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#091: How social enterprise changes lives – Mark Watt AM of Whitelion

By Jordan Michaelides

Mark Watt AM ( @markwatt1 ) is the Co-Founder & Director of Development at Whitelion. With a wealth of experience across not-for-profit organisations for well over 20 years, he’s also a sitting Board Member of The First Step Program, Surrender Australia, and St Kilda Gatehouse. Mark’s work has been recognised with numerous awards, including a Membership in the Order of Australia (AM).

Whitelion is a not-for-profit that provides transition services to young people exiting the justice system. Working with these high-risk youth showed Whitelion that the primary risk factors for youth offending were being placed in the Out-of-Home Care system and being homeless, leading to a broadening of services or programs to address these key factors.

My attention was brought to Mark’s work back in 2014 when joining IBISWorld and learning that the founder Phil Ruthven was a board member of Whitelion. Each year we would take clients to the annual AFL Finals Series Luncheon, learn about the stories of high-risk youth, and what Whitelion had done for them. The events were so impactful that two of my former clients ended up joining the mentorship program at Whitelion.

The work that organisations like Whitelion do is admirable  and incredibly important for certain groups of the population, a true testament to the character of people like Mark.

This was a great episode that covered:

  • His background, how he got into social enterprise
  • Mentors, and the process of becoming one
  • The Whitelion Group, how it started and programs it offers
  • Charities, fundraising and events
  • An inspiring example of the impact on someone’s life
  • Effective altruism, social procurement
  • Top leaders in the industry
  • Ways of entering outreach work

Listen to the episode

Watch the episode: 


01:15 – Introduction
05:10 – Recent trip to Scotland
07:39 – His background, how he got into social enterprise
11:41 – Whitelion and how it started
12:50 – Childhood lessons and memories
14:14 – Mentors, process of becoming a mentor
20:01 – Programs Whitelion offers
22:38 – The Whitelion Group
23:52 – Brent Harvey
24:43 – Fundraising and events
28:18 – Their messaging and brand
29:45 – An inspiring case
31:26 – His role at Whitelion and the future
34:42 – Effective altruism, social procurement
36:35 – Founding principles
38:09 – Whitelion social enterprises, pick & pack
41:12 – Charities, starting and running them
44:28 – Hang Vo, the new Whitelion CEO
46:16 – Top leaders in the industry
48:40 – Ways of entering outreach work
52:59 – Morning & evening routines
54:35 – Best purchase under $200
55:29 – Influential book
56:10 – If he could have a billboard anywhere in Australia