13/09/2013 - 12:41

Social entrepreneurs get the call-up (with video)

13/09/2013 - 12:41

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Budding Perth youth mental health advocate Ashlee Harrison has been accepted into a national program aimed at supporting, training and nurturing young social entrepreneurs.

Budding Perth youth mental health advocate Ashlee Harrison has been accepted into a national program aimed at supporting, training and nurturing young social entrepreneurs.

Ms Harrison, 25, who founded not-for-profit group Zero2hero in 2009 to promote mental health and well being among young people, believes the Young Social Pioneers Program for 2013 will help her organisation take the next step.

Zero2hero had started to make significant progress in opening the conversation around mental health issues in youth, Ms Harrison said.

She is one of four Western Australians that have been accepted into the 12-month program.

It is run by eastern states-based Foundation for Young Australians and provides support to social entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 29.

The 18 participants this year will be offered training, mentoring and networking opportunities in order to develop their leadership, communication and business skills.

The other Western Australian’s participating in the program are Bridie Ritchie, founder of marketing agency for social enterprises Halfglassfull; Conrad Liveris, founder of Street Smugglers, which raises awareness for homelessness; and Jade Stott, founder of Camera Recycle Project, which makes old cameras available to disadvantaged youth.

Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen said the program, which had been operating for five years, was designed to address the challenges faced by young social innovators.

Ms Harrison is also the founder of social media management firm Social Say and hopes her experiences gained through the program will enhance her ability to balance and manage her two businesses.

“I think you get into a mentality when you’re working in charity, and working 40 to 50 hours a week voluntarily that you’re the only one doing it,” Ms Harrison told Business News.

“So going to Melbourne and meeting 17 other people from all over Australia that are also giving their heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears to a not-for-profit ... was really enlightening.”

Zero2hero was established after Ms Harrison’s step father committed suicide and she decided there needed to be greater discussion around mental health, not only among sufferers, but also in their support groups.

Because 75 per cent of mental illnesses are formed before the age of 25, the organisation  targeted young people through specific programs that generate discussion around suicide, depression and bullying.

“Working in mental health, it’s such a big area ... we could try and take on everything and be a jack of all trades, which we have previously done,” Ms Harrison said.

“From the first week (in the program) it had me really start to look at where we are focusing our attention and where are we going to make this concrete difference.”

Ms Harrison said that driving change would only be possible if not-for-profit organisations began to collaborate more effectively.

Zero2hero partners with other mental health organisations in WA, including Youth Focus, which provide other services.

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