B4SI News

‘In Conversation With’ Sarah Downey, APAC Lead, Business for Societal Impact (B4SI)


  • Please describe your role and responsibilities. How many years have you been in the company?

My role in the B4SI team is Lead for the Asia Pacific region. I’m responsible for growing the B4SI network, through identifying opportunities to amplify our reach and impact and conducing new business calls and presentations; I also manage several existing member accounts which includes regular check ins; training sessions; strategy health checks; proactively supporting clients with social impact challenges and responding to support requests, in addition to managing the annual data verification and benchmarking process for members.

In addition to this, my colleagues and I share the responsibility for convening the B4SI APAC network through in-person, hybrid, and webinar events throughout the year. In doing so, we share knowledge and conduct training on the B4SI frameworks, guidance materials and practical tools. We also facilitate co-design processes for new B4SI tools and resources and bring the network together to collaborate and share knowledge and expertise. I enjoy tailoring learning and engagement opportunities for current and prospective B4SI members and thinking differently about ways to enhance the B4SI client experience, in close collaboration with regional and global colleagues.

I joined B4SI in early 2022, having led the community investment programs at my previous employer (and B4SI member), NSW Ports.

  • What was your background previously and where did your interest in social impact begin?

In my career to date, I have worked in marcomms, events and community engagement roles, prior to joining the B4SI team.

My passion for social impact was born in my early 20’s when I read a book that changed my life, called “Half the Sky – How to Change the World” by Sheryl Wudunn and Nicholas D. Kristof. Through storytelling, the authors reveal that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing the potential of women and girls in communities. It is my earliest memory of learning about the significant cumulative effect of small actions towards real progress. I think individual volunteering has this effect and I admire organisations that have policies and practices where employees are encouraged to take some paid time to help others and connect with groups outside of their day-to-day interactions. This builds empathy and has been proven to improve employee wellbeing. A win win! I have volunteered over the years taking advantage of volunteering leave, which I found very rewarding.

Now working with the B4SI team I have the opportunity to support people in business with measuring and managing their social impact programs and in doing so, contribute in some way to the development of programs designed to effect meaningful change for people and communities.

  • What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?

I am learning every day! I am fascinated by human behaviour, and in my spare time I listen to podcasts and read books about this topic! When we come together in groups to solve problems with different world views and contrasting life experiences, anything can happen! It is something that inspires and challenges me daily, and I find strength and determination in focusing on being better than I was the day before.

  • What is your motto in life?

You have no idea what others are going through, so a smile and kindness goes a long way. Putting this simple strategy into practice, leads to the richest conversations and interactions. It never ceases to amaze me what you learn about people (and yourself!) when you activate kindness and curiosity.


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