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Good Humans: Justine Flynn

Image by Josie Mackerras and Teagan Cheep, Image by Kim Landy, Kristian Beek, & Jason Lau.

Welcome to the Good Human Series, a space where we celebrate the good in humanity by sharing the stories of impact focused individuals making a positive change in the world through their work.

This Sunday, October 17th, marks International Day for The Eradication of Poverty. So, today on the Good Humans Series we’re talking to a woman who has dedicated her career to supporting communities out of poverty, and creating products that help everyday people like you and I to do the same - Justine Flynn, co-founder of Australian social enterprise Thankyou.

Justine’s story is the definition of motivating and inspiring. Since the age of 14, Justine encountered poverty first hand spending time in remote villages in Indonesia and was determined that whatever she did when she grew up, she wanted to be able to use the opportunities and skills she had to help lift others out of poverty. As a first year university student, along with her then boyfriend, now husband Daniel Flynn, and Jarryd Burns, a school friend of Daniels, they came together to dream up a new way of doing business that existed for the sole purpose to help those who really needed it the most.

From there, Thankyou Water was born, a bottled water organisation with 100% of profits going to nonprofits working to eliminate extreme poverty. With the support of thousands of Australians backing their mission, Thankyou Water grew rapidly and was soon stocked in 7-eleven, Woolworths and Coles,

13 years on, Thankyou Water has since been rebranded to Thankyou and now offers over 50 different consumer products within the personal care and baby care categories for the very sole purpose of helping to end extreme poverty.

How many people have been touched by the work of Thankyou and what are just a couple of ways Thankyou has transformed their world?

To date, Thankyou has raised over $17 million for its Impact partners who are serving people living in extreme poverty and currently, the change-makers we are partnering with are working in over 31 countries around the world, including Australia. Our partners are some of the most innovative organisations who are tackling complex systems change over simplistic solutions, focused on impact not activity and who have a clear end game. Partnering together with leading funding experts, these organisations represent great hope in the fight to end extreme poverty.

Our partners work with local leaders in communities and are focused on providing access to clean water, community health, sanitation, economic, livelihoods, justice systems strengthening, and maternal and child health programs for low-income communities.

We used to claim numbers of people impacted through the purchase of our products. The last number we published was just under a million people, but since shifting to an unrestricted giving model it’s meant we’ve had to walk away from ‘claiming’ direct human impact and from linking our products to activity. That’s not great for marketing but it's much better for our partners, allowing us to empower them and the work they are doing serving those on their journey out of extreme poverty. We’ve backed innovative change-makers in the field and our funding will enable our partners to impact millions of lives and one day even more. You can find out more about our new giving model and our partners through this letter we released last year: The giving system’s broken and we helped break it.

You have since childhood been drawn to helping people from vulnerable backgrounds and communities, but your passion for people also extends to the workplace and supporting your team. Tell us a bit about the culture you have cultivated at Thankyou and how this supports the brand's impact? And we have to know, did the iconic 3pm team squat session translate to Zoom?

As a team we are agile, fast, efficient and do what we do to make a difference in the world, and over time we’ve built a very strong culture of trust and respect for each other. We saw this play out last year in a huge way. In the middle of the pandemic, the supply chain world was turned upside down with panic buying and opportunistic companies, and everyone was trying to find their feet after transitioning to a work-from-home environment for the first time. In the midst of chaos, it was this culture that enabled us to secure multiple deals that we would have never been able to secure otherwise.

In record time, these deals resulted in us being able to give $10 million (our largest annual amount) to our incredible Impact partners in a time when most other funding such as government aid or corporate giving was being reduced or completely stopped.

Since then, we have continued working from home and are able to keep our culture strong with a weekly all-in team WIP and a weekly ‘Team Thankyou’ where we meet to thank people in the team for the work they are doing that others may not have seen, making space to intentionally foster gratitude. When lockdowns are not on, we love to gather as a team for a big social day because those social interactions are so important for connection.

The Squat-O’clock sessions did attempt to go across to Zoom and were quite big at the start but I think we all needed a minute or two away from our screens to rest our eyes as well as stretch our legs!

