Creating Social Change // Elliot Costello

By EHM Editor Jade McKenzie

This months special edition of EHM is proud to feature Elliot Costello, co-Founder of YGAP, on our cover. With this issue being dedicated to creating positive social impact through business and events, there was no-one more perfect to be profiled. 

YGAP is a non-profit that finds and supports impact entrepreneurs changing the lives of people living in poverty. Through their bustling cafe, beautiful function space, national and international campaigns and exciting fundraisers, every action helps ensure that the YGAP vision and mission is upheld.

Eliott shares with us their wonderful mission, how events support their important work and what is on the horizon for this exciting organisation.

Thank you so much for speaking with us today Elliot! I know that many of our readers will be excited to hear from such an inspiring leader! We would love to hear all about the YGAP mission and how the enterprise was brought to life?

YGAP has always been really effective at fundraising and since 2008 we’ve been building innovative campaigns and social enterprises to fund initiatives aimed at ending global poverty. Last year was particularly exciting for us as we merged with another not-for-profit, Spark International who specialise in finding, accelerating, supporting and growing the ventures of impact entrepreneurs in some of the world’s toughest communities. We call these impact entrepreneurs local leaders and we firmly believe local leaders have the solution to ending global poverty in this generation.

To date, YGAP has backed 225 impact entrepreneurs, who have significantly and measurably impacted the lives of 155,379 people living in poverty through their ventures. We are on a mission to back 1,000 entrepreneurs and impact one million lives by 2018. It’s an ambitious mission but one I believe we will achieve.


You say that YGAP is an incubator for social change which we just LOVE. Where does the inspiration come from to continually be on the charge to make a change?

It’s difficult to walk into YGAP every day and not feel overwhelmingly inspired by the work happening both here and abroad. Admittedly, no working day is without its challenges - that’s business - but knowing all the hard work is directly channeled into our work across Africa, Asia and Australia makes every challenge worth it.

I am drive by the passion and motivation of the local leaders we support in the field – by hearing their success stories and watching their ventures blossom. 155,379 people living in some of the world’s toughest communities have had their lives significantly and measurably changed thanks to these entrepreneurs. That statistic, which only continues to rise, drives me.

We love the idea of entrepreneurs using their knowledge and personal brand towards something that is making a global difference. How do you find the right people to represent your work and join the team?

Finding the right people who share our Vision to end global poverty in this generation is such an integral piece of what we do. Without our rockstar impact entrepreneurs, the funds our team works to hard to raise here in Australia would have no home. To ensure we achieve our mission of one million lives impacted by 2018, we run a very structured impact model. This involves four phases comprising find, accelerate, support and grow.

The ‘Find’ phase consists of a rigorous process to seek out the best 12 entrepreneurs with solutions to poverty in their local communities for us to accelerate and help go to scale. This is where we identify the right people to represent our work and join the team. It’s important to note not all of the ventures that come through our program succeed but we celebrate our failures as readily as our successes. We specifically work with very early stage ventures so while we pick the best ideas, they can go either way. There is always a lesson to be learned from the journeys that don’t succeed, but when the passion, idea and foundation is there, incredible things can happen.

What has been your motivation behind incorporating events into YGAP’s fundraising and campaign activities?

Six months ago, our core team outgrew our old office so we moved YGAP HQ to 111 Swan Street in Richmond, directly next door to our social enterprise restaurant Feast of Merit. It’s a big building with an empty space downstairs, so it seemed only logical to renovate it into a Feast of Merit Function Space and expand our offering.

With beautiful wooden floorboards, a pressed tin ceiling, stunning acoustics and walls painted by our very own YGAP team, it’s an incredible space to hold an event. We’re all about making philanthropy accessible and this is another way for people to give back with all profits made by the space channeled into YGAP’s work in the field.

 Image courtesy of Devon Bradley

Image courtesy of Devon Bradley

What have been some of the benefits you have experienced from holding extremely well thought out launches and fundraisers?

When YGAP holds an event, we invite everyday Australians to step outside their own world and connect with an incredible cause. Whether they’ve known us for years or it’s their first YGAP encounter, our events enable us to take people on a journey. We always share stories of our impact entrepreneurs at events to ensure our audience connects directly with those we support in the field. It’s critical for anyone who supports our mission to understand exactly where his or her money goes and hosting events allows us to clearly communicate this.

How do you see events playing a continual important part in YGAP’s future?

YGAP’s network of followers is growing rapidly as we connect with more and more people who believe we can end poverty in our lifetime. A perfect way to maintain momentum on this movement and to bring the community together is through the events we hold. These events provide us with a platform to spread the word about YGAP and most importantly, promote the incredible work of our impact entrepreneurs. Events will undoubtedly continue to play an integral role in helping us achieving our mission of one million lives impacted by 2018.

And finally, what exciting things are on the horizon for YGAP and how can we stay up to date?

The next year for YGAP is going to be big. One of our biggest fundraising campaigns, 5cent, has just come to an end and we’re straight on to preparing for the next, Polished Man. A major focus this year will be finding innovative ways to partner with likeminded organisations and individuals to continue driving our mission.

Every individual has the ability to contribute to change and impact the lives of those living in far less fortunate circumstances. We hold a YGAP Tribe meeting in our new events space every two months and I would really encourage anyone interested in learning more about what we do to come down and meet the team and broader supporter community.


How incredible! I do urge anyone in Melbourne or anyone visiting to support YGAP and it's projects by dining at Feast of Merit, holding an event in their function space or taking part in the tribe meetings. What an inspirational interview, I hope it gets you thinking about how you can create impact with your own business!


All photo credits belong to YGAP and Elliot Costello