Igniting Change on Necker Island – 2015

Day 5: Igniting Change wrap up, fond farewells and takeaways

Wedding night hangovers were addressed over breakfast (for those who made it!) and we prepared to make a sad departure.

Breakfast – The morning after the wedding (Most didn’t make it)

In summary, another fantastic gathering and well done to Jane Tewson again for assembling such a great collection of inspiring people. Thanks also to Sir Richard and the Branson family for being such wonderful hosts and good sports.

Thanks Jane Tewson – An amazing effort

Also to the Virgin team – Jean Oelwang, Suse Collier and Anna Clarke who made such a wonderful effort to ensure everything flowed smoothly. It was a pleasure to hang out with the exceptional attendees and let’s ensure we keep in touch.


With the theme being ‘Collaborative Disruption’ based around ‘People, Planet, Profit’ all of the attendees will have left having their duties and responsibilities further enforced in terms of the types of companies we need to build. And if we don’t need reminding – fear and ignorance need to be confronted wherever they occur.

Let’s ensure technology and the power of community continue to grow at great pace and that we are approaching a world and a society where injustice and its perpetrators will have nowhere to hide!

Look forward to seeing Richard and Jean again in London later next month for the 10:10 Global Disruptors event.

Thanks again Jane!

p.s. Happy 10th birthday celebrations to Virgin Unite!


Day 4: An unexpected celebration on Necker

So it turns out that Brian James – a former radio presenter turned writer from Melbourne, became so enchanted with Necker Island, he spontaneously proposed to his partner Diamond Rozakeas who promptly accepted. Brian and Diamond are both avid supporters of the Australian creative scene.

On hearing of the wonderful news, Sir Richard insisted they get married immediately on the island and suggested he perform the service himself, as he is ordained and experienced in doing so.

My Daughter Grace and I with Sir Richard

Furthermore, recording star Aloe Blacc agreed to perform after the ceremony. So in the space of 24hrs the world’s most hastily arranged wedding was put together and all schedules were changed accordingly. I observed this unfold at close hand, so I can assure you this was no prearranged stunt – this place seems to have that effect on people.

The anxious wait by the Groom and Richard

The group assembled on the balcony of The Great House at sunset in the most beautiful setting imaginable. Brian and Diamond were duly married by Sir Richard Branson who was suitably decked out in virginal white.

The ceremony by sunset

Dinner on the roof was followed by an almighty party which went all night. Aloe Blacc sang his best hits such as Wake Me Up (before it’s all over) and a pole dancing prop suddenly appeared from out of nowhere.

I recall some people were loaded onto boats at 5am trying and make their flights back to London. Who knows where they ended up and if they made those flights! The rest of the stories I will need to disclose in person.

That was a wedding that no one will forget – it certainly qualified as collaborative disruption!


Day 3: Moskito Island and words of wisdom

It was an early start on day three as the group faced the challenge of venturing to neighbouring Moskito Island via kayak, paddle board, sail, or kite surf. So many options to choose from.

Getting ready for the trip to Moskito Island 

On arrival, we were rewarded for our effort with an abundant breakfast. We went on to begin the workshop with a presentation from the incredibly capable intellect of 32 year old Ben Rattray, Founder and CEO of

Ben Rattray reveals and discusses his achievements with 

Ben and his rapidly growing company are forcing governments, institutions, and corporates to change their policies through highly effective online petitions which have attracted 100 million users to-date. Ben is now widely regarded as one of the world’s most influential people and his investors include many high profile tech billionaires, and Richard Branson. The power and potential of this movement is formidable.

Some wise words by Brene Brown 

Ben was followed by another very welcome session from Brene Brown who explored the traits of shame and guilt and how both play such a formative role both within ourselves and those around us – in particular loved ones. Wherever empathy exists, neither can survive (a genuine compassion for oneself and others). Brene concluded with some great words of wisdom.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go to that. What the world needs now is more people who have come alive.”

Strongly recommend reading Brene’s best selling book ‘Daring Greatly’.

Ben Rattray and I pause our conversation for pic

I was privileged to enjoy lunch on a stunning beach with both Brene and Ben to understand their work in more detail and marvel at their capacity for work and thirst for knowledge (Brene had read three books the night before on tech start-ups purely on Ben’s advice!). People like this make you feel very pedestrian!

