Meet our Founder

By Cred Consulting

by Cred Consulting

March, 2022

With over 20 years of strong strategic leadership in the social planning sector, Sarah Reilly has worked tirelessly to deliver social and public benefits to communities through planning, founding Cred Consulting as a way to champion communities in planning decisions, from the site to city scale.

As Managing Director, Sarah has led Cred’s purpose-driven team to numerous National and State planning and engagement awards, and built trusted relationships with private, not-for-profit and government sector clients who share Cred’s mission to create resilient, cohesive and equitable communities and places.

A Fellow of the NSW Planning Institute of Australia and past member of the NSW PIA Divisional Committee, Sarah, who has a background in recreation planning and communications, uses her platforms to also promote the need for planning through a gender lens, and to mentor young urban planners and engagement specialists.

Originally from Brisbane, the mum of three, who previously worked in social program planning and policy roles in local and state government departments in QLD and NSW, including QLD’s Legislative Assembly, nurtures a people-first approach in all aspects of her life – whether playing event planner for her friendship group, or setting the fun, tight-knit tone at Cred’s Chippendale office.

“Cred is a place where big thinking is allowed, creative ideas are welcomed and where relationships matter,” says Director, Jen Guice, who is part of Cred’s all-female executive team with Brisbane-based Associate Director, Elise O’Ryan. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to learn from, be encouraged by and support other women in their growth.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, themed #BreakTheBias, get to know Cred’s fearless founder.

How would your friends and family describe you?
I’m kind of the person who organises people getting together to do things. And more so once I had kids; I’m always there to help people in times of need. And I’d say social, the life of the party… maybe?!

What were you like growing up?
I have three siblings and I’m the youngest. When you’re the littlest, you actually get left behind a lot. I don’t think I needed to be the centre of attention, rather it was more about wanting to belong.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher, then a filmmaker, but I always had a really keen interest in society and social equity. At uni, I did Recreation planning, which is a really big interest of mine, and probably why I’m still really into public open space planning and spaces for informal connections.

When did you make a conscious step to move into the planning sphere?
I really fell into it, to be honest with you. From uni, I went into lots of different jobs, including recreation programming at Brisbane City Council, where I was developing programs for young people and older people that were kind of revolutionary at the time. The idea was that people wouldn’t have to go to centres to do things, you would bring programmes and activities and put it in the community, so its easier for them to engage. So that was a big learning for me about engaging with people.

Did you set out to start a purpose-driven business?
No, I was just a young woman who worked anywhere and everywhere, and learned all sorts of things along the way. My different backgrounds in communications, recreation, health and wellbeing all came together at a time when social planning was sort of a new and emerging field.



Sarah with her husband, Shawn, and their three children at home in Sydney’s inner city.

Sustainable Sydney 2050 listening sessions, Green Square Library, 22nd November 2018.
Photo by Damian Shaw / City of Sydney

How did Cred come about?
I didn’t set out and say, ‘I’m going to start a business!’ I just picked up contract work because it worked really well for a young mum to have jobs that I could do at any time of the day or night. The industry evolved, particularly community engagement, and I was referred to by more and more people for delivering focus groups and workshops, particularly in vulnerable communities. All of a sudden, I had this business, because I’m able to talk to people – and I’m not really scared of anything!

What were some of the challenges when you first started on your own?
I would be in meetings where people would say, “You’re the social planner, so you must plan all the parties and events.” Now we know with how the world is that, actually, social planning is the core of our basic human needs, and without it people are being impacted greatly, now more than ever. And particularly with becoming more urbanised, not thinking about how we plan for social outcomes, and how we connect, is an issue.

What advice would you give your younger self today?
If I gave my younger self advice now, I might not  have achieved half the things I did because I might been too afraid to do anything. The necessity of being a young mother, out there on your own, means you just have to do what you have to do and sometimes not knowing “what you don’t know” means you just give things a go. Sometime it was really tough.

What did these challenges teach you?
It taught me a great deal of resilience. I’ve also met a lot of great people in the industry along the way who have supported me. I think Cred, as a female-led team, feel like we have some really great allies in our industry, that includes a lot of men, who believe in what we do and are really supportive of us. It also taught me how poorly cities are planned for women and children.


I think Cred, as a female-led team, feel like we have some really great allies in our industry. That includes a lot of men, who believe in what we do and are really supportive of us."

What strength lies in an all-female executive team?
It brings a different point of view to our services, and to the way we collaborate with our communities and partners. And for some of our team, being mothers, also brings that lens of experience to the way we work with our communities, partners and clients – very nurturing, but with boundaries, like your mum!

What motivates you?
I just really want the world to be better. I feel like Cred has the skills and the audience to work toward that, so whatever we can do, we do. I do think my own personal experiences of hardship, particularly around being an isolated, young, often single mum in a new city  and public transport reliant taught me the importance of human relationships and connections. That time in my life probably did influence my real desire to build strong friendships and relationships and within my own community, whether being on the after school committee, or finding connections in the local park, or joining community groups.

The Cred team has significantly grown in 10 years. What excites you most about the future?
What excites me is all that experience within our team, all that knowledge and passion (so much passion) and all those relationships we’ve built can be leveraged really well to drive change, and to be a really strong voice.

We are in front of so many audiences – that includes all the people in the community to decision makers at the state or whatever level. We have their ear and that’s the really exciting bit for me that we have their ear now and can take people along our journey with us.


Cred’s Jen Guice (centre back, black dress) and Sarah Reilly (centre back, blue dress) join fellow Planning Institute of Australia NSW Division 2021 Award winners and Cred’s Tharun, Abi and Kristy (front, third, fourth and fifth from left) on stage at Sydney’s Ivy Ballroom on 4 November 2021.