Co-founder, Dandelion Support Network
By Adam Smiley Poswolsky, Contributing writer
In 2012, after raising over $7,000 for its initial fundraising campaign on StartSomeGood, Dandelion Support Network launched a support services network for families in crisis in two states in Australia. Dandelion Support Network is a volunteer-run organization that collects, sorts, cleans, and safety checks pre-loved baby gear and children’s clothes for redistribution, free of charge, to families in need through social workers. Dandelion has a policy of making no judgment on what constitutes ‘need.’ Social workers request items for families facing financial hardship, social isolation, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues, homelessness, disasters, and for teen parents, refugees, foster families, widowed parents, and others. Dandelion currently serves Sydney and Canberra in Australia, and with a model that is easily replicable, it is planning on expanding to other states in Australia soon.
Recently, I interviewed Dandelion’s co-founder Rachael Stott about her passion for children and Dandelion’s success thus far.
What is your personal story? How did you get involved in working in family services?
I have been involved in charity work and volunteering with a variety of organizations since high school. But I got involved working with families after I started my own family. I have always believed that we can make a big impact by collectively doing little things. So when I became a mother, and became aware of the struggles other parents faced, I naturally wanted to do something to leverage what I did every day to make a difference in the lives of others. When my-co founder and I couldn’t find an organization to give our pre-loved baby gear to, that was used but in great condition, the impetus for Dandelion was born.
How can someone in Australia get involved with the Dandelion Support Network? How can someone in the U.S. get involved?
We are always looking for volunteers! Australians can get involved in many ways from washing clothes, to donating services, or hosting a dandelion day. We believe the ways to contribute are as individual as those contributing, so we have put some ideas down to help people find their own service here.
Those based in the U.S. could volunteer virtually or help out at Baby Buggy. Baby Buggy does amazing work providing nursery items to families in need, and there are offices in New York and Los Angeles.
What advice do you have for other social entrepreneurs looking to build a children’s support organization in their community?
My recommendation is to partner with someone already doing what you want to do—you will have a bigger impact if you don’t reinvent the wheel. Helping families is a complex undertaking, so make sure you are connected with as many of the existing support agencies as possible. Then, your job is to think outside the box and find a new and more efficient way of delivering those services.
We are lucky to have partnered early on with a company called Canvas. Canvas empowers businesses and organizations to build their own mobile apps effortlessly, in record time. This product revolutionized our work and made us exponentially more efficient. As a result, we won their inaugural Ante Up! Award for best nonprofit use of mobile technology.
What has been Dandelion’s greatest success and challenge to date?
Our successes are deeply personal. We have reunited a family torn apart by domestic violence by helping the mother set up a home with everything she needed for her infant. We have helped a grieving widow whose husband died just before their child was born, leaving her with no way of supporting herself and their child. We have welcomed families of refugees to Australia by giving them everything they need for their children. Our greatest challenge is keeping up with the rampant organic growth of our organization.
What’s next for Dandelion? Any plans to expand to other parts of Australia or other parts of the world?
2012 saw us establish our first two branches in two states in Australia, and we will likely expand that to four branches in three states in 2013. But our real goal for next year is to become a sustainable organization. We will be looking for major sponsors to partner with and continuing to work with local socially conscious businesses to help the agencies and families we support. We would love to find a way to help more young people get involved with our work, and will hopefully make this happen in 2013.
To learn more about Dandelion Support Network, and to find out how you can get involved, check out this website.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky
I am a writer, editor, and social change inspirer. I am a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow, and I care about supporting social entrepreneurs and encouraging people to live out their full potential in life. For the last two years, I worked at the U.S. Peace Corps, writing speeches and working on special projects including President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. Prior, I received my BA in film studies from Wesleyan University and worked as a film producer and location scout. I live in San Francisco, but I travel often, mostly by dancing and smiling. Check out my blog and follow me on Twitter.