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Unleashing Young Changemakers for Social Impact

5 October 2016 at 10:58 am
Wendy Williams
Businesses are a catalyst for change, according to an award-winning young entrepreneur who has been recognised as a “gamechanger” for her contribution to social impact.

Wendy Williams | 5 October 2016 at 10:58 am


Unleashing Young Changemakers for Social Impact
5 October 2016 at 10:58 am

Businesses are a catalyst for change, according to an award-winning young entrepreneur who has been recognised as a “gamechanger” for her contribution to social impact.

Bridie Ritchie is the director of Sprout Ventures, a social enterprise which has developed and implemented the Sprout Hub project, an enterprising solution to early community and economic development in greenfield areas throughout Western Australia.

She was one of six young change makers to be celebrated for their contribution to social impact at The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) Unleashed Awards in Melbourne, leading the category focussed on innovation and enterprise skills

She told Pro Bono Australia News it was a “no brainer” that businesses should be “good”.

“There is just something really fundamental to business being a catalyst for change,” Ritchie said.

“I think it is a real no brainer for me, that the businesses that are operating in our communities should be good in how they operate, whether that is internally, but also I think externally focussed, so the products and services we develop should all come down to the base thing of making the world better.

“It sounds a bit rose tinted glasses there, but I think the core of everything we do and produce should have that social good focus, and social enterprise is obviously, for me, a bit of a buzzword at the moment because I think… our current definition of social enterprise should be the definition for business across everything.”

Ritchie said business can make big changes.

“I think sometimes we can get sidetracked and think that the only way a business can do good is to really be working in that social impact space but I think a business can do good internally as well in the way that they support their staff, the way that they operate internally whether it is support, ethical suppliers, or social procurement, all these kinds of things,” she said.

“The business can still be like a traditional businesses in terms of what their outputs are but internally is where they can make some really big changes and can start adopting that internal social enterprise stuff.”

The Sprout Hub aims to create great places for people to live, work and play, and to create opportunities for casual, community led connection and engagement in newly developed areas.

Over the first two years the project has raised $23,000 for the local community via the Seedling Fund, a community grant initiative which is part of the hub project.

Ritchie said it was great to see where they were making a difference.

“Being a pilot project we really weren’t quite sure [if it would be successful], obviously it was a bit of a prototype experiment,” she said.

“A big part of what we do is measure and keep good track of the social impact indicators that we are working towards and it is really great to look at the areas that we are improving in.

“One of my favourite stats that we’ve collected is I think in the first year 59 per cent of people who came into the hub made a new friend and I think we’re still tracking pretty well at around 53 per cent now so that’s a pretty nice statistic to have.”

In recognition of the project Ritchie took home the Gamechanger award, celebrating groups or individuals engaged in social or socially-minded business enterprise, at the recent Unleashed Awards.

She said it was great for the team to be recognised.

“It is a pretty cool title… and I think it is a bit of recognition for the entire team of Sprout,” she said.

“I think I can sometimes be the one that gets these awards but really it is the team that bring the heart and magic into kind of everything that we do, so I think it is a nice recognition for myself and also for them and the communities we work in as well, it’s really great for them to be a bit proud of the little hub.”

She said the awards were a great way to showcase the contribution young people were making.

“FYA’s network is pretty fantastic, and the people in that room, it is really great to have the opportunity to show people what we’re all about and obviously all the other award winners as well, and kind of showcase that young people are out there doing great things for their communities and I think it’s obviously really important to celebrate that,” she said.

The awards, which coincided with the Unleashed Festival, Australia’s largest social change festival for young people, recognised young people between 15 and 29 who work in entrepreneurial and innovative ways to foster social good in their community, Australia and beyond.

FYA CEO Jan Owen AM said the awards celebrated young people who were creating change in their community – from their backyard to overseas.

“These innovative, thought-provoking and creative young people are contributing to and leading conversations and action that will shape the future of our nation – they are the movers and shakers of the social change,” Owen said.

“By celebrating these individuals and their initiatives we hope to inspire young Australians and help unleash their potential to create a world they want to live in.”

Ritchie’s advice for future young changemakers was to be flexible and value people.

“I think we can get a little bit bogged down in a solution sometimes and ignore the pathway to get there, sometimes you can just find this golden idea that you think is the way but I think along the journey there are so many stakeholders involved in that, so many people you can get expertise from that can really alter that,” she said.

“Maybe what I’m trying to get at is flexibility is a really important thing to have and that ability to adapt to a changing environment is so core.

“The second little piece of advice is definitely value people and partnerships.

“I think that’s the way things need to be going, no one operates in a vacuum anymore and I think it is really important to not only cherish the people you have on board directly in your organisation but the people you work with whether direct partners or customers and clients and all that as well, just doing everything you can for them that’s the way you are going to do something beneficial.”

Ritchie said her future plans were open.

“Obviously with Sprout we are really excited to sort of continue work on really broad community development stuff, for lack of a better word!

“Working in that space and really kind of looking at if the future is the majority of people moving to cities how do we work for greater social cohesion and all those kinds of things within the places where we live and work, so that’s a really exciting space that we’re sort of exploring and thinking what can we do.

“So from a professional perspective there is that, and for me myself I am studying to be a yoga teacher.

“I am really excited to kind of adapt that sort of philosophy into business a little bit as well just from a personal perspective, but I think going back to my advice for young people I am just kind of living not having too much of a rigid direction and staying quite open to what emerges.”

The Unleashed 2016 Award Winners were:

  • Jacqui Stark Jumpstart, celebrating young people aged 13 to 26 who have the potential to scale their idea through digital, but just need a little jumpstart.
  • Josh Gilbert Local Legend, celebrating young people aged 13 to 26 working within their local community to create positive change.
  • Mercedes Page Culture Connect, celebrating a young person aged 15 to 26 who is turbocharging our connection with the Asian region through volunteer, social enterprise or other Not for Profit work.
  • Jake Miller-Randle New Wave, celebrating young people aged 15 to 26 the New Wave is awarded to an individual who is using technology or digital innovation to disrupt the way we catalyse and create social change.
  • Bridie Ritchie Gamechanger, celebrating groups or individuals who are engaged in social or socially-minded business enterprise. This award focuses on innovation and enterprise skills.
  • Paul Kooperman Trailblazer, celebrating changemakers (individuals or groups) who are 29 plus, in recognition of their achievements.
  • Kimberley La, Sophie Telfer, Claudia Martha, Jessie Hughes and Katharine Brown were also recognised for their contributions at the awards.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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