't imagine there'd be funding priorities. They're funded by the government to do that. I think they probably do a lot of marketing, recruitment, some good training, and some other stuff. That's why I'm assuming union bodies are always separate, completely independent. Brendan: I would challenge that, but let's not go there. Marcie: Yes. Brendan: That's a political thing that we don't want. I agree with what the independents needed. The reality is that governments, again, are putting money into something like this. When there's also reliance on that, then that can sway our judgment sometimes for good, sometimes not for good. Again, I also get this openness around thinking about the social workers, the case workers. They're working in organizations that are funded from the government state based on the placements. You've got, in New South Wales, the Department of Communities and Justice, which is a government arm that is dependent on relationships as to where they may go to first to say, hey, I really like Marcie, we play whatever together, and I'm going to read Marcie first. The relationships thing we understand, there are dynamics and all. There are works in there, but there are so many—I've got no idea how to solve these things—competing priorities. We need money. There's needed to be funding and stuff like that. Marcie: Do we need money? Yes, money is going to solve a lot of things, but I'll tell you what. If we just use the money that we had differently, I think we could go a long way. Brendan: It's funny you said that. In this very sense, when we last did an in-person interview, our guest Ashkan, we were talking about being. He's written some unbelievable books on that. If funding is used in the right way and attacking the problems, not just throwing money at some glorified thing, then there are lots of things that can be solved, whether that's poverty, hunger, foster caring, and stuff like that. But it does take people with the impetus, the leadership from what yourself is doing, what Nathan your brother's doing, helping, and those in the community that are latching on to this, the foster carers in the community that are starting to look at that and share information, we can start to look at elements. Marcie: It takes collaboration. Brendan: Doesn't everything? Marcie: This is what it takes. I'm learning about lean methodology in this work that I'm doing here. What does it mean to be lean? I'm pretty sure, again, Nathan would sit here if I can be his voice as well and say to you, you can achieve everything on a shoestring. Our best resource is expertise and know-how and bringing them together. It's these divisive cultural forces that push everyone apart. I think there are some of the bigger problems we're trying to resolve here. I'm excited by the bits that I have learned in product development land in terms of thinking, oh, we need heaps and heaps of money. It makes me think, oh, my gosh, and probably actually some of the other things we're trying to resolve in terms of collaborating when you've got those really diverse values and belief sets that might even be harder to resolve than a money issue. If we could find a way to bring people together... Brendan: You have, there's a north star. That's that collective goal that people of all shapes, sizes, cultural diversities, whatever that is, that is focused on achieving is they're part of the foster care community and understanding what Hatch Project is about. Marcie: Absolutely, bringing carers together. It's interesting you raised that, because we very much have an evolving model when it comes to how we permeate the change that needs to happen with the sector, knowing that the sector as a player is such a big part of the reason that foster carers are struggling? Initially, it was on that side of that lobbying or the more bureaucratic angle. It was power with power. We talked about a scaled foster care community with thousands of carers in it and what power that could wield. But as we track our way through this process, and I get more feedback, and I think differently about things, what our latest model looks like definitely is a much more collaborative approach. It's saying, what does a scaled and mobilized community of foster carers have to offer the sector? It's a business proposition. It's a playing chip. I'm still trying to figure out what that is. The easy versions would be something about recruitment, something about training or support. My blue sky here is that, what Hatch Project has to offer, the broader out-of-home care system sector is know-how, it's expertise. It's expertise that they need, because there is a growing crisis right now, a recruitment and retention crisis. It is bubbling. In fact, the new minister, Kate Washington, flagged this need. She blamed the last government, of course. She flagged this need in terms of going, we need to address a carer recruitment and retention problem. What does this community have that they need? There's expertise as to why that's a problem. You've got to ask the people with the problem who have the problem. You know what? The Hatch Project is in that model. We are simply a mechanism by which that exchange can take place. That's a bit of a blue sky, I think, in terms of I've been told it can't be done. I've been told that that system that survives based on control will never be ripe enough for this implementation. I don't know that I totally agree. I don't know this is very new territory, but I do think that harvesting expert know-how within the community. You as a member yourself, what a resource to be able to go to currently a hundred foster carers but then as it grows more broadly, and get expert know-how about issues that only foster carers know about. That's what I'm thinking. Brendan: I agree. There are so many angles. We spoke some off-camera before. But the reality is that when you've got a community, which is what you've got. Marcie: Sky's the limit. Brendan: Absolutely. The more people that get attached to their community, more foster carers that get attached to the community, then