Published: 23 December 2015

Experiences of Leadership in the Third Sector: having a global impact without a global infrastructure

Surrey Business School welcomed MBA alumna Sarah De Carvalho MBE, Exec MBA Class of 2014, CEO of Happy Child International, to our MBA Business Breakfast to share her experiences of how the increasing power of technology and global networking is allowing the not-for-profit sector to break down boundaries and have more impact than ever before.

Having worked as a Film Publicist in California, Sydney and London and then as an Associate Producer for the BBC before making a move to Sky TV, Sarah founded Happy Child International for street children in Brazil in 1993 and has been a pioneer for children’s rights and justice since. Championing the importance of sustainable development Happy Child has helped over 10,500 street children over the last 21 years across Brazil and Angola.

Awarded an MBE for her contribution to the voluntary sector by the Queen in 2012, 2014 saw Sarah spearhead the global awareness campaign ‘It’s a Penalty!’ against sexual exploitation of children around the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Developing partnerships with local Brazilian agencies, British Airways, the National Crime Agency to name a few and orchestrating a high impact media launch fronted by the likes of Gary Lineker, David Luiz and Alan Shearer, Sarah recognised the importance of cross-agency partnership to create a hard hitting campaign that reached 307,000,000 people worldwide.

Watch It's a penalty.

So how did a campaign team of just 5 people reach an audience of over 300,000,000?

And how can the campaign message reach even more people as part of the Rio Olympics and Paralympic events in 2016? As far as Sarah’s concerned, whether it’s in regard to technology, people or organisations ‘it’s all about the network’ and having ‘confidence in your convictions’, principles that are core to the Surrey MBA programme.

  • You really can be a ‘small giant’ if you have the right team behind you – social media is a powerful tool if used effectively
  • It’s about connections not transactions – invest in people, get to know them and develop long-term relationships
  • Always think outside the box and make the most of every opportunity – utilise the connections you have to continue to expand your network and influence
  • Once you have momentum make the most of it – the impact of social media means that word spreads like wildfire, you need to be agile and responsive to this level of digital disruption across all sectors
  • Keep your message simple – just like any other business being able to communicate your vision, articulate how you will implement it and be clear about how you will measure success is vital
  • And perhaps most importantly, believe in something - whatever industry you want to operate in at whatever scale harness your passion, be a change agent and have the confidence in yourself to see it through

[[{"fid":"221831","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Experiences of leadership","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Experiences of leadership"},"type":"media","attributes":{"height":340,"width":640,"alt":"Experiences of leadership","title":"Experiences of leadership","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]

Sarah De Carvalho, MBE with Dr Christine Rivers, Director of the Surrey MBA

To find out more about the Surrey MBA programme or Business Breakfast speaker sessions please visit our website or contact our MBA team directly at

Share what you've read?