The evening that was to follow was as unpredictably bizarre as it was amazing and I will detail in a separate piece.


Day 2: Storytelling and a little chess

A breakfast spread, surrounded by flying flamingos kicked off day two.

We went on to start the formalities of the day, hearing an emotional account by Zak Ebrahim titled ‘Not My Father’.

Zak’s father was a radical Islamist living in New York who assassinated a Rabbi Leader and was responsible for the World Trade Centre bombings in the 90’s resulting in six life sentences. Zak talked in a compelling manner about his initial shame and then rejection of hatred associated with radical beliefs, and his quest for peace and tolerance.

Zak Ebrahim shares his ‘Not my Father’ story with the gathering

Next up was Sam Branson, who described how he is forming his own purpose and identity outside of his father’s shadow and demonstrated some of the causes he is committed to via his ground breaking documentaries at Sundog. Look out for this boy!

Sam was followed by renowned recording artist Aloe Blacc, who explained his focus to remove the more sinister undertones of hip hop and oversee a cultural shift in listeners.

Jane Tewson and Jane Rowe (Founder/CEO of The Mirabel Foundation) joined Aloe to describe their rehabilitation of young damaged victims of addiction through a life-time of overwhelming compassion and energy.

Taking the zip line to lunch 

We then took the flying fox to a sushi lunch floating on the pool before checking out some of Necker’s other residents, the Lemurs – a rare and endangered species and part of a conservation protection program on the island.

The afternoon presented some time for a couple of games of chess between myself and Richard Branson – honours even!

Two Richards playing chess
Two Richards enjoying a few rounds of chess

Pre-dinner, we heard the riveting tale of Karl Lokko’s life as a gangster in London and how his courage helped break the viscous slaughter amongst rival gangs through simply presenting himself as their kindred soul and friend and not their enemy. Gangsterism itself was the enemy – not the individuals. His poetry and rap recitals on the topic had us all spellbound.

The gangster reformer – Karl Lokko

End of another inspiring day on Necker!


Day 1: Igniting Change on Necker Island

Great to be back at Necker Island again to take part in Jane Tewson’s (Head of Melbourne-based Igniting Change) 5th annual gathering for ‘Igniting Change’.


Welcome to paradise

This year’s theme is about redefining prosperity based around people, planet, profit, and as usual we have a gathering of some of the finest thinkers and inspiring people from across the globe.

Day one was kicked off by a warm welcome from Richard Branson who proudly held his latest grandchild Eve – the recent daughter of Sam and Isabella Branson. There were also warm greetings from Jane Tewson and CEO of Virgin Unite, Jean Oelwang.

Richard welcomes the gathering with grand daughter in hand

Session 1 was titled ‘Disruptive Collaboration’ and was presented by the highly accomplished and delightful Jean Oelwang who talked of the need for all entrepreneurs and companies to join forces in the common goal of arresting the continual destruction of our planet and its resources.

Jean Oelwang talks ‘Disruptive Collaboration’ 

Jean was followed by the incredibly humble yet highly influential Jane Tewson, who from a very modest infrastructure in Melbourne has achieved amazing things in the most difficult of areas including rehabilitating young prison offenders and assisting asylum seekers.

Jane Tewson discusses youth justice system rehabilitation and asylum seekers

Next to present was best-selling author who also takes claim to one of the most watched TED presenters, Brene Brown who is the world’s leading authority on The Power of Vulnerability. She provided an enthralling insight into how we can achieve so much more by dealing with our fears and that displaying vulnerability is not a weakness.

Brene Brown provides insight on vulnerability

With heads still buzzing about with all the engaging content presented that morning, we went on to enjoy lunch at the beach house, followed by a swim and attendance at the Necker tennis tournament. Not being any sort of tennis player, I helped serve the Pimms from the sideline.

Daughter Grace and I enjoying the Caribbean sun in the pool

The day concluded with sunset cocktails and a Q & A session between Richard Branson and social entrepreneur, adventurer and philanthropist, Johnny Webb.

It was then off with the shoes for dinner on the beach where Richard encouraged us to share our ‘sliding doors’ moment in life.

Fantastic thought-provoking and action packed first day on the island!