the greater opportunity that brings, whether that resourcing that comes back into funding side of things. Again, my understanding and belief around social enterprise is, if we can create the perfect social enterprise model where it's self-funding through some of these resources, then how good is that? I did say to you when we met some time ago that, I think that yours and maybe Nathan's thinking around this utopia of the community driving itself completely, I don't believe in that. There always has to be a leader. Even if it's a moderator or some resource driving that, but absolutely, the community can rally around each other. The work of the administrator, moderators, becomes far less. You don't have to do a lot of the motivating because that's been built. You're using those strategic relationships and stakeholders to drive more of that. That's where I think it sits moving forward. To me, any community that I'm currently involved in or have been involved in, that's the flow of the community. Marcie: I'm really keen to actually learn more of you in that space, too. I think I do know what you're talking about. Brendan: Let's look at this podcast as an example. We've got a community. There's a community on YouTube, there's a community on the various audio platforms. There are socials where communities have it. If we stop producing the podcast or stop putting out content, where's that community going to go? People are going to jump in automatically and say, oh, we'll start creating content for the culture. Do you get my point? There needs to always be the driver of that and the leader of that process. Again, as the community grows, you do want it to be self-sustaining, feeding itself, and you're seeing stuff. You're gathering ideas, and you're creating resources or providing more support around these things because this is what the community is saying. In our analogy around continuous improvement, you're even more taking the voice of the customer, listening to the customer to drive that. Marcie: I think that utopian idea has a lot more to do with what we don't want than what we do want. We don't want to mimic current hierarchies that create power imbalances and undermine relationships. We do want sustainability in terms of resources, that sort of thing, and how it can function in a community approach there. We also do want to make sure that the people who have the expertise, the know-how, and the problems remain the central voice of the project. It's interesting, because when you say it that way, when you talk about that autonomous community style, it's almost like that's our version of trying to get a solution to those other three things, but I hear you. I think the biggest evidence for me of that idea of needing leadership is that the current climate in this carer community and beyond has been there for a long time, but nothing has really happened with it. Carers have felt disenfranchised. Carers have felt like there is a change that is needed. They've wanted a voice, and they haven't known where to find it. There hasn't been a way forward, or it's been hard to find a way forward. I suppose in that sense, Hatch has led by providing, I guess, this opportunity, this idea, this way, this mechanism, and there's some leadership there. Yes, I do hear you in terms of facilitation and moderation because right now, I know that if I was to step out of the picture, for example, I don't know that without some kind of leadership in place, we would continue on course towards our goals, because they're quite strategic. I am hearing those things. Perhaps neither Nathan nor I are overly comfortable with the title of leader, which is strange, because we're both probably held many leadership positions in our life, but it's not always a comfortable title as well depending on how you define it. Brendan: What feedback are you getting from foster carers within the Hatch Project community and value your offering and how you're helping them. I'm less interested in the tool. The tool is great. It's a great community platform, but what are they getting out of it currently? How is it making them feel? Is there an engagement, and it's a good engagement what I'm seeing? To me, that says there is positivity, and they're getting something good, but what are they telling you? Marcie: That's interesting, because that's not something that I have asked explicitly. That might be tapping into some of my own fear. I'm not ready for that in case the feedback isn't what I want to need it to be. We're measuring that stuff in terms of engagement. We know we're getting more carers, we know carers are becoming more engaged, they're using the platform more. It's not like I've polled within the community and said, what is this community giving you? Gosh, this sounds silly now, I've said that out loud, doesn't it? I haven't actually asked that question. Brendan: It's something we can ask moving forward. Actually, after this thing. I can get on the app and say, hey, community members, what are we getting out of this? Marcie: Yeah, that'd be great. That will make me feel less vulnerable if you can do that on my behalf, please. Brendan: I will take it on board, and I will deliver. I'll do that. Marcie: Yes. I think my assumption tells me that I would still expect some mixed feedback. I certainly hope that people are saying they're getting a lot out of the experience. I think that it's an opportunity to drive towards these missions and goals. I know the plans that we have in place to do things like diversify the content in there, for example, so that it's also a very engaging place. It always needs to be that place where members can come in, talk about problems, and have a place to offload. In fact, when we're designing it, the number one thing we said this needs to do, it needs to listen and by doing so, value the carer. That was our number one. Actually, we've got some members. As a community as a whole, you do get that sense that there's talking about problems, hardships, and pain points. That actually, in some way, ticks the box of what we said