The meditation tree at Amana with view down to the Wollondilly River and Gibraltar Rocks, Photos by Nedna Milovanovic © 2016
Gianni Zappalà - Orfeus SQ
Working with the principles of Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) to achieve meaning and purpose

Intelligence is about our ability to solve problems and think about them in different contexts. While the traditional rational intelligence usually used to solve logical or strategic problems (IQ) is important, as is the ability to empathise and display compassion with another’s situation (EQ), they need to be underpinned by Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) – the ability to access higher meaning, values and purpose through a greater level of self-awareness and consciousness. Higher levels of SQ enable us to leverage our IQ and EQ in order to act with meaning, purpose and compassion. The term Spiritual has no necessary connection with religion, but rather draws on a biological understanding of spirituality, where it is seen as a unique and innately human trait that is physiologically determined and therefore can have both secular and theist expressions. Spirituality is part of humanity’s search for meaning and purpose, it is what ‘makes us ask why we are doing what we are doing and makes us seek some fundamentally better way of doing it. It makes us want our lives and enterprises to make a difference’ (Zohar & Marshall 2004, p.29).

My approach is informed by the seminal work in SQ, Spiritual Capital by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, who broaden the notions of ‘capital’ – from material, social, human, natural to that of Spiritual Capital, which defines a ‘sense of wider meaning, the possession of an enlivening or inspiring vision…and a deep sense of wider purpose’ (p.27). Spiritual Capital is the capital necessary to move society onto an expanded concept of wealth and one which should inform movements such as Corporate Responsibility if it is to be a genuine vehicle to achieve deep transformative change rather than simply a PR led strategy to maintain a business-as-usual approach.

Linked to the concept of Spiritual Capital is Spiritual Intelligence (SQ), which Zohar & Marshall define as ‘an ability to access higher meanings, values, abiding purposes, and unconscious aspects of the self and to embed these meanings, values and purposes in living a richer and more creative life’ (p. 3). SQ can be best understood in relation to other forms of intelligence and capitals as summarized in the Table below.

           Forms of capital and corresponding Intelligence

Material capital
IQ – Rational intelligence

What I think – the intellectual intelligence we use usually use to solve logical or strategic problems

Social Capital
EQ – Emotional Intelligence
What I feel – the intelligence we use when we empathise or display compassion with someone else’s situation. It enables us to respond to different situations and behave appropriately to the context of different situations

Spiritual Capital
SQ – Spiritual intelligence
What I am – the intelligence we use to address and solve problems of meaning and value

Source: Adapted from Zohar & Marshall (2004)

These three forms of capital and intelligence are not mutually exclusive, in fact Zohar and Marshall argue that SQ is a prerequisite for both IQ and EQ to function effectively – it is what they refer to as our ‘ultimate intelligence’. IQ, EQ, and SQ can function separately or together, and more importantly, they show how IQ and EQ work within boundaries while SQ allows humans to change the rules and to alter situations and allows us to play with the boundaries and provides access to higher levels of consciousness. In other words, this is the intelligence required to solve complex social problems.

About Gianni​​
 I am an educator, facilitator and social impact expert with over thirty years experience in the University, commercial, Government and For Purpose sectors. While using SQ-related tools and frameworks in my previous work in program design and evaluation, over the last few years, I have increasingly focused on working with the principles of Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) to help people of all ages and organisations achieve their purpose and have meaningful impact in a range of areas beyond program evaluation.

I began my working life as an academic and from 2003 have been an Adjunct A/Professor first at the University of Sydney and since 2008 at the Centre for Social Impact, University of NSW where I developed and taught graduate courses in Corporate Responsibility, Demonstrating Social Impact, and Spiritual-based leadership and authored several papers on Spirituality and business and SQ. Together with Social Leadership Australia, I recently co-designed and facilitated Master classes in Adaptive Leadership for Social Impact ​which included sessions on the application of SQ and SQ-based frameworks to leadership challenges.

From 2003 to 2016, I was the founder and Director of Orfeus Research, a boutique consultancy that assisted organisations demonstrate their social impact. During that time Orfeus Research worked with organisations including The Westpac Foundation (2005 - 2013), Mallesons Stephen Jaques; BASF; Leighton Holdings, Fundraising Institute Australia; Mission Australia; WorkVentures; The George Institute; CanTeen; The Smith Family; Big Brother Big Sister Australia, The Millennium Foundation, The Australia Council, and Philanthropy Australia. 

