Alumni Stories - Tom Allen
Date: 03.03.2021
Alumni Stories

This month we introduce you to Tom Allen, alumni of the Master's Degree in Product Design and Founder and CEO of Impact Boom, a company that helps people and organizations unleash their full potential to create a positive social impact. Discover his professional career!

You were born in:

Wales, but moved to Australia when I was one year old. 

You live in:

Brisbane, Australia 

You work at:

Founder and CEO at Impact Boom, a social enterprise equipping people with the skills, knowledge and connections to help them successfully tackle deep-rooted social, environmental and cultural issues. About your professional career - After my Masters in Product Design at Elisava, I began work at HP, St Cugat designing large format printers and whilst there was a highly talented and professional team of designers there, I couldn't help but think that design would be put to better use tackling many of the problems the globe is facing, rather than contributing to more landfill and feeding consumption.

After a year there, I co-founded The Emotion Lab and we focussed on designing furniture, lighting and accessories for the European market. Whilst we intended to design sustainably and responsibly, the products were still largely inaccessible (expensive and pretentious) to a broader market and fed into the design fairs which followed fashion trends and helped boost designer egos. I again considered the true value of design and my responsibility to put it to better use. I began helping a range of other businesses and startups who were intent on leaving the world in a better place.

At that time, the terms 'social enterprise' nor 'social innovation' weren't being used widely, but essentially that's where my journey into the field began. Now, in the past 2 years alone, Impact Boom has worked closely with over 50 social enterprises and our blog and podcast reaches an audience from 200 countries globally. We've unlocked $1m+ in funding for these clients to help them grow and scale their impact. The social enterprises we work with create impact in varying ways... by employing people from disadvantaged backgrounds, diverting waste from landfill, working towards a circular economy, etc.

What is design for you?

Design is a process allowing people to gain a deep understanding of problems (and the people experiencing them), and respond to those problems through the creation of innovative systems, services or products which meet clear needs and value. 

Who inspires youu professionally?

There's really strong alignment with all the impact entrepreneurs we work with, many who turn up and do the hard work day in, day out... they have drive, passion and persistence. Some of those we've interviewed more recently include Audrey Tang (Taiwan's Digital Minister), Regina Honu (CEO of Soronko Solutions in Ghana), Rona Glynn-McDonald (Founder of Common Ground, a First Nations enterprise) and Ken Oloo (Founder of Filamujuani in Kenya). 

How would you define your time at Elisava?

Fun, challenging and a great cultural experience. 

What has marked you the most about all you learnt at Elisava:

Personally, doing my Masters at Elisava taught me a lot more than just design. English is my mother tongue, so it accelerated my language skills in Spanish and Catalan, whilst exposing me to collaboration opportunities and cultural exchange with a broad range of international students. The experience helped confirm that jumping outside of your comfort zone is where the true rewards are gained. 

Some good advice:

Leonard Cohen wrote, "ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything, and that's how the light gets in." Just get out there and don't wait to take action. Continually refine, adapt and improve what you're working on. The important thing is to start and strongly consider whether what you're doing is leaving the world in a better place for the next generations. 

A challenge for the future:

Simply ensuring that a good work/life balance is maintained - to create more impact, yet do it in a way that doesn't compromise time with family and friends.

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