we wanted it to do. We've created that safe community. I do foresee it as a space that's also providing more education is what we want to do. In time, we want more resources. I've got some really exciting ideas about upskilling or providing education around emotional intelligence, systems thinking, or whatever we want to call this space. We know that carers are not getting this. There is not a training like this out there anywhere. What better place to really learn? Someone throw at me the other day, have you heard of micro accreditation processes? Imagine if you're providing some accredited service. I'm not saying that's what we're going to do. This is a solution we have. But do you know what I mean in terms of carers then coming out and saying, I don't feel any more that I'm speaking a different language with my caseworker, or I don't feel as vulnerable because now I understand what they're talking about a little bit more, and I understand my role in the broader context of the system. You have to remember, everyone working in the system have professional degrees and training in all things system, carers don't. Carers have what we need the most, which is the caring role, the caring credentials. But unfortunately, to work in this system, you have to understand how it works. That kind of work. There is a lot we want to do on the platform. Maybe I'm sitting here going, it's not what it needs to be yet, and I'm a perfectionist. But I'm going to ask that question. Brendan: Your last comment has taken me to a question I wanted to ask, and I think now's the right opportunity. It's not a startup now. You've made that comment somewhere that I read. It's not a startup now, we've been going for three years. Great. You've mentioned early in your journey around what was the desire? There was a bit of up-you to start with, but now you're developing. Marcie: That's a Marcie issue. Brendan: We all have that element. We want to say stuff. I can do this. If that drives the belly for a while, then great. What hurdles do you see though in your own development as far as taking the Hatch Project forward? Marcie: I have hopefully jumped—I hope I'm over them—so many personal hurdles to get where I am now with this project. It has been the steepest, most prickly learning journey of my life, and it has really triggered my vulnerabilities in so many ways. I am more confident than I have ever been. I'm seeing things really differently, so I'm grateful for everything that it has brought me to the point, and how challenging so many of those hurdles were. I think I turned around to quit 10 times over, and Nathan's like, don't be ridiculous. No doubt, there are going to be many more hurdles for me, but I don't know. What do I foresee? I just think I just have to remain committed to my own self-development in this space. I don't even know what that looks like, but just really open. Thankfully, we created a platform that provides feedback. That's fairly obvious. I get feedback, and I'm going to respond to it. One of those hurdles that I refer to, however, previously would be being able to manage that feedback. That's the hard stuff. The technical side of, oh, that feedback is now there for me, it's like the leader if I'm going to call myself a leader, the person facilitating right now. How I perceive that, how I interpret it, and what I do with it, that's the hard stuff. I think these challenges that I've been faced with personally, that my brother has, and other people that have made up probably part of a broader team, there's a reason why we had to go through them to get to where we are now. In fact, people say you've been doing this project for three years. What have you been doing? Because you only launched the product in March this year. That was when the pilot launched. It's a very triggering question as well. I sit there and I'm like, because for the first year of this project, it was all about me. There was a massive journey I went on personally. In concrete terms, I went back to uni to learn about social entrepreneurship, innovation, social impact, and leadership. But there was so much that I had to get over, so many personal issues that I learned and picked up through my time working in the system myself around my anxieties and my perfectionism. Agile methodologies and perfectionism. I don't know whether to call this a match made in heaven. They're enemies because you cannot be a perfectionist and be agile. Agile is about quick delivery of prototypes and feedback. Both of those things, for a perfectionist, you don't deliver prototypes, you work on something for 10 years. You never deliver it because it's never good enough, so not lean. We definitely didn't have the resources to do that. Learning how to just step off a ledge and go, okay, I'm just going to put it out there and see what people think. Even the prototype of the community, this is the pilot phase, like this is phase one. The platform or the product itself, we have grand plans for. But that first day of that launch was absolutely terrifying. It felt like I was walking off the side of a cliff. So much personal evolution, I think, in a very positive way in that first year. I tease Nathan because I say, you know you're funding like me in my personal development. I think he does know. He walked this journey being himself. Brendan: He loves this stuff. Marcie: Yeah, but I also think that if you're going to lead in this space, it's fundamental. I don't know, this is your space, but that's how I feel about it. It's fundamental. Brendan: Leadership is all about self-development. One of my mentors says to me, it's not about you, but it is about you. You have to be improving yourself all the time. That helps make it more about others. Marcie: It's been really obvious to me on this journey because there are times when it feels wrong and tell I make personal gains. That's a real struggling feeling. I'm working through some stuff. Amazingly, I've had amazing mentors and people around me that I'll call. It will just be like, I've got to move through this personal thing, otherwise