8point8 WAVE AWARDS 2018 WINNER - Regional Innovation Ecosystem Leader - Kerry Anderson, Operation Next Gen, Castlemaine, Victoria

Scot McDonald MC Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, Central Coast and the Hunter presents the 8point8 Wave Award to Kerry Anderson.

Scot McDonald MC Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, Central Coast and the Hunter presents the 8point8 Wave Award to Kerry Anderson.

A little about Kerry Anderson.

Kerry is a voice for rural entrepreneurs.

She is the founder of Operation Next Gen which finds effective ways of engaging with young people and encouraging entrepreneurs.  She took inspiration from overseas programs to create her own in Collie WA, which assist rural towns to take control of their own destiny by looking at existing landscapes with fresh eyes.  Five years after commencing the Operation Next Gen program in Cohuna the local accommodation providers have reported an all-time high in occupancy rates and at least six new major businesses have been attracted to relocate into their town.  Additionally, micro businesses are flourishing through a monthly 'Made in Cohuna' market and other initiatives under the #GetYourBackSideCreekside banner adopted by Operation Next Gen Cohuna.

Kerry shares tips and success stories via her book (Entrepreneurship: It's Everybody's Business), a blog, social media, and by talking at events, to ensure that the benefits of a collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystem is shared freely and widely.  She works with a group of up to 15 local emerging leaders to build their capacity and empower them to lead positive change within their communities.

In the 18 months since the program began, a Collie Operation Next Gen ambassador has become a shire councillor and been promoted to executive officer in her work.

In November 2017 to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week Kerry provided seven free webinars to ensure that rural communities were not left out and in Term 2, 2018 she provided a 10 week Be Your Own Boss program for year 7 students at Collie Senior High School.

Operation Next Gen starts first and foremost with community. While honouring the past and living in the present, we must also look to the future which is why Kerry always begins by collaborating with the existing community leaders - the councillors, educators, business chambers, service clubs etc - to get them on board and understand the 'why'.

Shares best practice and proven strategies from rural communities anywhere in the world can help progress positive change here in Australia.

While Kerry has clocked up over 11,000 kilometres of travel here in Australia to attend conferences and interview rural businesses and communities, plus two overseas trips and four flights to Western Australia (in the past year alone!), she is conscious to always pay attention to what is happening right next door.

Read more about Kerry Anderson and Operation Next Gen here.

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Dianna Somerville