Women In Innovation: Claire Harris

"I once saw a sign that simply said: “Innovate or Die”. It made me laugh but it also resonates. Without innovation, we won’t have positive change where we need it."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Claire Harris, Founder of Innovate Communicate.

What are you working on?

My main business is Innovate Communicate. It’s a specialist communication and marketing consultancy working with innovators and changemakers in science, technology, engineering and business.

I work with cool people in STEM who want to make positive change in the world. People in environment, health, defence, and agriculture sectors, for example.

Day-to-day this means I work on things like: strategy, managing projects, stakeholder research, producing publications, writing case studies and web pages. I also run events and training. The business has been evolving over the last year and will continue to evolve as I explore innovation facilitation and co-design.

I also launched a social enterprise in 2019 called Cowork Coplay: popup coworking and childminding with a collaborative/community vibe. It’s about reimagining the office, offering an exciting new component to flexible working. It allows people to combine the things that matter; meaningful work, community, and family.I created it as I saw many Defence spouses/partners and mum entrepreneurs feeling isolated and not able to work on their job applications, businesses, professional development or purpose projects.

Study is also part of my life. I secured a spot on an Australian Government Women in STEM program to study a Diploma of Digital Technologies with Flinders Uni.

Why is innovation important to you?

I once saw a sign that simply said: “Innovate or Die”. It made me laugh but it also resonates. Without innovation, we won’t have positive change where we need it.

Without innovation, we are unlikely to solve climate change impacts, which will have ramifications for all living species. Without innovation in the ways our economies work, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will be impossible and so will peace and prosperity for all.

That’s the big picture! At a personal level, I’m a dot-joiner and someone who sees opportunities to make something better.

I also think innovators are the most interesting people to hang out with.

What drives you to make a difference?

From a young age, I’ve been fascinated by people that use their energy to understand the world around them.

I get goosebumps sometimes when I hear a story of someone coming up with a better way of doing things that solves a real problem. Like:

  •  Denise Smith-Ali, Senior Linguist and Founder of the Noongar Boodjar Language Centre who’s dedicated her career to recording, collecting and protecting the local Indigenous language and ancestral ecological knowledge.
  • Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur in India who invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine.
  •  Australian scientists coming up with new technology to prevent the culling of millions of male chicks each year.

In my opinion, there’s something special about people that combine evidence, innovative thinking and integrity.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been more driven to do my bit to help unlock the potential from impact-focused innovation to contribute to a better world. Wouldn’t it be great (as well as life-protecting) if we could achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and have peace and prosperity?

Part of the mission of the work I do is to encourage people to think more about inclusive innovation. Diversity leads to better outcomes. So I spend a bit of my time advocating and supporting women in STEM, women in innovation, and inclusive stakeholder engagement initiatives.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?

To the organisations that want to support inclusive innovation, make sure you have a good culture. Then do more to get out into the community. If you have incredible women in your ranks, showcase them, promote them in the media, help them with their careers, be part of a science in schools or entrepreneurship program.

To the women, if you’ve got a good idea and the determination to have a go, do it. I recommend finding a community though. Find a few people that genuinely support you and will be there for you in the lows and times where you question your chosen path.

You might be able to find them in places like the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN), Mill House Ventures, your state/territory Social Enterprise Council (SECNA for ACT and NSW), your local Business Chamber or professional organisations. Business alone can be really lonely!

What are you proud of right now?

Bringing to life the Canberra Women of Science and Art events for National Science Week. And I’m also grateful that I received a grant from YWCA and CBRIN to pursue my women in STEM program development. I’ll be running a workshop later in the year so get in touch if you’d like to be part of it.

Thank you, Claire! It’s wonderful to see you’re doing so many awesome things. Find out more about Claire’s National Science Week event, hosted at the Canberra Innovation Network, below.

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