Hatch isn't going to survive. I've got to move through this thing. Brendan: To put even more burden on you, there are a lot of people relying on you now. You get that, don't you? Marcie: Yup. I got that. Yeah, that's fun for me every single day. Brendan: I'll leave you to contemplate that. You mentioned a word just before, it's confidence. This brings us to always our last question on The Culture of Leadership. You said that you have become a more confident leader. What is this one thing that has helped you to become a more confident leader? Marcie: It's the doing. I just had to do. I had to take the step that so much of my personal journey and workplace journey has been shrouded by this cloud of fear and anxiety. Not due to any big traumas in my personal life, it's just been the way that I've often been. I have been an avoider. The doing has made me confident. The one thing that I refused to do or I avoided for years and years and years is the thing that liberates me. It's like, do it, just take that next step. Take that next step. I took it, and then I got feedback about it, and it's okay. It didn't hurt so much, so I'm okay. I'll just do a little bit more, and then I do a little bit more, and then I can actually see a pathway behind me now. I look back at it. Now I feel a bit validated that I've done something good because I can see the evidence, but none of that would have happened if I didn't take that first step. I don't know. I think a lot of entrepreneurs don't necessarily have that. I think entrepreneurs are usually there. They've got this predisposition to do, and they're risk takers and maybe really courageous in that way. That is not my MO. It's just not. Every time that I have just done something, and these are really small things, too, I build confidence that I have done before so I can do again. My confidence just comes from the trajectory that we're seeing of the project itself. We have measurable goals, and we're ticking them. I'm still surprised all the time. I'm like, oh, we tick that goal. We made that goal, and we ticked it? I get confidence from the fact that it seems we're on the right track. We're doing some good stuff. There are some big hurdles still, but I think it's going to be growing. Brendan: You'll approach those with that level of confidence. Marcie: Growing confidence a hundred percent. I really want to highlight that initial investment from my brother, because he has just never given anywhere for this purpose. He did actually have to invest in me and risk that self-development journey for me first. Maybe there was some knowing because he actually did this himself. He walked this a little bit, but you don't get this opportunity anywhere. What I know about the wicked problem space or social entrepreneurship, and it's starting with the leader, that mindset stuff, cultivation as a starting point. You do invest in people first, and there's no funding out there for that. You might get someone who's already there, but I don't know. I'd say most people, depending on the journey, have some work to do themselves. Who invests in that? Brendan: Marcie, I could not think of a perfect place to finish the conversation. In regards to Nathan, your brother, so lucky again that he got the financial resources to create that initial investment in Hatch, absolutely. I will have plans to interview Nathan at some point in time. It was easy to potentially arrange for yourself and Nathan to be on together. The reason why I felt that wasn't the best thing was because each of you have your own worth. You are different people, and you both are bringing enormous value to the things and the world that you're playing in. I want to give you your space, and I want to give Nathan his space. It's a pleasure that our paths have crossed through some other mutual arrangement. Again, relationships, right? I really enjoyed that conversation. Thanks for being such a fantastic guest on The Culture of Leadership. Marcie: Thank you so much. I'm disappointed that we didn't talk more about your foster caring journey, actually. I feel you need to do that on another podcast. Brendan: This is our media landscape. We can talk about whatever we want. That is definitely something that's going to happen in the future. Marcie: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for having me. It's been a privilege to get to know you. Brendan: Running a social enterprise focused on revolutionizing the foster care system in Australia must be one of the toughest leadership challenges going around. Thankfully, people like Marcie and her brother Nathan, love a challenge. These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with Marcie. My first key takeaway, confident leaders give others a voice. They create an environment where people feel safe to speak up. There’s enormous value in shared wisdom and diverse perspectives and experiences. Giving others a voice enhances the opportunity for this value to be utilized for better decisions, leading to better outcomes. My second key takeaway, confident leaders have limiting beliefs. Even the most confident leaders live with doubts that stem from past experiences. However, what sets these leaders apart is their ability to acknowledge these beliefs, challenge them, and seek growth. This self-awareness and willingness to evolve make them more relatable and more effective leaders. My third key takeaway, confident leaders own their worth. They recognize the value they bring to the table, not out of arrogance, but from a deep understanding of their skills, experiences, and contributions. By embracing their worth, they inspire others to acknowledge and champion their own unique strengths. This self-assuredness builds a culture of empowerment and mutual respect. In summary, my three key takeaways were, confident leaders give others a voice, confident leaders have limiting beliefs, and confident leaders own their worth. Let me know your key takeaway on YouTube or at Thanks for joining me. Remember, the best outcome is on the other side of a genuine conversation.

Other Episodes