Relationship, relationship, relationship

Our social licence to operate is given through our capacity to build relationships of trust and collaboration

Above my desk over the last couple of years I have had this cartoon:

Image: Calvin and Hobbs by Bill Watterson Link:

It reminds me to have a sense of humour and wonder and that curious conversation can take us in new directions.

SVA started because non-profit sector leaders saw the need for an organisation that was light on its feet to respond to the fast changing social environment by identifying and supporting social entrepreneurs and new social innovations.

What attracted me to SVA was the focus on bringing together people with the best of business and the best of social change and exploring how we can together grow our impact in addressing the big problems in our society. Of course, we haven’t always got it right, but we have built great evidence of what works and established strong relationships and credentials in both the social sector and the business sector.

From our early work with social enterprises in Queensland, we built an evidence base of how to identify and work with this cohort, as well as how to leverage pro bono business support. I can recall towards the beginning of that journey, Jan Owen talking to our partners PwC and Brisbane City Council, and with newly emerging social entrepreneurs, inspiring them to take the journey together. It was quite a ride and we learnt a lot through the evaluation of that work, including identifying that there was a huge gap in the market for social enterprise investment.

In response, SVA led the way in developing social enterprise funds and other impact investing products in Australia. I look at the change in that market and the sterling position that SVA’s impact investing team now has in that space and I am proud to have been a part of the SVA journey.

In its relatively short life, SVA has built a reputation for great analytical, evaluative and financial talent. However our social licence to operate is given through our capacity to build relationships of trust and collaboration across social and business sectors.

SVA has grown and changed in the nine years since I started.  So much so that there is not a single familiar face from that time.  These changes have kept SVA fresh with an ever growing talent pool and a great alumni. The challenge is to hold the relationships that have been developed organisationally and to continue to grow trust and collaboration.

If asked what are the three most important aspects of work at SVA?

I would say: Relationship, relationship, relationship.

To build diverse relationships requires the ability “to see through the eyes of the other” as Bengali poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore would say.

Now that I am leaving SVA and clearing my desk, I reflect on that cartoon and consider my own journey of “unimaginable wonder” at SVA. I can see that it lies in the remarkable people and their stories, the people at SVA, the people in ventures and the people in our business and philanthropic partners who together are contributing to build a better world.

I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with such fabulous people and build such great relationships.  I will stand tall on the shoulders of SVA’s good work as I head off to Burma (Myanmar) to continue to be part of the social change journey in a very different context – working with Action Aid Myanmar and the Social Enterprise Development Network, finding new market opportunities for poor women.

I shall take the inspiration and learning from my time with SVA and I hope to be able to continue to share future journeys with many of you. After all, the world is a global village.

Thank-you fellow travellers. Go well.

Susan Black

SVA Alumni