Case Studies

The B-Team  ▼  ▲

100% Human at work

The B Team is a not-for-profit initiative to catalyse a better way of doing business, for the wellbeing of people and the planet. Formed by Oliver Bäte, Sir Richard Branson, Marc Benioff, Sharan Burrow, Kathy Calvin, Bob Collymore, David Crane, Christiana Figueres, Arianna Huffington, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Yolanda Kakabadse, Guilherme Leal, Andrew Liveris, Strive Masiyiwa, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Arif Naqvi, François-Henri Pinault, Paul Polman, Mary Robinson, Ratan Tata, Zhang Yue, Professor Muhammad Yunus, and Jochen Zeitz, it is a truly global initiative.

Poor mental health in the workplace is both a huge social and economic challenge of the 21st century - costing Australian business $5.9B annually. It is particularly pertinent in light of recent data from the National Institute of Mental Health that suggests although depression is a strong indicator of suicidal thoughts, anxiety is a better predictor of the act of suicide. Why is this important? Anxiety is most frequently experienced at work:

SPUR:LABS was recruited to run a workshop with CEOs and Directors from corporate, NFP, and government sectors to provide:

Insights into workplace mental health.

Deep questioning for organisations to understand their staff's mental health needs.

Frameworks of how to co-design mental health initiatives.

SPUR:LABS designed a session focused on mental health for the launch of The B Team’s 100% Human at Work initiative in Australia. At the launch we hosted a group of 80 CEO’s and HR leaders from major Australian businesses for a day long gathering of workshops and discussions around building human workplaces. The session was very extremely well received, and fostered deep engagement and questioning from the group. We definitely look forward to working with SPUR:LABS again soon.

- Anna Gowdridge - B Team

Telstra Imaginarium   ▼  ▲

Innovation Bootcamp Mentoring

The Telstra Imaginarium for Non-Profits is an innovation bootcamp for representatives from 120 Australian non-profit to immerse themselves in new ways of thinking and fresh avenues to create social impact.

The handpicked attendees are exposed to courses in service design, business design, digital design and product development. The course, running over several weeks, takes participants through the journey of developing new ideas for their established non-profits with the opportunity to learn from some of Telstra’s best and brightest, and put their ideas into action.

As Mentors, SPUR:LABS took the participants through the fine art of pitching and how to best communicate an idea for impact. This included presentation of our own work and how we design projects that rally people to a cause. Over several days we provided feedback, helpful critique and hilarious anecdotes.

We explained how a pitch best leverages a story and how to hook a listener in to the problem itself - rather than focusing, as many do, on the solution. (We also very much enjoyed scooting around on the various wheeled Telstra furniture. Seriously, they’re amazing. We want some.)

At the end of the program we were invited to judge the pitch competition and we did our best "The Voice" impersonations along with structured feedback.

All in all it was a blast to work with Telstra Foundation and the Imaginarium - it’s an excellent program that helps move the needle forward for nonprofits nation-wide.


Barayamal Give-back-athon   ▼  ▲

Hackathon for Indigenous charities

Barayamal: Kamilaroi for black swan.

We first met Barayamal at the beginning of their journey into the closing the economic gap for Indigenous Australians. We loved their passion and mission and we helped guide them on their way to establishing themselves as a legal entity. While Indigenous people make up 3% of Australia’s population, they represent less than 1% of business owners. Indigenous business owners can face a raft of challenges in business, including a lack of resources, training, and facing established racism. Indigenous employment also sits at a low 48% - and Indigenous owned businesses are one hundred times more likely to hire an Indigenous person.

To Baraymal, the solution seemed obvious - by helping to create an Indigenous Richard Branson or Lorna Jane they could empower a new wave of Indigenous entrepreneurs that would, in turn, help their communities and change the face of Indigenous business in Australia. Barayamal sought our advice on how to take this momentum and take a big next step in establishing their name.

Here at SPUR:LABS, we’re fond of a hackathon or two. Not only can they be low-cost to put together but also community inclusive with tangible outcomes. It’s a joy to watch a talented group of people come together, take a bite out of a problem and chew on it for a few days. We worked closely with Barayamal to plan the hackathon, figure out what and who was needed, and get all our swans in a row. This included liaising with event spaces and potential sponsors and planning out a media campaign to promote participation and publicity. SPUR:LABS also helped facilitate and emcee the event, too.

The give-back-athon

Barayamal’s inaugural give-back-athon was launched in May 2017. Four Indigenous charities were brought on as partners and subjects of the event. Indeed this was a hackathon with a difference - rather than working on building the next big thing or figuring out problems for corporates, participants would hear from the charities and tackle existing challenges or open up new opportunities for their growth. This was a hackathon about helping others do good.

