Social entrepreneur Sarah Gun has a reputation for being able to imagine the impossible and bring it to life.
Founder of SA’s premier event management business, GOGO Events, Sarah uses every opportunity she can create or curate to make the world a safer and more equitable place. The work of the business’s charitable arm, the GOGO Foundation, aims to “bring the margin to the centre” in all that it does.
“If we can create safe, loving, enriching and brave spaces of belonging for people to grow and thrive, then we’re doing our part to create a safer, more inclusive and more humane world for everyone, particularly women and non-binary people,” Sarah explains.
Valuing all voices and listening deeply to the most marginalised voices in our society Sarah believes is the mark of a true democracy.
“My core belief is that we are living in a wealthy society and to exclude people by forcing them to live below the poverty line is ridiculous and unnecessary. Society will thrive when everyone is thriving.”
The GOGO Foundation uses a person-centred approach to ask simple, yet powerful, questions to those they help: What is it that you need at this time? What do you need for the long term?
“We see incredible impact with whole-person care,” Sarah explains. “It’s not a siloed approach. We advocate and work with different government agencies and departments, purpose-aligned businesses and other not-for-profits.
“We help women, many of whom are intergenerationally disadvantaged, learn the skills and tools they need to have agency and independence and to stay connected and well.
“One of our KPIs is around securing safe, sustainable and suitable employment which then leads to financial independence and agency. Importantly, it also enables people to partake in the economy, so they have choice in how and where to spend their money and save for the future.”
Sarah believes person-centred social care is potentially the biggest opportunity Australia could seize for a more equitable future.
“I think it would be revolutionary,” she says. “If we stop trying to put everyone into a box and instead work within and fund the care economy, we’re going to see the best outcomes that enable everyone to thrive.”
Change of this magnitude, Sarah believes, will require not only federal political intent backed by a funding commitment, but also a reorientation towards mechanisms such as social procurement through social enterprises.
“There are some major milestones taking place in SA with the very recently announced SA Social Enterprise Strategy Expert Advisory Group established to lobby the government on a social enterprise strategy,” she explains. “This will ensure government contracts will have public and environmental good embedded in them.
“I truly believe there is a huge opportunity to combine economic behaviour and spending on social outcomes. The Federal Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has asked in his recent essay why these two things continue to be treated separately when in fact there’s an opportunity to do these two things together and I’m fully with him on that.
“Similarly, there’s a growing awareness within the business community about how they spend their money in support of the global move towards social enterprise, BCorps, community-based cooperatives, mutuals and employee shareholder companies.”
GOGO Events itself is a Best for the World BCorp, committed to the pursuit of four UN Sustainable Development Goals including climate action, and Sarah would love to see more women-led enterprises get off the ground and prosper.
“That will take more investing in women-led businesses,” she says. “We know that less than three per cent of all venture capital funding goes to women-led businesses. Yet the research shows that businesses with women in their ownership teams perform better than those that don’t.”
Based on her own years of experience, Sarah offers two key pieces of advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs.
“The first piece of advice is to follow your conviction, regardless of setbacks,” she says.
“The second is to ensure you are remunerated for your time. Invest in yourself. We see a lot of women make a lot of self-sacrifice and it becomes very easy to get burned out if there’s no financial security and no financial wellbeing in fighting for what you believe in.”
Sarah’s wish list
When asked what change she’d like to see most to improve outcomes for women, Sarah lists four clear actions:
- “Stop removing women and children from homes where domestic violence is occurring and is generated by a male perpetrator – remove the male. Keep the woman and their children in their home.”
- “Invest in women. Invest money into women-led businesses whether for profit ornot-for-profit and look at different mechanisms for investing. We talk a lot about venture capitalism but the problem is the whole theory that you invest a certain amount of money and then you get 100 times that amount of money back. For a lot of women, that’s not the goal of their business – it’s to be regenerative, to create good in the world and that doesn’t meet the venture capitalism model, so what is the new model?”
- “Mandated transparency across all sectors in what people are paid. This is starting to happen. Businesses with more than 100 staff now have to report on the gender pay gap. I’m interested why 100 staff? Why not start with 20? It needs to be illegal to pay women less than men for the same job.”
- “Supporting the Voice referendum and the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The greatest marginalisation that is visible through our work at GOGO and of all the women who come through our program it’s the Indigenous women whose intergenerational disadvantage and trauma is so extreme that it’s unimaginable for most people.”
Learn more about the GOGO Foundation’s 9-week Inclusive Work program for women and non-binary people who face complex barriers to employment