Our mission is to seek out areas of social need and policy failure and make transformational change using research, design and technology.
We believe that government, organisations and business can be forces for good. But there's a gap in their understanding of, and ability to meet, the expectations of those in need of positive change. Our job is to use design and technology to narrow the gap between those with the power and responsibility to make positive change, and those who need it.
We care about these big issues, among many others, and we work with partners to get there across Australia and the region. But often we find ourself in situations where there are opportunities to respond directly to issues we uncover. We do this by self initiating our own research and development to explore and respond to these issues. Some of these areas over the past decade include:
- Mental health: we work with organisations like Orygen and Headspace to enhance delivery of youth mental health services.
- Education: we're on a mission to unlearn school and have worked with Australia's biggest education department to bring human-centred design to public schooling.
- Access to justice: our 10-year journey to redesign access to justice includes pioneering work in online dispute resolution and family violence.
- Death and ageing: ageing and death are in need of optimism, and we believe that systems thinking and human-centred design can be a force for good — so we wrote a report about it.
Guided by values
The work we do, and choose not to do, says a lot about who we are. We work with clients that share our values, seek out projects that help people, host free events to have the conversations nobody else is having, and conduct our own research and development into some of society's biggest challenges.
Everything we do involves talking to real people early and often. We aim to get people in the room to talk about their expertise — whether it's technical knowledge or a recent personal experience. We bring user personas into the design process, test with real people, and fight for user needs over business needs.
Portable's history has involved building film festivals, ecommerce engines, physical products and digital services. We go beyond the report. When the next step is unclear, or we can't quite get funding yet, we keep chipping away. Making stuff provokes conversations, builds the capabilities of our team, and helps create a future we want to see.
Today's biggest challenges are in systems where darkness is prevalent. But in areas like justice, mental health, aged care and death, we choose to see the bright patches. Rather than be blind to reality, we are optimistic that a human-centred approach can make a difference in areas that need social and policy engagement.
How do we know we are making a difference? We measure our performance as a company and as individuals. And we work with our partners to benchmark and establish metrics — meaningful ones, not vanity stats — by which we can articulate the impact of the things we design and build.
Proud to B-Corp
We have always been driven by a mission to use technology to help transform sectors and industries.
As a company and a group of individuals, we’re proud to be recognised as a B-Corp, an organisation that seeks to create value for their stakeholders by looking after its customers, employees, organisational community and overall environment. B-Corps help generate equality in the workplace and show commitment to redefining what matters most to their working community. You can find out more about our B-Corp Certification here.
R&D for a purpose
Self-initiated research and development in areas we care about
We have an active program of self-initiated research and development in areas we care about, think we can make positive change and use design to speculate on the future and create discussion. We use our R&D insights to contribute to government inquiries and commissions, such as to the Australian Human Rights Commission, NSW Law Reform Commission Australian Government Department of Health's Aged Care Charter of Rights. We've worked in:
- access to justice
- government innovation
- death and ageing
- future of work
- rethinking not-for-profits
- taking back retail
- the new infrastructure
As part of our mission to help identify areas of social need and policy failure, we as a team actively look to give back to communities in need. We do this by prioritising areas of focus and allowing mechanisms to make donations possible within the company.
Pro bono work
As of July 2020, we have directly funded communities around the world to make change, through micro-loans. To date we have loaned over $250,000 USD. See our Lending Team Impact Report, which graphs our progress over the past year.