Dozens of participants were guided through the process by Barayamal and SPUR:LAB’s facilitators and fed copious amounts of coffee and snacks to put their ideas into action.

After two days of intensive hacking - with some teams working till the early hours of the morning - we reassembled for a final pitch and judging session. And boy - were they up against a tough crowd: the judging panel included Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur, director of QUT Bluebox and KPMG’s innovation manager. On the other hand - some sweet, sweet prizes were on offer! Thanks to partners including Microsoft, we tantalised the participating teams with prizes like an Xbox One and mentoring from GirlGeekAcademy.

The ideas did not disappoint. The charities themselves walked away with new solutions - some of them already online and rearing to go - and ideas to solve old problems and create new opportunities to help their target demographics. Okay. We got a little misty eyed, we’ll admit. But we don’t think we were the only ones. The give-back-athon received coverage across social media, in print and was featured in a special on NITV.

How is the World Feeling?   ▼  ▲

Using tech and design to understand global mental health trends

Have you ever wondered how happy your city is? How many people felt anxious on their way to work today in Sydney? Which profession felt this way the most? How angry was Paris today? How did this compare to the rest of Europe? How many people are at risk of depression, right now, in San Francisco? And what if you did know all of this? What if you had a way to check the emotional pulse of your neighbourhood? How would communities, cities and countries change? And how would this affect our approach to mental health research, mental illness campaigns and treatment?

Mental illness is a worldwide challenge. Globally, suicide accounts for more than 700,000 deaths. In Australia, we lose around eight people per day to suicide and for each of these deaths there are thirty suicide attempts.That’s a lot of people that are facing really tough times that need help and better services. We’re no strangers to mental illness social impact work. But one of the challenges with tackling this huge societal issue is the lack of data.

In 2014 we came up with an idea to take a real-time mental health survey of Australia. Then we went out and did it.

This project secured around 3,500 people in it’s week of operation and provided a pretty snazzy proof of concept that this idea could work. The number of requests we received from university researchers was probably proof enough. Yet, we knew this test pilot of the project could be refined and expanded with a bigger cohort. We needed to go global. How exactly? By starting with the problem: How do you measure emotion?.

Our first trick was figuring out exactly that. For the project to provide useful data, we needed a consistent way to log and report on emotion.

Way back in 2014, when we put together the framework for How is Australia Feeling? we did some heavy emotion-based researched, worked with psychologists at QUT and called on our good mate - and Spur Projects co-founder - Brett Scholz (University of Canberra) to work out how to best measure emotion.

We landed on a model of six base emotions:

Each emotion was given its own colour and included an intensity slider so that users could indicate exactly how strongly they felt this emotion. We also time-stamped and geo-tagged the emotion when it was logged. While each user was anonymous in the ensuing database, we made sure to gather information upfront, on sign-up, to include as much demographic information as possible. This included everything from age, gender and sexual identity to their ethnicity, profession and employment status. This demographic data would be crucial to drawing insights out of the data to come.

That sweet, sweet design phase

But of course, if the user experience is too clunky, then ain’t nobody got time for that. Our team delved into the UX with gusto and, working from some of the lessons from our 2014 pilot, redesigned the app look and feel. We paid close attention to the number of inputs required from users, appropriate thumbing distance and made sure the language, colours and feel of the experience was warm, welcoming and familiar. If people felt like they were being studied, they’d be less likely to participate. The app’s default settings was set to ask users to log their emotion six times per day, for one week. A friendly notification would remind them to do so. But, because we’re a considerate bunch, we made sure to provide the option to decrease these notifications.

No matter how engaging your social impact project is - if you needlessly inconvenience those you’re engaging, then you’re gonna have a bad time.

Safety nets

In a project like this, we were very conscious to include appropriate measures for those experiencing a tough time. Our app was designed to notice if someone was logging an emotion like Anger, Anxiety or Sadness at a high intensity or at regular intervals. If this was recognised, the user was then prompted to contact local support services like Lifeline. Given the global nature of the project, we localised these contact details for different regions and areas. These details were also available to anyone at any time within the app.

