Small Grants Empowering Innovative Partnerships

YWCA Canberra has been pleased to have the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) as a partner for our Great Ydeas Small Grants Program since 2017. Every year, CBRIN has returned with enthusiasm to see what local women and girls are coming up with, so we took a moment to speak to Sharyn Smith, Chief Operating Officer of CBRIN, about what inspires her about the Great Ydeas program.  

The Canberra Innovation Network’s (CBRIN) mission is to empower entrepreneurs to make an impact and change the world. They are keen to strengthen the position of Canberra as a clever, connected and creative city where entrepreneurs and businesses build on the city’s excellence in research and innovation to create social and economic benefits for all citizens. 

Sharyn has loved seeing the growth in Canberra from an entrepreneur and innovation perspective, and is passionate about empowering young women to be leaders in that growth.  

“I think there are some great women minds in Canberra and we need to celebrate them. Great Ydeas is a wonderful way of doing it: fostering those ideas and empowering women, especially young women, to create something.” 

Sharyn particularly enjoys the diversity of thought that women and non-binary people bring to the innovation ecosystem. 

“When people think of innovation, they usually think it has to be technology, but it doesn’t. It can be anything. Innovation is about a mind change or a perception change.” 

When women approach innovation, “they’re often solving a problem, something that has been a pain point for them.” But they don’t just think of themselves; women’s innovation often comes from thinking beyond themselves and asking how their idea can also make everyone else’s life easier. And according to Sharyn, “those are the things that work really well!” 

Traditionally, women have been held back from entering the innovation ecosystem by a lack of confidence, which is why CBRIN has a particular focus on empowering clients.  

Sharyn uses the example that we all lack confidence in some situations. “I’m scared when I walk into a room of strangers for a networking event! I think you’re pretty unusual if you’re completely comfortable with that situation.” But she does it regardless and wants to help others similarly overcome their insecurities. 

“I think confidence is a really beautiful thing. If you can grow that confidence in people, especially when it’s something that they’re passionate about, it’s wonderful to see.” 

That’s why support is one of the primary values at CBRIN. “The people that we see come through, sometimes it’s not about backing the idea, it’s about backing the person. We’re about empowering people to innovate, letting them drive it and supporting them to do that”. 

Sharyn believes that even if you don’t have the breakthrough idea now, with support you will find it eventually. That’s why CBRIN runs programs like the Innovation Connect Grants and the Female Founders networking events and supports the Great Ydeas Small Grants Program. 

And that brings us to another barrier to innovation: fear of failure. 

“I think innovators need to realise that it is ok to fail,” Sharyn says. “We’re so caught up in being perfect, but life’s not like that. And the sooner we all realise that, the better off we’ll be.” 

As the old saying goes, Sharyn believes that failure can be the best teacher. We can all learn from the feedback on why something doesn’t work, to develop our resilience for our next great idea! 

Thankfully, this barrier seems to be getting lower. 

“We’re seeing women willing to take more risks and jump in and have a go. And if they’ve got supportive people around them, they are more likely to succeed and grow.” 

Small grants programs like Great Ydeas are significant for people starting out in innovation, as they are an “opportunity that gives you the freedom to try, freedom to fail and fail fast, then move on.” 

They can also open up opportunities for people in marginalised communities who never felt comfortable taking these risks. “You have to feel safe that you will be heard, will not be judged, and feel that you are not just allowed but entitled to that. When you open up those opportunities and provide people with networks, it can be life-changing.  

And on the topic of great feelings, Sharyn loves seeing the applications for the Canberra Innovation Network Great Ydeas Innovate Grant each year.  

“I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to see the ideas coming through; they’re always incredible. I wish I could think of things like that!” 

She also loves meeting the grant recipients and supporting them as they implement their projects and learn about themselves and innovation in Canberra. 

“I feel very lucky to be able to be involved.” 

And at YWCA Canberra, we feel very lucky to have incredible partners like CBRIN! 

Find out more about the Great Ydeas Small Grants Program. 


Article published by YWCA Canberra.