Women's Agenda: How to get a Prime Minister to back your idea

Women's Agenda: How to get a Prime Minister to back your idea

Originally published in Women's Agenda

What if you could get entrepreneurialism in a box? 

Well more than 600 kids across Australia got just that recently, thanks to Erin Watson-Lynn whose not-for-profit DICE Kids aims to promote entrepreneurship education amongst kids. 

DICE Kids won the Federal Government’s recent PolicyHack with its Lemonade Day proposal, and later secured endorsements from both Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull. It offered ‘I’m a little Entrepreneur’ kits through Our Little Foxes, offering kids everything they needed to establish a Lemonade stand business in line with Nationwide Lemonade Day in August. 

The finalist in our the NFP category of the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards shares why she started DICE Kids, how she got a prime minister on board, and what she learnt at the recent G20 YEA Summit in China. 

What was the inspiration behind DICE Kids? 

My inspiration came from an interest in the macroeconomic environment as well as my family.

We created DICE Kids at the Federal Government’s PolicyHack, which was an event to crowdsource policy recommendations for improving innovation and entrepreneurship in Australia. I proposed the broad policy suggestion of increasing access to entrepreneurship education for young Australians. At the time of PolicyHack, I had just returned from representing Australia at the G20 Youth Summit, where I was part of the working group on youth unemployment and entrepreneurship. That entrepreneurship might reduce global youth unemployment is an interesting proposition, but how might we achieve this without introducing people to entrepreneurship at an early age? Research suggests that early exposure to entrepreneurship education has a range of positive life outcomes. Further to this enormous global challenge, my daughter inspired me to want to do something locally. The Australia economy is going through a transformation that demands a different set of life skills than in the past – I want my daughter and her peers to have the same access to opportunities and meaningfully contribute to society.

How did you get Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull’s endorsement on the program?  

I asked! After DICE Kids won PolicyHack with our Lemonade Day proposal, I gave considerable thought to who might best align with our values. There was no question that I wanted a female Patron to inspire young women in entrepreneurship and innovation, and given Lucy’s history in business, civil society and government, we identified her as the perfect Patron. From the first time we met Lucy, I knew she was really passionate about the problem we were trying to tackle. Since then, she has helped guide our mission to ensure we reach those who don’t normally have the opportunity to engage in entrepreneurship education. It was at our pilot Lemonade Day in July this year that we first met the Prime Minister – we knew Lucy would attend but we didn’t know he would. It was a wonderful day and that evening he publicly endorsed our work on social media. 

I have learned through DICE Kids that if your values are aligned, people will want to work with you, and this value alignment is more valuable than money. This is the beauty about Australia, we aren’t a very hierarchical society and people are approachable. The trick is definitely to know when to be formal, and when you can be more relaxed. We went through formal channels to request Lucy’s Patronage. At the time, people said to me, ‘but what if Lucy says no?’. To be honest, I didn’t have a backup plan! 

You’ve recently returned from China with the Australian delegation to the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit. What do you now see as some of the key opportunities for Australians internationally? 

Before the G20 YEA Summit, the Australian delegation went on a tour of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Shanghai and Beijing. The opportunities for Australians in China are mind-blowing. The size and scale of that opportunity is difficult to comprehend for those of us habituated to the Australian market, and there is so much support in China for Australian startups. Between the Austrade Landing Pad, co-working space like Fishburners, and the readiness of investors, it feels like now is the right time to start looking towards China.

From an international leadership perspective, the Australian delegation was one (if not the only) with 50/50 representation of women. Of the 20 YEA member organisations, South Africa is the only one with a female president. The YEA delegates were approximately 75 per cent men and only 25 per cent women. The first panel of the conference had no women on it, and delegates were referred to as ‘gentlemen’. That Australia had such a strong representation of women did not go unnoticed. We have an important role to play in promoting women’s entrepreneurship globally, and we should continue to drive this message at future Summits to ensure women’s entrepreneurship is mainstreamed and not just a token panel.

What can parents do to get their kids involved and engaged in entrepreneurial activities? 

There are many ways for parents to do this. There is an emerging number of entrepreneurship education initiatives across Australia, especially since PolicyHack and the Innovation and Science Agenda, including our Lemonade Day program. While parents can go and look for programs, it can start at home and with minimal resources. We encourage the lean methodology, which means kids need minimal resources to get started. Kids can start by creating their own lemonade stand (or any other stand!) and follow the ‘build measure learn’ philosophy. For those who need a little extra inspiration and direction, they can jump online and get one of our last few boxes from our pilot. Our vision is that all children in Australia will have access to affordable entrepreneurship education in the future, watch this space!

What’s next on the agenda for DICE Kids? How big can it go? 

This builds on my last point, our vision is that all children have access to entrepreneurship education no matter their socio-economic status or geographical location. We set a goal to reach 180,000 primary school aged children in three years and we are currently fundraising to do this. We are hosting a major event at Kirribilli House soon, and we will continue to engage in fundraising activities to realise this vision. Once we have tackled the inspiration stage of DICE Kids, we will then move onto building the ecosystem throughout the educational lifecycle. In other words, we have a massive job ahead of us, both in Australia and beyond. We want to create a world where every child can come along for the ride and have access to the opportunities of the new economy through entrepreneurship education.

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