As the community continues to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation is no longer operating in a context that is stable and where issues can be tackled in silos. More and more of the Foundation’s projects are addressing more than one outcome and many issues are interrelated.
We are confronted by the impacts of climate change, which place stress on communities responding to floods, bushfires and heatwaves, alongside the realisation that we need to be ready to adapt and respond to these challenges as they arise more often.
Our disaster response policy was designed initially to respond to discrete disasters but now is operating in an ‘always on’ context – we are likely to be funding response and recovery alongside preparedness. For example, we recently funded a recovery grant to Echuca Neighbourhood House to assist with the floods while also working on the Community Collaborative for Resilience (CCfR) with Emergency Management Victoria, (EMV), VCOSS and Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR), and supporting Victoria University on front line health workers to build preparedness.
The ability to withstand disasters and future pandemics (and even an exacerbation of the current COVID-19 or another pandemic) depends on resilience in local communities and within charitable organisations. Communities that already face disadvantage are less able to respond to major shocks. This is why we focused our Hot Spots work (preparing for heatwaves) in communities that were socio-economically disadvantaged but also literally the hottest suburbs on the Monash Heat Vulnerability Index. We will be launching the Climate Resilient Neighbourhoods initiative very soon.
The need to ramp up our climate lens across our work in food, housing and jobs is important in itself but also because it helps overall resilience. Supporting people into jobs and stable housing also helps them build economic and social capacity, and be more ready to withstand shocks and disasters.
The Australian charitable sector will require support to innovate and fund services. Leadership development around strategy, ensuring organisational adaptability and resilience (disasters, pandemic), diversifying revenue (social enterprise opportunities, innovative fundraising, government funding by outcomes), and enhancing digital and AI capability will be critical. Wellbeing of the workforce is a key issue that we are helping to address through our recent grant to Xfactor Collective to support the Wellbeing and Resilience Community Sector Hub.
In addition to the areas covered, the not-for-profit sector continues to face challenges in recruitment and retention of the workforce (due to competitive salary levels in other sectors, post COVID burnout and the tight labour market) and inflationary pressures on costs. There are also important policy reform opportunities emerging in 2023 such as the National Housing and Homelessness Plan, the Impact Investment Taskforce recommendations, climate transition planning, and the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Philanthropy, where there will be opportunities for the Foundation and grant partners to make submissions. Social Ventures Australia indicated recently that ‘advocacy exhaustion’ post-COVID and disasters (bushfires and floods) may mean support for policy influencing is likely to be required.
A strong not-for-profit sector is a critical part of building a more resilient community. We will be focusing on building climate and sector resilience as 2023 progresses.
Dr Catherine Brown OAM
Chief Executive Officer