Liberating Leadership, Innovation and Creativity

Intrapreneurialism in NFP sector


Intrapreneurship is most often thought about in terms of profit-driven business. However, while innovation and change is essential to the growth of the economy, intrapreneurial work is equally – if not more – vital in the not-for-profit sector.

Sunrise Way, an addictions service provider based in Toowoomba, is a shining example of how intrapreneurship can transform a NFP business. In 2018, Sunrise Way was named national ‘NFP Business of the Year’ in the OPTUS MyBusiness Awards, but just two short years prior had been on the brink of closure. What changed was a radical and innovative overhaul to their in-house culture and broad business framework, putting intrapreneurialism at the forefront of the liberation.

CEO Wendy Agar and her team took Sunrise Way from an environment with no real shared focus or solid business structure, to an outcomes-obsessed organisation with clarity, aligned values and vastly improved communication practices. At the heart of everything they do is always the client.

“We work with the most vulnerable, and often ‘voiceless’ people in our communities, who need and deserve organisations that focus on the best outcome for each client every day,” Wendy said.

“The real impact of this continual improvement, obsession with client outcomes, our awesome team of passionate professionals and implementing world-class best practice is that we are helping many more people impacted by addiction to rebuild their lives.”

All facets of business are interconnected, so it made sense to Wendy to transform these simultaneously. This all started with imbedding their ‘why’ into everything they do and working hard to create a culture where intrapreneurial pursuits were valued and encouraged. This meant, amongst many other innovative and open ways of working: supporting diversity of thought and experience and background; continually upskilling all staff and seeking out additional transferrable knowledge from similar as well as other sectors, ‘over-investing’ in mentoring and individual growth needs of the team, regularly seeking feedback from all stakeholders and using this for continual improvement, encouraging an open and trusting team, and providing opportunities to propose solutions and act on them. As Wendy explains:

“Intrapreneurialism is totally dependent on the culture of the organisation. Intrapreneurs are attracted to and thrive in learning, open environments with flat structures.”

To support the agile, evolving team and effectiveness of Sunrise Way’s services, Wendy implemented new quality management system and business tools. She established a routine for strategic and business planning to ensure they would remain viable into the future and worked hard on stakeholder engagement and finance management.

The result of this overhaul has seen Sunrise Way go from a struggling NFP, to one with an incredible reputation and client waitlist. In addition to the residential program (and an example of their true commitment to their clients and the community), the team offers a weekly self-funded support program for families and significant others, free of charge. This came about as a response to a lack of services in the local area and now helps up to 20 people each session.

Staff have also been trained in the SMART Recovery program to deliver a community-based group for clients on their residential waitlist, simultaneously working closely with other community organisations to holistically service the needs of those seeking help.

Under Wendy’s leadership, the Sunrise Way team is making massive positive impact in their local community and beyond with their resilience, innovative programs, unwavering commitment to their clients and strong-help values by which they live and breathe. However, the work does not stop here – the very notion that defines intrapreneurialism is the constant quest to improve.

“To be intrapreneurial in any sector you need to be impartial towards the status quo! You need to be constantly curious, obsessed with outcomes, relentless in your search for a better way and have the courage to innovate, while remaining persistent, and resilient. Intrapreneurs in the NFP sector must also be constantly seeking data to drive continual improvement with their client at the centre of everything they do,” Wendy said.

*Wendy is a speaker at the Australian Intrapreneurs Summit on 14th of March Brisbane Convention Centre.