2018 AgriFutures Rural Women's Project Tackling Literacy Goes Abroad

2018 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Recipients. Left to right: Allison Clark

2018 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Recipients. Left to right: Allison Clark

Who do you talk to when you have a great idea and want to take it further?

Did you know that 45% of individuals looking to start a business are more likely to talk to their partner or relative than a Business Enterprise Centre or business owner in their region?  They were also more likely to search the internet or use a combination of internet and social media to search for information, looking for ideas similar to their own or for people or organisations who may be able to help them understand their idea.

Allison Clark, 2018 Tasmanian AgriFutures Rural Women of the Year says that “70% of the individuals who responded to my survey had thought about starting a business but had not yet taken the steps to do so”.

Whilst Allison is yet to fully explore these reasons, talking directly with Business Enterprise Centres and individuals within the Tasmanian agri-business community highlighted to her that the impact of a personal conversation from someone in their region during the early stages of start-up could not be understated.  “Quite often people are referred to Business Enterprise Centres by someone who had been helped by the Centre previously and found the results to be very positive to their business enterprise thinking”.

What she does know is that the search for information when you are thinking about starting a business is complicated and there is no single “quick fix”.   This is particularly the case for individuals with literacy challenges who statistically form over 40% of the population in rural, regional, and remote communities.   This has driven Allison to ask the question “how much more powerful could Australia become if people with ideas and the desire to create a business found and understood the information they needed to take the next step”.

As part of her 2018 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Project “What Happens When an Idea Possesses You?”, Allison will use a bursary supplied by Westpac to undertake a study tour to England and Scotland in late March 2019.  She plans to visit a range of innovation centres, research institutes, and talk with members of the agri-business community to explore how different forms of collaboration and communication can lift the business start-up rate in regional communities.   To date her itinerary includes the Royal Society of the Arts Food Farming and Countryside Commission to understand more about their vision of supporting sustainable farming systems, providing affordable food for all, and growing flourishing economies and communities.   She will spend time at the Bath and West Innovation Centre and visit Wyke Farms in Somerset, whose award-winning cheese and butter is 100% green in terms of energy.  Travelling further north, Allison will also find her way to the Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, to understand the role of enterprise in reducing social and economic barriers.

“Finding ways to link new forms of communication to business start-up information is a specific interest during my conversations.  During my travels I will be connecting to many individuals who I believe can open up my thinking to future trends in this area.  I will be using a range of social media tools (including podcasts) during my study to communicate insights gained along the way” said Allison.

On her return, Allison plans to talk with peak industry bodies, government agencies, and rural industry networking groups to generate more conversations on innovating the business start-up journey with a view to integrating existing industry research wherever possible.  “Australia invests many millions of dollars per year on industry research and a lot of this can be helpful to people with ideas looking to understand if they can work.  It is my view that this has previously been in a form that is difficult to understand which makes it hard to find and use.    If I can find collaborative ways to communicate start-up information and industry research in a more engaging way, pitching to a range of adult learning styles, I believe this can make our R&D investment across the country more powerful” said Allison.