Daniel and yourself have in the past year welcomed little Jordan into the world, and celebrated being parents of Jed for 6 years. How have you seen your humanitarian values and work rub off on your kids, and what has this taught you about what we should be teaching the next generation to set them up to be impact-informed leaders later in life?

Baby Jordan Selah is just gorgeous and we are absolutely loving spending the time just enjoying her smiles and cuddles, and Jedediah is an independent, creative and innovative young boy who is always looking for ways to solve problems!

We’ve been pretty blown away by some of the ideas he’s come up with. Earlier last year, I shared with him about the bushfires, showing him articles & photos that I had censored for his age and maturity to let him know what was happening around the country. I remember him walking into his playroom and sitting at his desk where he makes inventions and he said to me, “I don’t want to do something fun, I want to do something important”.

At just 4 years old, he started his own business called “The Post Office” that involved making cards to send love to people around Australia with the money going to help the firefighters and save the Koalas who were in danger. We didn’t actually register this business and he told us we were not allowed to give any advice on a name or a business model but we were so amazed by his heart for people. His Kindergarten teacher even got wind of the idea and took it on for the whole class to support!

This generation is living in a world that is so overwhelmed by darkness and full of problems. We need to gently inspire our children and teach them that they can be the light - starting with the world around them, using their skills and the things they are good at doing or are passionate about and knowing that even the small everyday choices can have a big impact.

We’ve always seen business as a force for good and our approach to Thankyou when we first started still remains the same today - it wasn’t about starting a business that could also do some good in the world. It was about using business as a means to right a social injustice."

"We’ve always seen business as a force for good and our approach to Thankyou when we first started still remains the same today - it wasn’t about starting a business that could also do some good in the world. It was about using business as a means to right a social injustice."

We have always appreciated the similarity between Outland and Thankyou, as businesses not just focused on doing things ethically (the bare minimum), but going another step further to uplift people. What are your thoughts on the role of business not just doing zero harm, but finding creative solutions to social and environmental issues?

For us, we’ve always seen business as a force for good and our approach to Thankyou when we first started still remains the same today - it wasn’t about starting a business that could also do some good in the world. It was about using business as a means to right a social injustice. At Thankyou, we say that we exist “all-for” ending extreme poverty - meaning that we are not partly here to do some good, but instead it is our entire reason for being and is the purpose we exist for. I know that’s an idea at the extreme end of social business, but the reality is that there is a part that every business can play in making our world a better place beyond only doing zero harm - so many are playing their part and it’s remarkable to see.

What makes you hopeful?

I think people do. When we started Thankyou, we tried for years to secure a deal big enough to make Thankyou sustainable. We ended up posting on Facebook and asking people to join us in our petition to have 7-Eleven Australia stock our water (the product we first launched with). To our surprise, so many people came together and rallied around this idea, using what they had in their hands to make a difference. Thankyou is where it is today because of people; for every idea we’ve had or campaign we’ve launched, it's only worked because of people coming together to make a stand for something they are passionate about. A lot of the mess we have in the world today is at the fault of people, but I believe that so much of the good that has happened and that is yet to come is also due to people - standing together, using their skills, insights, ideas and actions to bring light where there is darkness. That’s what makes me hopeful.

What is on the horizon for you and Thankyou?

Last year we launched a campaign called “No Small Plan”. It was a call out to the world, asking people like you and me to come together and petition major companies to take Thankyou to the World through a revolutionary licensing model (which you can read more about on our website) and since then, we’ve been on a rollercoaster of a journey! We joke internally that we should have called the campaign ‘No Short Plan’ instead as it turns out, these things take a lot of time. Whilst we are still in conversations working out the finer details of a license partner and we do look forward to taking people on that journey when it is announced, we are also working on a few other projects and are so excited for what is to come!

And for me, well at the moment I am just enjoying soaking up all the baby love and family time whilst on maternity leave, but I’m also loving having the freedom and space to dream, learn and create and I look forward to seeing what comes of this time.  

Explore more of the Thankyou story and shop their products at

For more stories of humans doing good things we invite you to explore more of the Outland Journal.

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