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Women @ Work: Holly Ransom
03 February 2014
Holly Ransom (above) is still pinching herself. A 2012 The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awardee, she has been appointed by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to chair the planning group hosting this year’s Y-20 summit in Sydney in July, ahead of the 2014 G-20 Australia summit in Brisbane in November.
The appointment means the Perth born and raised social enterprise entrepreneur will have a busy year. She’ll be running her own business, Holly Ransom Enterprises, planning the July summit and its agenda from woe to go, keeping up her speaking, public, personal and social enterprise commitments, including consulting to Rotary worldwide on how it can attract new, younger members, and becoming even more of what she and West Australians term a “FIFO”, Fly In Fly Out.
And all this began when she was about 10 with a chat in a shopping mall with a homeless man.
“I asked him what he was doing. He said, ‘trying to earn enough to get a feed’. He had $4.20 in his hat and I said that’s not very much. He chuckled and said, it was a good day and he was doing well.
“The whole thing didn’t make sense to me: how come by the lottery of birth I would go home to a roof over my head and dinner and someone else did not.
“I refuse to accept that this is the way things have to be,” Holly continues, explaining that back then, running a food drive was her next step.
“Of course, I soon learnt you can’t just go on addressing the symptoms. You have to decide how to solve the root problems. The social enterprise space helped me to understand that. I mean I could do food drives every year, but I was pretty sure there was going to be the same amount of people out there begging for food with no money and no home. How we approach the issues needs rethinking and empowering people to be part of their own solution is an important part of that process.”
A self-confessed adrenalin junkie who numbers flying a plane (she’s keen to get her licence), canyon swinging, and controlled base jumping as her all-time favourite experiences, Holly admits not much scares her. Even snakes don’t push her heart rate up. (Her cousin was a collector, so they were part of growing up.)
Driven by the desire to have a positive impact and influence on the world around her has meant Holly has gravitated toward leadership roles where the platform exists to influence. Her business, Holly Ransom Enterprises, is an international coaching, consulting and speaking company that helps to engage and empower social influencers and to generate sustainable change in organizations and society. It also provides coaching to high-performance individuals.
One of her aims is to build a huge online community of young people who want to improve themselves and the world around them.
“I’m concerned that with the way things work now if you’re not identified young then you don’t get the opportunities for development and leadership and those opportunities become more and more inaccessible as you get older.
“We need to reimagine the way we problem solve. We’re applying 20th century solutions to 21st century problems and it’s not going to work.”
As she sees it, the challenge is to work out how human and resource capital can be pooled to tackle issues and how our short term lens can be changed to long term.
“The key for me,” explains Holly, “is to build my competency and skills in business, not for profit and government. Meaningful impact means speaking the language of these three areas.
“The complaint I hear most is always around how ‘they don’t understand how we work’, or ‘they don’t understand our mandate’, or ‘they don’t understand the competing demands we have’. The challenge is to work out how we can align business, government and not-for-profit interests and speak the same language to get the best outcomes.”
Holly has come across some really “cool” projects that she believes exemplify the way forward, including the social impact bonds being pioneered in the UK, and in the US, a government run website which crowd-sources answers to domestic issues.
The website, challenge.org, posts domestic challenges for anyone to solve. It might be a disability service challenge or a problem in education, or it might be a medical technology issue. The philosophy: no one has a monopoly on great ideas, so why limit the search for an answer to one area. The system effectively draws on human capital in a timely and fiscally responsible way that Holly finds "awesome" and exemplifies for her what being a person of influence can be about.
Holly Ransom’s total ‘fan girl’ moment
It has to be meeting Hillary Clinton (Holly at right pictured above with Hillary Clinton) in Perth when she was here in 2012 for the defence talks. My question to her was a bit cheeky. I wanted to know would she run for President? Her answer: I’d have to wait and see.
Her advice to me was to keep going, and not let things get in the way - stay resolute and never give up.
HR strategies for success
Develop a big picture horizon and don’t settle for maintaining the status quo
Think about your impact beyond work and what it means to the wider community
Develop a strong value set
Build your networks
Find inspiration. I use motivational quotes, people’s stories, and tapping into the 24-hour news cycle.