​​I have held teaching, research and policy positions at the Universities of Sydney, Cambridge, Wollongong, the Australian National University, Parliament House Canberra, NSW Government agencies and The Smith Family. I have degrees in Economics & Politics from the universities of Sydney, London and Cambridge and taught and published on a wide range of social and economic policy issues including Corporate Responsibility, Spirituality and Business and social impact assessment. I have also undertaken accredited training in a range of social impact & personal development frameworks and tools, including LogFrame, Social Accounting, SROI and the Holistic Development Model (Map of Meaning), HeartMath and The Callings Program.

How Orfeus SQ can help
Education & Training in SQ
  • Courses, workshops & presentations on SQ, and its use and application in:
    • Leadership
    • Evaluation and social impact analysis
    • Problem solving

SQ for children program (see

Heart Rock Guard, Amana

Facilitation with SQ
  • Use of SQ-based tools & frameworks (e.g. Map of Meaning) to facilitate teams & groups in a range of areas including:
    • Theory of Change
    • Program Design
    • Strategic Planning
    • Complex problem solving
SQ Personal Development
  • One-on-one coaching & supervision in assessing and cultivating your SQ
Understanding your purpose & calling (see

  • Career transitions from the corporate/government sectors to the NFP/for purpose sector

Sunset at Amana Nedna Milovanovic, 2016


"The concept of spiritual intelligence was initially a challenging concept to accept, in the context of leadership theory. However as Gianni's presentation progressed and he answered the questions put to him by the group about this my understanding and appreciation for this idea shifted and changed. By the end of the session I felt motivated to work with this idea, and especially with the framework presented" (participant, Adaptive Leadership for Social Impact workshop, Canberra, 2016)

"The (defining moment for me) was when I was asked to reflect on how I am bringing meaning into my life. The moment when we received the SQ questionnaires. This caused deep reflection on what was missing in the way I approach my life /work / other people, and where I need to grow more to have purpose and build a meaningful life" (participant, Adaptive Leadership for Social Impact workshop, Canberra, 2016)

"I speak for the whole group when saying that this semester has been fantastic – challenging and very enlightening.  We have all been able to directly take practical items learnt into the workplace and for use with clients.  We have also had our pre-conceptions of evaluation and measurement challenged and expanded.  A great combination! Thanks for your teaching" (participant, 2015 DSI course at CSI)

"It was an enormous pleasure being in your class - hope to join one of your workshops in the future. Or an SQ subject!" (participant, 2015 DSI course at CSI)

"... I really appreciated the synergy of the organic-to-social impact-and-evaluation-theory...I had no idea that this (SQ-based frameworks) was coming in this unit and for me, was the most amazing and inspiring part(s) of the unit"  (participant, 2015 DSI course at CSI)

"The map of meaning was interesting and took some thought to digest. I felt I went from thoughts of no meaning to
(participant, Adaptive Leadership for Social Impact workshop, Melbourne , 2015)

Contact Gianni at Orfeus SQ
m: +61 (0)411 247 964
​Office: c/o 292 Hawthorne Pde Haberfield NSW 2045

  • Reload

Papers by Gianni on SQ related areas

Gianni Zappalà, ‘Spirituality is the new black…and it has a social impact! (Part 1 – Definitions and concepts)’, Background Paper No. 1 Centre for Social Impact, UNSW, May 2009.

Gianni Zappalà, ‘Spirituality is the new black …and it has social impact! Part II – Explaining the increased interest in spirituality’, Background paper 3, Centre for Social Impact, UNSW, June 2009.

Gianni Zappalà, ‘Beyond Corporate Responsibility: The ‘Spiritual Turn' and the rise of Conscious Business’, Background paper 6, Centre for Social Impact, UNSW, February 2010.

Gianni Zappalà, ‘Solving social problems and demonstrating impact: A tale of two typologies’, CSI Briefing Paper No. 5, 2011.

Gianni Zappalà & Anna Scott, 'Intelligence for Purpose and Meaning: Foundations for achieving social impact', CSI Knowledge Connect, 17, 2013.

Please email Gianni for copies of any of the above papers.

Other useful sources on SQ

Danah Zohar & Ian Marshall, SQ: The ultimate intelligence, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000.

Danah Zohar & Ian Marshall, Spiritual Capital – Wealth we can live by, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2004

Cindy Wigglesworth, SQ21 – The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence, New York: Select Books, 2012.

Marjolein Lips-Wiersma and Lani Morris, The Map of meaning – A guide to sustaining our humanity in the world of work, Greenleaf, 2011.
Wollondilly River at Amana
Nedna Milovanovic 2016
Meditation Tree at Amana
Nedna Milovanovic 2016

Orfeus SQ - Intelligence for meaning & purpose
ABN: 45 535 521 203