Anne-Marie Elias, the 261st person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, describes herself as a disruptor.

Annie feels a sense of burning injustice that issues like homelessness, Aboriginal disadvantage and support for vulnerable women are getting worse, despite attracting bucketloads of funding over decades.

Annie has worked as a government policy adviser, a start-up executive and a social impact leader, and feels the wrong things are being incentivised.

Politicians are incentivised to make funding announcements rather than solve problems, she says, while philanthropists are incentivised to make feel-good donations rather than check their money is making a difference. So problems are getting worse rather than better.

Annie is starting a social enterprise called Impact61 that aims to connect donors with not-for-profit groups. These will be grassroots organisations that have intimate understanding of a particular problem and practical plans to make it better. And rather than waiting for governments to lead the way, these organisations will be taking the initiative.

I didn’t have to spend long with Annie to realise that if she says she’s going to make something happen, she will. She’s passionate, determined and proactive.

Annie moved to Sydney, from Egypt, when she was seven. Her parents became deeply involved with community work and – although their activism was unpaid – showed a real entrepreneurial spirit in the way they promoted their causes. So it makes perfect sense they would’ve raised a daughter like Annie. 

Annie is unafraid to speak uncomfortable truths. Because, in her experience, you don’t make change by being nice – you do it by being disruptive.