Over the past five years SORT has worked across 25 of the
most resource-poor communities in Australia as a not-for-profit community recycler.
Our small-scale projects involved training and job creation for long-term unemployed people and refurbishment of digital technologies to low income families. While we found strong community support for recycling, we were not able to achieve goals for truly effective waste and environmental management using current systems.
SORT now works as a design-led team, alongside digital developers, stakeholders, startups, local community groups and recyclers to design new strategies for resource recovery, source separation and community learning.
This strategy is encapsulated in The SORT System™, which allows householders and business owners to sort their discarded resources, capture their value and directly trade with buyers. Learn more about The SORT System here.
The first implementations of The SORT System™ are being made in the West End district of Brisbane, Australia.
With over 40,000 years of continuous habitation, this is one of the most ancient communities on earth, far older than any city in Europe or even North Africa. For most of that time, the Kurilpa area has been the centre of a rich food bowl. The Turbal people harvested fish from the warm waters of the Brisbane River and the rainforests of Highgate Hill. The open banks of Hill End offered rich harvests of fruit, nuts, kangaroo, possums and other game. The fruiting of the mighty Bonyi (Bunya Pines), some of which still stand, was a call to the many surrounding clans who gathered in the neighbouring Wakka Wakka country for great feasts, ceremonies and cultural performances.
The Kurilpa river flats were successively tilled by Chinese and later Italian, Greek and Lebanese market gardeners. Now they are home to suburban, community and vertical gardens and a growing diversity of urban residents. For all of that time, communities carefully tended to their waste, first with shellfish middens, now with community composting hubs. At SORT, we draw on all this history and experience in our practice.
Though SORT is a global concept, it must always have a local context. We prepare people for challenges around waste and rapidly changing futures by bringing them together to build the tools, processes and business models for source separation, recovery and re-use. Our hub, nestled among the hustle and bustle of the West End district is no coincidental geographic choice! The district is widely known to be politically-charged, epitomising diversity and valuing community. Lately, the landscape is rapidly shifting with development and urban population growth, though the community remains resilient in their embrace of innovation, creativity and social activism.
SORT values learning and has collaborated with local West End and wider Brisbane networks to establish diverse education programs, workshops and events to engage community. As one of SORT’s key principles, our learning experiences strive to build trust, agency and resilience among the local community.
Starting early 2018, West End households will trial the SORT System™ in a pilot program. The current waste management system in Brisbane has been designed for us, rather than with us. The pilot program is a prototype of the SORT System and allows us to design with local householders an adaptable new waste management system.
The future of work is rapidly changing! We run an Australian accredited Certificate III in Business qualification from our hub in West End. Students can develop real world, practical skills at our not-for-profit, social enterprise, participate in business development activities, and explore new digital tools at our Digital Discovery Workshops. Business+ students learn within an operational enterprise, while addressing social and environmental challenges!
At SORT, we believe people should have the opportunity to design their lives in collaboration with others. Our workshops are based on ideas that generate collaborative, design-based democracy and enable a variety of exciting & challenging projects. Available to age groups 8 - 12, 13 - 17 and adults, the Digital Discovery Workshops are run from the SORT hub by our catalysts who work with us to develop and design compelling learning experiences for our local community.
Not your average Sunday session. SORT's Colloquia Sunday sessions are collaborative social conversations with evolving themes, held monthly from the SORT Hub in West End, Brisbane. Students, experts, academics, stakeholders, friends and local community gather for open knowledge production, sharing and collaboration. Alongside a moderator and panel of experts, our colloquia community collate individual, community and policy actions that stimulate citizen democracy and agency in Brisbane.
Digital Divide Campaign
Over one-sixth of Australia’s children live in poverty, and struggle to access the digital technology they need for school. This divide creates barriers to jobs of the new digital economy. Yet each year, Australia’s affluent consumer society discards mountains of computers and digital devices. Though some of these discarded resources are of very high quality, they continue to be exported as cheap e-waste overseas or go to landfill. Through the Digital Divide Campaign, these resources from our corporate and or government sector sponsors and deliver them as refurbished computers and digital devices to the children of low-income families.