Paul Edginton wins EY State Entrepreneur of the Year Social Category
18 Sep 2019
Our very own CEO, Paul Edginton was recently honoured by EY as Social Entrepreneur of the Year for the Central Region.
The award is part of a global program, recognizing entrepreneurial achievement by individuals and companies. EY look for vision, leadership and success in work that improves the quality of life for communities, countries and around the world.
Paul originally came to SYC on a one-year contract but fell in love with the challenges and opportunities in the not-for-profit space. Now 18 years later, the organisation has developed greatly with his guidance and he’s as passionate as ever about helping Australians thrive.
The challenge of a not-for-profit
Paul admits he thought it would be a fun change of pace to work with a charity after many years of corporate and self-employment.
He soon found that whilst different, this work was by no means easier.
“Many who’ve not experienced the NFP sector think of it as a place that is less professional and more satisfying. However both are a myth in my view” said Paul.
“The NFP requires the ultimate level of professionalism. Balancing multiple stakeholders and interests and expectations in a resource constrained sector is one of the toughest gigs around.”
He added, “working to advantage the people we care about in the NFP sector is incredibly gratifying – but it is frustrating that our systems don’t work well enough to always provide seamless solutions at the right time. I get no satisfaction from this – however I do get inspiration from it. Inspiration to make it better.
“What we aim for at SYC is to find the most efficient and effective way to deliver services within these complicated systems, so the people receiving our support don’t have to deal with the complexities or miss out on help they need.”
Paul’s business mindset
Before joining SYC, Paul had his own business selling water filtration systems in Sydney and had been a shareholder in a consulting firm. He originally was asked to work with SYC for 12 months on a merger project with a smaller struggling not-for-profit.
Paul was met by an organisation that was incredibly passionate and skilled at working with young people experiencing trauma. However, he quickly realised that mission could be all for nought if SYC wasn’t also a running as a sustainable business.
“How could we say we exist to help young people achieve, without the resources behind us to follow through?” he says.
Over the past 18 years Paul has worked hard to help SYC adapt and grow in capacity. More staff, revenue, service offerings, locations, systems and resource means that SYC can greatly increase the number of people supported each year and the range of services available to them.
Paul has also seen the organisation evolve to work with people of all ages, as a result of our expertise with young people.
“SYC has found that services designed to help young people access housing, education, mental health support and employment also work brilliantly with adults, but the reverse is not always true.”
Advocating for young people
Paul once thought that he would mostly handle the business side of things, but advocating for young people in our community has become a key driving force in his career.
He has great ambitions that Australia will increase its aspirations for young people and increase investment in their education, housing and employment and stay ahead of changing industries and economies. He sees the potential and value of young people and aspires to have those who make policy decisions recognise and respect the huge contribution made by–and made possible by–young people.
Being a social entrepreneur
Paul sometimes wishes that people would change the way they think of not-for-profits:
“A commercial company with a fantastic product wouldn’t be criticised for spending big on marketing to get the idea off the ground, or for not making a profit in the first year as they ramp up the business, to become very successful over time,” he says. “It is understood that commercial companies invest in Research and Development and experiment with new ways of working that might not be perfect, first time.”
“But not-for-profits are often heavily laden with unrealistic expectation. Often NFP’s are heavily criticized if they try something new – that doesn’t work first time. They come under fire, in these instances for ‘wasting money’. NFPs are scrutinised for spending on what are deemed to be overheads and short-term performance, whilst having the same legal and cost obligations as commercial organisations.”
Not discouraged by this Paul says “We’ve chosen to invest in measuring our outcomes and impact in several ways so that we can demonstrate the true value of our work to the community and as a result I can proudly prove that for every $1.00 invested in SYC we return $7.57 in value to the community”
Paul says his approach to the frustration of complex systems, is to learn to be comfortable in ambiguity. He doesn’t need all of the answers or perfect plans to be able to keep working and making a difference.
“I am in favour of being fluid and inventive and designing ways to move as quickly and easily through the system as we can – to deliver awesome results. I am grateful for the gifts I have and in the short time I have on this earth I feel the need to use them to their maximum capacity,” Paul said.
Paul describes himself as a thick-skinned optimist. He advocates for finding the best in people and situations, but not letting it hurt too deeply when disappointments come.
Paul is looking forward to the unique training and networking opportunities available to him as an EOY recipient. He will continue to the national awards in Sydney later this year.
Ernst & Young (EY) is a multinational professional services firm headquartered in London, England, United Kingdom. EY is one of the largest professional services firms in the world.
Who is EY?
Ernst & Young is a multinational professional services firm headquartered in London, England, United Kingdom. EY is one of the largest professional services firms in the world.