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Nicola Hazell

Founder & CEO

The Sunshine Effect

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Nicola Hazell is a social innovator, board director and tech ecosystem leader committed to placing gender equality at the centre of the global innovation agenda. With a 20-year career spanning technology, government, journalism and civil society, she is a systems thinker who traverses the gap between practitioner and policymaker, and is uniquely equipped to support public and private sector leaders to translate policy into practice across the fields of digital transformation and inclusive innovation.

Nicola has ventured from the sandpit of startups to the heart of big tech driving impact at scale. As Global Inclusive Innovation lead at Amazon Web Services, she pioneered the use of inclusive design principles, social innovation and systems change approaches with specialist technology teams, to embed inclusion and diversity into digital transformation initiatives. In the startup environment, she has been a leading voice for inclusive entrepreneurship since 2015, including as the Founding Director of SheStarts – a Google-backed award-winning startup accelerator and documentary series that featured women-led ventures.

Nicola is an expert in navigating the challenges of turning policy into practice, and in reverse, is adept at elevating and centring lived experience from the frontline of programmatic delivery to inform and iterate policy settings and funding decisions. Her ability to connect the dots between public investment and grassroots outcomes has seen her appointed to a range of national and inter-governmental boards and committees. She is a Ministerial appointee on the Federal Government’s Entrepreneurs Programme Committee overseeing merit assessment for the Business Research and Innovation Initiative; Chair of the Investment NSW Industry Reference Group (IRG) for Women’s Entrepreneurship; and Non-Executive Director on the board of International Women’s Forum Australia. She has previously served on the OECD’s Expert Advisory Group for Digital Transformation in Paris and the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship’s Industry Advisory Board.

In 2023, as Chair of the NSW Government’s Women’s Entrepreneurship IRG, Nicola delivered a major report developed by a cross-section of industry leaders, Building an Inclusive Innovation Economy. The ground-breaking report examined the state of women’s entrepreneurship in Australia and presented the case for government action to close the gender investment gap and apply a gender lens across innovation and industry policy. To capitalise the momentum and impact of the report findings, Nicola has established The Panorama Institute – an independent national organisation convening entrepreneurs, industry, academic and policy leaders, to deliver and implement a national roadmap to harness women’s entrepreneurship and innovation as a central driver of economic growth.

A deep believer in the power of collective impact, Nicola has curated and hosted some of the region’s major technology, innovation and leadership forums, and has been invited to speak on inclusive entrepreneurship, social innovation and digital transformation to global audiences for the OECD and APEC. A former television journalist, political advisor, and community sector leader, Nicola is an expert communicator and facilitator, renowned for her ability to activate diverse groups of leaders to solve complex challenges together.