Joan Young

Joan Young
  • Title: CEO | Colmar Brunton
  • Company: Colmar Brunton


Joan is the CEO of Colmar Brunton and has dedicated her career to working with government agencies to deliver better social outcomes and more efficient and effective government. Her focus is on adding value to the research and consultancy CB delivers. She plays an active role in key projects and provides strategic consultancy to organisations seeking to create effective policy, communications, services, products and programmes.

Joan first joined Colmar Brunton Wellington as a qualitative researcher where she founded one of the first government and social research businesses in New Zealand. She moved to Australia to establish Colmar Brunton Social Research which has grown to become a leading supplier of social marketing research for Australian government and not-for-profit agencies. Joan was appointed as CEO of Colmar Brunton Australia in 2010.

Joan is recognised as a leading strategic social marketing research and evaluation consultant internationally and regularly speaks and runs workshops at national and international conferences including most recently at the World Social Marketing Conference for this paper which received the Best Practitioner Paper Award for research which resulted in a 500% increase in the number of female firefighter applicants. This paper was also Highly Commended at the 2016 AMSRS Research Effectiveness Awards. The research Joan coordinated for the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Let’s Read Campaign won the best Poster Session at the World Social Marketing Conference and the South Australian Regional Road Safety Campaign was one of three short-listed for the International Research Effectiveness Awards in Atlanta in 2014.

Joan has contributed to successful behaviour change programmes across a wide range of areas including reduction of domestic and family violence, child abuse, risky alcohol consumption, road deaths and injuries and programmes aiming to reduce community violence, prepare communities for natural disasters, increase sea safety, road safety, positive parenting, stressed parents asking for help, reading to children, eating well, being physically active, connecting in the community and participating in cultural activities. Joan is well-published in social marketing and evaluation. A sample of these include:

Hall, S., Stannard, S., & Young, J. (1998) Social Marketing as a Tool to Stop Child Abuse. Paper presented at the Innovations in Social Marketing Conference, Washington DC, June 1998. Young, J. & O’Neill, P. A Social Marketing Framework for the Development of Effective Public Awareness Programs. Published in Conference Proceedings of the Australian Disaster Conference, Canberra, 1999. Rutland, K & Shadbolt, A & Young, J (2016) Using Social Marketing to increase recruitment of female fire fighters. Presented at World Social Marketing Conference, Wollongong, 2016 Davidson, J & Young J (2013) Applying the principles of social marketing to road safety in South Australia. Presented at ESOMAR, Atlanta 2013 Armitage, S & Young, J (2014) Talking Families– Using Social Marketing to prevent child abuse and neglect. Presented at World Social Marketing Conference, Sydney, 2014 Young, J. & Rochford, M. Evaluation of the Compass Pilot Program. Published in Conference Proceedings of the Australasian Evaluation Society Conference, Adelaide, 1996Eckhoff, D. & Young, J. (1993). Changing a Nation’s Way of Voting. Published in Conference Proceedings of the ESOMAR Qualitative Research Conference, Rome, 1997. Young, J & Fergusson, L (2005) How Segmentation Research has changed the way the Australian War Memorial does Business. Paper presented at the AMSRS National Conference, Sydney, 2008


All of us who work in the field know social research has the potential to make a massive contribution to improving the effectiveness of communications, programs, services and policy in creating positive outcomes for the community. And yet after many decades of social research many of the old Wicked Problems remain (e.g. long-term unemployment, homelessness, domestic and family violence) and new ones have emerged (e.g. obesity, cyber-bullying, sexual harassment, elder abuse and neglect). It seems like we have a long way to go to achieve our full potential to make a difference.

This paper asks why and what can we do about it? Key informant interviews with government research buyers and social researchers across the industry will be used to identify what we can do as an industry to increase our impact. It will explore the experience of government decision-makers and social researchers and will identify practical suggestions to increase the value and impact of social research. It will use examples of best practice from industry participants and will draw on publicly available academic models and existing case studies in road safety, workplace diversity, family violence and child abuse prevention to demonstrate how behavioural insights have been used to create behaviour change.

The paper will provide both a ‘what was done’ and ‘how it was useful’ perspective as well as sharing the ‘how it was done’ and ‘how you can do it’ to give conference delegates take home approaches, techniques and tools they can use immediately to increase the impact of their work.