Elizabeth Ryan

I live in Australia, between Victoria's capital, Melbourne and a beautiful country town in northern NSW called Bellingen.

With a business management background and many years experience in partnership development and project management, I have a passion for cross-sectoral collaboration.

This interest was heightened during the seven years that I worked as Deputy Director of the United Nations Global Compact - Cities Programme.

Managing an international secretariat focused on cities and regions overcoming critical challenges, I witnessed the power of people working together for sustainable urban development.

It also gave me the opportunity to work with remarkable people in countries across the world. I learnt so much.

When working with individuals and organisations, I draw on a blend of newer collaborative and participatory approaches with 'tried and true' business development and relationship management systems and good communication platforms.

As well as a passion for collaboration, I like to help align good work with the UN's Sustainable Development Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals.


  • Business Management
  • Business Development
  • Partnership Development and Relationship Management
  • Strategy
  • Research
  • Grant writing, Submissions, Pitches, Proposals and Reports
  • Communication Management 
  • Editing
  • Digital content.


Engaging others has been at the heart of my work for almost 20 years. I've been fortunate that most of my roles have been, in some form or other been based on bringing good people together to help them to achieve shared objectives, usually for the benefit of the 'greater good'. This has been with city and regional governments, the private sector, academia and not for profit organisations.  

Finding solutions and building projects for people who are dealing with complex real world problems, I have found the smart use of communication tools and strategies invaluable for unpacking complexity, bringing people to a common understanding and engaging others, including funders.

I have used this approach consistently to:

  • grow business
  • build relationships and partnerships
  • increase the impact of projects and research
  • influence policy and practice - and most importantly
  • recognise and celebrate the achievements of many wonderful people, teams and communities.

This is demonstrated in the following roles:

Deputy Director
UN Global Compact – Cities Programme

I was the operational head of the International Secretariat responsible for the United Nations Global Compact's urban programme, the Cities Programme from 2011 to 2018. The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) is the world's largest corporate social responsibility initiative. UNGC participants commit to advance human rights, labour rights, environmental sustainability and anti-corruption measures.

Through my leadership, the Cities Programme grew from a pilot initiative of 12 cities to a global programme of over 100 cities, states and regions in over 35 countries. Specific achievements included:

  • Exponential growth in South America and the Caribbean, including a dedicated Regional Contact Point
  • Partnerships across the UN system, private sector and civil society - supported by a customised relationship management system (3,800 contacts) 
  • Delivery of international multi-sector events within global summits:
    • Rio +20 (Brazil)
    • Habitat III (Ecuador)
    • World Urban Forums 7 & 9 (Colombia and Malaysia)
    • United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summits (New York)
  • An Innovative participatory model to overcome urban poverty with Brazilian city, Porto Alegre, based on a four year research project
  • Contribution to the global sustainable development agenda, aligning the programme to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mobilising cities and regions to engage with the SDGs
  • Creation of two unique web platforms (including refreshed corporate identity and related communication material)
  • Development of a bespoke digital project management and reporting tool for cities
  • Development of numerous publications and resources
  • Growth of funding and staff
  • Establishment and delivery of an international internship programme (30+ interns)
  • Coaching numerous city leaders in multi-sectoral approaches to sustainable development.

Engagement Manager
Northern Workplace Education Network

In this role, I worked to bridge industry skill shortages and open employment pathways for vulnerable youth across Melbourne's northern metropolitan region. To achieve this I:

  • built and led a task force of private sector, local government and educators
  • established a dedicated program under the brand "Our Local World of Work", engaging over 60 industry leaders, twelve high schools, six metropolitan councils and youth employment networks
  • built a direct relationship between the program and secondary education through a suite of bespoke vocational education programs building direct links between young people and leaders in industry - including design of education resources and marketing collateral
  • conducted regional events and an annual hallmark event in the CBD.

The programme continued for over ten years.

Project Manager (Research and Training)
Equity Research Centre

In this role, I was key staff for an independent organisation that provided research and policy advice to the Victorian State Government on the education and employment participation of marginalised groups. My achievements included:

  • Development and delivery of a successful customised training programs for women from the Horn of Africa, resulting in a website, Ebtisama, where the women told their stories and repeat funding from the City of Melbourne
  • Development of a bespoke financial management program for women from forestry and seafood industries, delivered as a roadshow across regional Victoria
  • Development of a new website for the organisation
  • Research and advisory reports on:
    • the participation of women in non-traditional industries
    • the participation of people with a disability in ICT.

Industry Engagement Manager, Global Business Development
RMIT University

In this role I co-led the roll out of the Vice Chancellor's university-wide Industry Engagement strategy in key industry sectors.

My achievements included:

  • High-level annual industry round-table forums (CEOs and the University Executive)
  • Establishment of Industry-specific networks (multi-disciplinary)
  • Synthesis of university capability in the automotive and aerospace sectors
  • Development of branding and collateral specific to the above sectors
  • Multi-disciplinary commercial projects for industry partners
  • Strategic partnerships with industry leaders such as Siemens and Repco.

Earlier Work

I also have small business management and capacity development experience:

  • managing hospitality businesses
  • working as an educator in tourism and hospitality in regional NSW, I trained secondary students, people returning to work, apprentices and industry professionals.
  • coaching and mentoring many people throughout my career.

Project Examples

'Cities for the Future' is a book of case studies showcasing sustainability innovation from cities around the world. It was developed for the UN Global Compact - Cities Programme and its city participants with the aim of increasing collaborative practices that deliver social, environmental and economic benefits.

The publication features 32 case studies from 17 countries. It is 149 pages in length. Some articles are presented in two languages. Click here to view the publication.

I instigated and led the 'Cities for the Future' project, responsible for:

  • the engagement system to attract and collate the case studies
  •  narrative, selection of images and visual look
  • introduction copy for publication and chapters
  • one case study: "The Trials and Transformation of Chocolatão" (Brazil)
  • editorial management
  • management of the communication team and translators.

The Sustainability and Citizenship Networks of Porto Alegre is a research report that documents the resettlement of a Brazilian informal settlement, Chocolatão that used a highly innovative, collaborative approach to uplift the community from poverty. 

This innovation was led by a multi-sector network comprised of women community leaders, government, private sector and civil society who led a range of projects prior to resettlement to create formal employment, set up care and education for young children and build dignity and citizenship.  The model was then applied to other impoverished communities across the city.

The report is 102 pages in length. Click to view the publication.

I instigated this project when I first connected with the community and leaders in Brazil in 2011, led the research over a four year period (2012 to 2016) and promoted the model from 2012 to 2017. I was responsible for:

  • the system to engage research partners and participants
  • management of the research
  • editorial and co-author
  • collation and selection of images
  • management of publication production
  • promotion of the project and the network model through web articles, videos and national and international forums.


elizabeth@withpurposecommunication.com or +61 425 773 359 (mobile and watsap)

Notice: Undefined offset: -1 in /home/r218iue4pjxd/public_html/includes/staff.php on line 72

Notice: Undefined index: in /home/r218iue4pjxd/public_html/includes/staff.php on line 75