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40 Under 40 winner of the day: Carolyn Curtis


Starting her career as a frontline child protection worker investigating abuse, Carolyn Curtis wanted to help give children the best opportunities in life. But after a decade working in government she realised she would struggle  to drive the change needed from the inside.

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So in 2010 Curtis joined national not-for-profit The Australian Centre for Social Innovation and soon founded a new approach to support vulnerable families, called Family by Family.

The Family by Family approach to support has won national and international awards and is on a pathway to expansion.

Curtis became chief executive officer of The Australian Centre for Social Innovation in 2012 and has helped double revenue in the past three years – a trend she expects will continue.

The centre is now internationally recognised as a leader in developing new solutions to complex social policy issues.

Curtis, 38, was named a winner in InDaily’s inaugural 40 Under 40 awards this month.

We asked her some more about doing business in South Australia.

What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?

There have been some real advantages to starting and running a business in South Australia. We’ve been able to fly under the radar and really demonstrate some new and different ways of working. Additionally, over the past eight years we’ve been able to attract significant overseas talent to SA to work for us. The size of the city, combined with the more manageable cost of living and great tourist destinations, has been a great entry into Australia for them. We’ve now employed people from all over the world to work for us in Adelaide.

What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?

When it comes to social innovation, it’s been hard to find the appetite and investment to be bold. How do we start to inject the same level of rigour and investment into social innovation as we do commercial innovation?

Do you see your future in South Australia?

My family and friends are in Adelaide. I’m an Adelaide girl at heart. So if I can find opportunities to keep progressing my career I’ll definitely stay.

How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?

Don’t just take the first steps towards being bold and bringing big ideas to life … follow through!

We need to be creative from beginning to end – there are only so many 10-week or six-month accelerators a person can participate in – but then what?  We have an opportunity with the old RAH to really stand out from the crowd and build a bright future for the next generation – both socially and economically. But this has to be about more than co-working or the gathering of a handful of enterprises, this has to be about re-imagining business, institutions our economy and community. We’re seeing places like Mars Discovery District in Canada tackle big issues like the future of youth employment, co-designing new procurement approaches for healthy societies and building new types of talent pipelines … let’s match that or stretch even further.

More about 40 Under 40

An assessment panel representing the South Australian business community judged hundreds of nominees for the inaugural 40 Under 40 awards, which aim to identify and promote a new generation of local leaders under the age of 40.

The final 40 includes a hugely varied collection of South Australian talents, who are making a mark in fields such as health, technology, the media, property, social innovation, agriculture, finance, the law, and much more.

For the full list of 40 Under 40 winners go here.

40 Under 40 is an InDaily initiative supported by the following partners:

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