The theme of our annual report is TRANSITIONS. Each year, we think of a word that captures the times we are in. Then we reflect on what this means for community philanthropy.
At a societal level, there are several major transitions taking place around us. In order to remain relevant in fast changing times, the Foundation needs to understand these transitions and what they mean for our community and the charitable organisations that we support.
One transition is the changing world of work. I recently attended the Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch alongside social enterprise leaders and funders. I found a lot to think about in a session called the New World of Work, which included research by the Foundation for Young Australians.
At our own Foundation, we have been aware of the changing nature of work, especially due to so called mega forces including automation, globalisation and flexibility. We know that employers will be looking for people with creative thinking, problem solving, digital literacy, bilingual, entrepreneurial and communications skills. Workers will need to manage their own careers, and are likely to have many jobs in their lifetimes. They will have a growing bag of skills that can be applied in different settings.
A good quote to summarise this transition is: Goodbye to the linear world of work
Knowing this context, this year the Foundation has funded a range of innovative education and employment projects.
Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship (ACRE): $250,000 in funding to purchase the old Beechworth Goal for community purposes including a home for ACRE. These funds will later expand their social enterprise in schools program.
Per Capita Australia - Money for Jam program – opportunities for women 55+ to reskill or use skills in a different way to create self-employment opportunities, with a purpose to help fight poverty in old age.
We are well into our transition to a digital world. This is affecting all our lives at break neck speed. There are risks if we do not maintain a culture of sharing and open access to data. Lucy Bernholz from Stanford’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society raises these issues in her annual BluePrint report. On a positive note, there are wonderful opportunities to address many social challenges using digital tools.
In our Thrive capacity building program we have funded projects that relate to the digital transformation of organisations including the River Nile School, Climate Council, Western Chances and 3MBS community radio – amongst others.
We were also the first funder of Gather My Crew, an online rostering tool that enables people to get help when going through tough times, including recovering from trauma and disasters. It allows people to ‘Gather’ (or ask for) the practical help you need from your ‘Crew Members’ (friends, family, neighbours and colleagues) and lets your ‘Crew’ decide when and how they will help. Gather My Crew is free and easy to use. This program has had a huge take up already.
There is also a transition taking place within business. Social enterprises are blossoming around the world. Some are for-profit and some are not-for-profit but they are all applying business principles for a social purpose. Many are providing employment opportunities to people who need a chance in life.
The Foundation has funded not-for-profit social enterprises through the grants program and also two for-profit social enterprises, Hire Up and Yume, through our investment portfolio as impact investments. Others funded through grants include Fitted for Work’s– SheWorks enterprise, Kids Under Cover Studio enterprise, and Social Enterprise Impact Lab at Swinburne.
It really was a highlight to support six social enterprise leaders to join us at the Social Enterprise World Forum in New Zealand. There was so much knowledge to share and so many networks to build. The six social enterprises (all charities) were: Good Cycles, Outer Urban Projects, SKY Design, Melba Support Services’ Able Bakehouse, Earthworker and the Community Grocer.
Government is also doing things differently in the social enterprise space. Social procurement requirements are now part of many major contracts. For example, the Victorian Government requires that three per cent of the supply chain on Level Crossing Removal Projects must comprise social enterprises, Indigenous businesses or direct employment of disadvantaged groups. John Holland were introduced by Social Traders to Try Youth to create site sheds and a community centre. This relationship is continuing.
The Foundation is working on a broader initiative in this area, looking at ways we can support more social enterprises to be contract ready for social procurement opportunities. We are in discussion with Social Traders and SVA about this.
The lines between grants and investment are also in transition. I now find myself asking from time to time: Should this really be a grant? Should it be an impact investment? Could it be a program related investment?
For example, we are having this conversation about affordable housing projects and about increasing energy efficiency (and cost savings) in buildings owned by charitable organisations.
On this latter project, the Alternative Technology Association has just announced an opportunity for 50 more charitable organisations to have energy audits and plans undertaken - funded by the Foundation.
The Affordable Housing Challenge which we are leading is an example of a diverse group of people from many sectors – from philanthropy, business, government and academia, coming together to use their skills and knowledge to tackle a tough problem. We are now working on site selection. New work on site selection criteria and housing affordability definitions has been undertaken by Transforming Housing Partnership at the University of Melbourne, one of our partners, to support the Challenge – but is also of great use to government. We will be announcing a grant opportunity of $1 million, and an impact investment opportunity via SEFA, in December and we are hoping for some creative proposals.
As a community, we are also in transition towards a low carbon future. One of the most important pieces of work that we have funded over the last few years has been FoodPrint – mapping Melbourne’s foodbowl. We have capacity to grow 41 per cent of our food and 82 per cent of our fruit and vegetables in Melbourne and the peri urban fringe. This is something worth protecting – we need to recycle water, we need to protect our most valuable farmlands.
We have funded other important projects relating to sustainable food systems including Cultivating Community’s Community Food Centre expansion in community gardens in social housing estates. Costa Georgiades was a wonderful ambassador for our appeal relating to this project.
I would like to highlight the wonderful outcome from the Let’s Act for the Yarra project led by Environmental Justice Australia and Yarra Riverkeeper Association, alongside the State Government’s legislative process, that gave the community and community organisations along the river a voice as the legislation was drafted. This is ground breaking legislation in terms of environmental protection legislation in Australia. As we look out at our Birrarung, which means river of mists and shadows, I am proud that we supported this project.
The digital world is also creating changes in giving. We now have what is known as the ‘social donor’ who is keen to be philanthropic using online tools.
Alongside everyone else, we have begun our digital transformation. We have increased our own digital capability with a responsive website, a new Microsoft Dynamics CRM system and an in house graphic designer. Some of the key objectives of these projects is to engage people, share knowledge and meet donors’ expectations for online giving.
Despite exciting online opportunities, people also want authentic experiences.
The Foundation proudly hosts two giving circles including Impact 100 Melbourne and Melbourne Women’s Fund. Later this year we will launching our own giving circles for each of our impact areas.
This year 22 schools took part in our Youth in Philanthropy program, it was another year of action learning about granting, social needs and community leadership.
As our Chair mentioned earlier, this has been a year of transition for the Foundation because we have a replacement Act. The Act passed through both houses of Parliament with bipartisan support and many lovely things were said about the Foundation’s contribution over our 94 years.
Following the launch of our Greater Melbourne Vital Signs Report last month – which many of you attended, I’m pleased to let you know that we are now launching Vital Conversations. Vital Conversations aims to bring us together to continue the dialogue and debate about how together we can make lasting and positive change. We invite you to provide your thoughts about what you believe makes a healthy and resilient community. There are two opportunities at this event to participate –YouthWorx is filming or by writing on the artboards at the back of the room.
Our new campaign Changing Melbourne for Good captures who we are as a foundation –tackling current challenges but with a face to the future. I would like to thank Publicis for their significant pro bono contribution to the creatives for this project.
As I wrote this speech, I asked myself a question: As our community goes through these transitions, is philanthropy content to simply watch the change or should we be helping shape the future, especially to ensure that people who already face disadvantage are not doubly disadvantaged by these changes or that new groups do not inadvertently miss out?
The answer is yes. As the community foundation for Melbourne, we have a role to play in supporting a just and sustainable path through these transitions.