I have just finished reading an inspiring book titled The Dreaming Path – Indigenous thinking to change your life by Paul Callaghan and Uncle Paul Gordon (Panter Press, 2022). It has given me some food for thought, especially about leadership.
A couple of key insights that have stayed with me:
True leadership requires caring for my place and all things in my place for my children’s children’s children’s children.
Don’t be a ghost. Leave some tracks for others to follow.
These insights have resonated with me while reflecting on the important grants we have made in recent years.
Launch Housing launched Viv’s Place, a new apartment building in Dandenong, where women and their children will find a permanent home after escaping family violence. The idea of place is especially poignant. Without a stable place to call home, it is almost impossible for people, young, middle-aged and older, to deal with their mental and physical challenges, find employment, complete education and develop enduring relationships with friends and neighbours in their community. Viv’s Place will provide this opportunity to 60 parents and 130 children. Viv’s Place will transform lives and futures. This is an excellent example of thinking about our children’s children’s children.
This project also demonstrates the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation’s approach to philanthropy over the last ten or so years. I want to explain this approach in more detail because I hope that we will leave tracks for others to follow in the future.
Launch Housing came to meet with me with a set of papers showing concept drawings for a unique housing development and an explanation of the new co-located service and long-term housing model that they believed would provide the best chance for women and their children leaving family violence. Launch had collaborated with Uniting on the wrap-around services, a key service design innovation.
I recommended to the Board that we commit $500,000 towards the project. We later committed another $400,000 to what has ultimately been a project also funded by Gandel Foundation and the Victorian Government through the Big Housing Build.
In the Foundation’s approach to philanthropy, we are prepared to be early and even first funders of innovative models. We are prepared to take informed risks that government or business might not take if a new solution has real potential. We undertake or review research, we work with project leaders so that we understand what they want to achieve and what is possible. We begin to build confidence in a project that will lead to its success by making an early or start-up grant. We are keen for others to come in with us or behind us, providing scaling-up funding. This is sometimes described as catalytic or venture philanthropy. Providing risk capital to for-purpose organisations tackling our big challenges is an important role for us.
There are other examples of our approach. The Wellbeing and Resilience Hub for the charitable sector is a brilliant response by The Xfactor Collective Foundation to the not-for-profit (NFP) leadership experience during COVID. Just as we have monitored the needs of the sector over the last two challenging years and funded the Digital Transformation Hub by Infoxchange and a digital refresh of the NFP Build Back Better Legal Service by Justice Connect, we recognise that supporting the mental health and wellbeing of NFP leaders is critical to the long-term success of the charitable sector. Again, we are the founding funder of the Wellbeing and Resilience Hub.
I could not write about caring for future generations without highlighting the work the Foundation has been doing on climate emission reductions, jobs in a clean economy and building climate resilience. Despite the variation in government policies in recent years, the Foundation has recognised the challenge and taken action. Jobs in a clean economy is a strong outcome for two important projects. Firstly, the collaboration between Green Collect and YMCA Victoria for the Choose Your Career program and the wonderful Sweet Justice program. I expect we will see increased collaboration between environmental organisations and social enterprises in the next five years.
Another social enterprise being supported to take the next step in its growth is the Willum Warrain Bush Nursery on the Mornington Peninsula. Willum Warrain is an Aboriginal-led gathering place, bush nursery and native food business.
When charity leaders bring thoughtful and forward-looking new programs or projects to us, the Foundation is ready to consider support and to fund early to kickstart solutions. Through this, we leave tracks for others to follow.
Dr Catherine Brown OAM
Chief Executive Officer
Image: Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation CEO Dr Catherine Brown OAM pictured with Launch Housing CEO Bevan Warner at the launch of Viv's Place.