Elizabeth Ryan

Elizabeth Ryan is a passionate engagement leader who has worked for over twenty years for equal access to economic opportunities and a fairer, more sustainable society.

Elizabeth has extensive experience in Latin America and the Caribbean. Her work there began in 2011 with the City of Porto Alegre, supporting and championing the Sustainability and Citizenship Networks who were working to overcome urban poverty and inequity. She led a four year long research project to document the process of the networks and their collective actions, learning and outcomes. Felicity Cahill was the primary researcher.

To promote the uptake of this participatory, cross sectoral approach in other cities and regions, with Vania Gonçalves de Souza and Cezar Bussato, Elizabeth took the model developed from this work and presented it to global meetings, Rio+20 (2012), World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia (2014) and Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador (2016). This was during her role  as Deputy Director of the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme – which she held for over 7 years.

Porto Alegre was one of the first cities to join the United Nations Global Compact (2004). Like other participants, they committed to advance human rights, labour rights, the environment and anti-corruption – and later the Sustainable Development Goals. They also took on an extra commitment, to be an Innovating City, bringing participatory practices to the Compact and applying the Cities Programme’s cross-sectoral model to the lengthy partnership project that worked to lift the Chocolatão community out of poverty and social exclusion.

An Australian, Elizabeth has also led community engagement and partnership action in a number of other roles. She built and facilitated a task force of private sector, local government and educators in Melbourne’s north to bridge industry skill shortages and open employment pathways for vulnerable youth. With the Equity Research Centre – an advisory body to the Victorian State government – she conducted research and developed policy advice on the employment and education participation of women, migrants, youth and people with a disability. She also delivered capacity development programs for refugee women from the Horn of Africa and women in regional Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Elizabeth also held an engagement business development management role with RMIT University, creating partnerships between private sector and academia for shared benefit research and projects.


The Sustainability and Citizenship Networks of Porto Alegre and the story of Chocolatão

An innovative, participatory, collaborative, multi-partner approach to inequity and poverty.

Cities for the Future

A collation of case studies from cities across the world  innovating to strengthen their sustainability, equity and inclusion and governance practices.