Participant profile: Suzie Riddell

Suzie Riddell

Suzie Riddell is CEO of Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and was a Cohort One SILA participant.

Suzie Riddell is completely convinced that we can do better in Australia to shift the dial on better outcomes for people and communities, and she’s dedicated her career to doing so.

Helping communities thrive

Journeying to Guatemala in her early 20s, Suzie had an eye-opening experience of social impact – not all of it was positive.

Her time spent working as a volunteer English teacher in a girls’ primary school led her to question the ethics and efficacy of such international programs.

She witnessed deficits in financial rigour and transparency and a need for evidence-informed solutions to foster positive change, locally. She “felt like surely there was a better way to help people and communities”.

Building on these experiences, and her early career working as a strategy consultant for Bain and Co, Suzie later joined SVA to get a “bird’s eye” view of the social purpose sector so she could learn about the sector and see where she would be best placed to contribute.

She’s now been there for over 11 years.

As an intermediary working to create change at scale, SVA is dedicated to improving and funding positive change initiatives for people and communities across Australia.

Helping children get the right start in life, supporting people to attain meaningful work and a safe and affordable place to live, and access to good, culturally appropriate health and social care are just some of the issues that drive the organisation’s focus.

SVA is a 100-person team that works across Australia in multiple disciplines to ensure funding, services and policy create measurable impact in our communities. This includes a strategic social impact consulting service, an impact investing team as well as teams incubating initiatives at different stages along the pilot to policy pipeline. .

“What I love most is that people at SVA and those we work with, all at their heart have an optimistic mindset that we can do better as a society,” says Suzie.

Building a trusted network to drive future change

Suzie was excited by the opportunity to join Cohort One of the Social Impact Leadership Australia (SILA) Program, and to learn from a really “talented and passionate group” of leaders, many of whom she had previously met.

The SILA Program provides a structure and container for group interaction, learning and the potential for collaboration to develop within the sector, outside of day-to-day work.

It’s common in the social purpose sector to feel like the “opportunities are endless, but time is constrained,” Suzie shares.

So time in SILA offered the opportunity to get to know each other and reflect, and come together to create change.

“When I look at some of the most remarkable social change initiatives that have happened in Australia, there is often a highly dense, trusting network of people at the centre,” says Suzie.

“With SILA, it felt like atoms would bump together in the universe and magic would happen,” she adds.

A mindset shift for CEO success

SILA helped Suzie to look at some subconscious beliefs and reconsider what success is. It was during the first retreat that she had a “real unwinding of some mindsets about what a real CEO is, what they look like, and how they behave,” she says.

With the focus on the wellbeing of for-purpose leaders, Suzie believes that SILA is sending a message very loudly that leaders matter.

“That’s important, because organisations will be better equipped to focus on their mission and vision with more effective leaders,” Suzie says.

Early ‘aha moments’ with her SILA coach developed further insight, which gave her permission to slow down during the sabbatical period and to use the time for herself.

“All of the ideas I had about how I might use my time, at first, were at a very high intensity. I’m so used to running fast. I had a shift in perspective during the program, to use the time instead to avoid burnout or recover from it,” says Suzie.

“I think SILA will have a huge and long-lasting impact on our sector. It will change the perspective and behaviour of funders, too, about the value of investing in capabilities of organisations and their people – something that is often overlooked in this sector.”