Shouting from the rooftops

Just ahead of Mental Health Week 2016, we had a working app ready for some juicy data. We just needed people. And so began our publicity campaign. We’re no strangers to rabble rousing in the name of social change and have, somehow, learnt a thing or two about how to build hype. Our launch campaign included:

  • Expertly crafted press releases - resulting in coverage everywhere from 9 to 5 Mac and The Atlantic to the Times of India and Sydney Morning Herald.
  • Corporate champion engagement - we pulled out our little black book and asked for support from friends in high places to push their employee body to sign up and do a good thing for a week.
  • Media trail - after a few vocal warm ups, we also jumped on the airwaves to talk with podcasts and national radio about the project. The chance to tell the story with a human voice went a long way to drumming up support with listener bases.
  • Social media push - we leveraged our existing social media platform to craft a campaign that included personal champions from businesses, government and organisations around the world, infographics and countdown timers and two launch videos - one of which was filmed in 360 degrees to leverage Facebook’s preference for 360 videos.

How did we do?

‘How is the World Feeling?’ went live on October 10th, 2016. By the end of the week we had collected 60,000 submissions from 11,000 people in 105 countries. Each of these submissions included all the associated demographic data of each user, but with their name scrubbed.

The result?

The world’s first global emotion index, a database of real time emotions and trends available open-source and free for anyone to access. In fact, you can take a look at the data dashboard right now or even download the raw data, if you’re so nerdily inclined. We’ve already had interest from a number of university researchers and shared some of the insights at mental health conferences around Australia. However the project is even more than that - it’s a statement that technology can help inform some of the big social problems we face today. If we just know how to apply it properly - and with a little panaché.

Mental Health Hackathon   ▼  ▲

Using data to create better mental health outcomes

Two weeks after How is the World Feeling? we hosted a two-day DataHack in Brisbane (Australia) for industry, business, government, creatives and the public to come together in a friendly competition to analyse, understand, visualise and create action from the 57,000 data entries.

Participants posed questions that the data might provide answers to, for example:

  • “How do we understand the emotional needs of those in the aviation industry?, or,
  • “How do we tackle anxiety in the greater population more effectively?”.

Porous teams with diverse skills then organically formed team to explore their questions over the two days.


Although teams competed for prizes, the competitive element was primarily to encourage teams to embrace diverse skill-sets, and to provide a clear direction over the two days.

At the end of the two days, teams gave short presentations with judges scoring in the following four areas:



Task: Identify a key question to be explored throughout the DataHack.

Criteria: The quality, depth, insight and ramifications of the question asked.

Analysis & Understanding

Analysis and Understanding

Task: Analyse the the dataset, using the question as a filter and guide.

Criteria: The detail and comprehensiveness of data analysis and how is supports the question.



Task: Create a visual representation and summary of the analysed data.

Criteria: The quality, aesthetics and accessibility of data displayed visually

Resulting Project

Resulting Project

Task: Plan and present a project or concept that could be implemented based on the findings.

Criteria: The quality, depth and social impact of ideas, as well as how pragmatic, detailed and possible the idea is to implement.

Soften the Fck Up  ▼  ▲

Ah, where it all began

On a sunny Brisbane day in 2011 a few young gentlemen walked into a substation and started filming the first campaign video for Soften the Fck Up. We could tell you about it. But why toot our own horn? Here’s what a plucky student at Georgetown University wrote about us:

“Soften the Fck Up” began as a video campaign aimed at combating charged phrases men and women use to accuse others of being weak or vulnerable, such as to “man the F*** up” or “harden/toughen up.” Such charged phrases are used to insult and threaten someone into silence or to hide signs of vulnerability, in fear of further judgment or ridicule.

The name of the campaign “Soften the Fck Up” is meant to flip the script on this type of rhetoric, and the culture that promotes hyper -masculine perceptions of strength and discourages open expression. The campaign dismisses the notion that having open and real conversations with companions is a sign of weakness. Rather, it portrays such expression as demonstrating bravery, and as a sign of a strong and positive relationship. It also reminds participants that strong support systems are built upon such open expression, as people are most likely to seek assistance from those they feel most comfortable expressing their feelings with.

Soften the Fck Up began as an initial set of videos calling on men across Australia to do just that - soften up and share their feelings and seek help when they needed it. Over the years the Soften the Fck Up brand included several more campaigns, including Better if You’re Around, Thinking about Death and Feeling All Write:

Soften the Fck Up has been covered in national and international media and studied and referenced by Georgetown University, Australian National University and the Queensland University of Technology. The campaign was also awarded a Social Impact Innovation Award by Deloitte and the Australasian Men’s Health Forum Youth Contribution Award. More importantly, the campaign developed a strong following online with supporters enjoying the new, fresh approach to talking about male mental health.

This saved me 6 months ago. Things haven't really changed since then but my perspective has, and I'm happier now. Thank you.

-Anonymous Youtube Comment on Soften the Fck Up