In Australia today, there is a movement going on. It is a quiet movement, but it is a pioneering one, and one which needs to be more widely embraced.
It is a movement to build a ‘ready nation’ – a prosperous, inclusive and engaged society where all children get the right chances, at the right time, for the best start in life.
The timing of this movement is right. There is a pressing need for new thinking, different answers and a more efficient use of resources to create new opportunities for people living with disadvantage in Australia.
We know that change needs to happen. The movement is starting people thinking: How can we learn and work differently together? How can we create the skills and mindsets needed to enable change in the communities where change needs to happen?
Now, funders, community leaders and organisations around the country are wrestling with questions about how to enable this change: how to address the underlying conditions in our society that will enable real, positive, forward progress to occur.
Many are exploring an approach that embraces the collective impact framework—a highly sophisticated approach to cross-sector collaboration, first articulated in 2011, which has inspired and informed countless community-wide initiatives here and internationally.
Crucially, as part of the movement, communities are saying they can’t do this work alone—they are also looking for support of different kinds from others: funders, agencies and other communities who want to work together for progress.
Support in the form of new approaches to funding are key considerations for both philanthropy and communities in building the skills and mindsets needed to enable sustainable change.
Funders need to direct capital towards catalysing, convening and sustaining the knowledge creation, learning networks and changes in practice and mindset required for real transformation to happen in communities.
Also, in order to address the complex problems and place-based disadvantage we see in Australia, funders need to engage with citizen-centric, collaborative approaches where communities are informing and leading the work.
Philanthropic approaches, and ultimately national and state policies, must enable solutions that are relevant to people living in unique community contexts. Funders and governments alike need to move beyond ‘giving away money’ to actually aligning with, and working alongside, communities.
How can we be certain of this? Because for a long time, governments and philanthropy have developed community change initiatives based on data about what works in other places, with a view that ‘one size fits all’.
Often these initiatives are given a three to four-year funding cycle and if no tangible results in that time are achieved, the focus moves to another initiative. This completely ignores the importance of relationship-building, particularly with collective cultures such as Indigenous Australians.
It also ignores the effort and co-ordination it takes to drive long-term change.
And it has had little or no effect: a recent Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) report shows, despite more than 25 years of economic growth in Australia, 13.3 per cent of the population is living in poverty, including 731,000 children.
Indeed, there has been an increase in children living in poverty of 2 per cent over the past decade.
The really smart investors now know that you have to invest both in creating the practical skills and mindsets for change, as well as in specific community initiatives.
At the ten20 Foundation we are co-creating innovative tools with others, such as our new Funder Roadmap, to help investors shift their practice and thinking for greater alignment and collaboration with communities.
We are also directly supporting a key initiative, Opportunity Child—a collective of communities, progressive NGOs, philanthropic and government funders—which is now gaining significant national momentum.
The Funder Roadmap has been created to enable investors to take the first four key steps down the path towards addressing poverty and disadvantage in Australia.
First, we must invest in coordinated innovation and action.
Second, we must realign our funding and make it more agile.
Third, we must invest in the mechanisms for shared learning, measurement and impact – including developing the skills to make sense of data.
And fourth, we must empower and actively engage with the very communities and ‘end-users’ who are impacted, which was one of the key themes coming out of Philanthropy Australia’s recent National Conference.
In co-designing the Funder Roadmap, we have collaborated with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in the US, using its framework, Community Rhythms: The Five Stages of Community Life, to understand the phases that all communities move through as they align their efforts to effect change.
This knowledge is so beneficial in shaping relationships with, and supporting, communities seeking to undertake a collective impact approach to change. It is also helpful for other funders who are looking to align with this approach but who need a guide or road map to ‘de-risk’ the work.
Learning is a huge part of any collective impact approach. There must always be a quality platform for learning that translates insights into action and provides coaching and tools.
Our collaboration with the Harwood Institute demonstrates our commitment to creating that platform and translating our learning into action, for ourselves and for other funders.
We invite you to use it in your own work supporting and investing in community change and look forward to your feedback.
We also hope to continue to share learning and tools, as we all continue to align and build a movement in Australia, creating the future for Australian children that we all so very much want to see.
Seri Renkin is CEO of ten20 Foundation which brings inspiration and innovation to early childhood investment in Australia.
Philanthropy Australia is proud to support this ‘Evolution or Revolution: Is Philanthropy Future Ready?’ edition of Generosity.