Changemakers - Clare Brooks
23 July 2012 at 10:23 am
Clare Brooks, CEO of the Australian Communities Foundation, is profiled in Changemakers – a regular column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.
During more than 20 years in the philanthropy and foundation sectors, Brooks has developed a reputation for progressive thinking and financial savvy. She joins the Australian Communities Foundation from the Community Foundation Network in London, where she has worked with a network of 58 UK community foundations and held a range of senior roles since 1999, including the director of philanthropy and deputy CEO.
School taught me …
…that good food produces great students, and that the opposite is true: poor nutrition brews up a whole cauldron of problems. One of my other personal passions is Slow Food UK, which helps parents make better informed choices about food for their babies, engages small kids with its “taste adventure” and helps students on campus connect their community on food issues.
I’m always being asked …
Where I come from: people say my accent is a little funny because they can’t quite place me. I studied languages for my degree, am half Swiss-Italian and I’ve been lucky enough to live in a number of different cities and cultures.
That’s probably why my accent has been knocked about a bit: I’ve recently arrived from London to settle in Melbourne so I’m waiting to see what Australian-isms I’m going to pick up along the way.
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
I remember it fondly – stacking all my belongings into a Fiat Uno to set off from London to Geneva 21 years ago, overwhelmed by the excitement and liberation of crossing the recently opened border, to end up in Prague. In this beautiful city I found my passion for the Not for Profit sector.
I worked for the Civic Forum Foundation which was one of the first foundations established in Czechoslovakia (after the Velvet Revolution in 1989). We specialised in the area of education and heritage projects. We pioneered some of the first fundraising events after the transition and I got to meet one of the great movie legends, Sir Peter Ustinov.
The next event we ran was a high profile charity auction involving public figures, asking them to donate their favourite ties to raise money for the cause. It was a lot of fun and the coverage in the media caused debate as to which politician was the most popular and how much money their tie donation was making. The design style of the tie didn’t seem to come into it. Needless to say, Vaclav Havel’s a Czech playwright; poet and last president of Czechoslovakia raised the most money.
What do you like best about working at Australian Communities Foundation?
I confess to being a bit of a community foundation “junkie” – I love working with a wide range of people who get involved; so it’s not only about working with Australian Communities Foundation but being part of a global movement that enables you to understand and engage and network with some really interesting leaders (here and overseas).
We have experienced changes in our field where there has been a distinct move towards donors wanting more engagement with their giving and also wanting to know who else is out there, what’s out there, what works and where to make a difference – now?
It’s Australian Communities Foundation’s job to attract more and more donors who want to come together to pool their resources and maximise their knowledge and experience of giving. There are some nifty people out there who have decided to take charge of their generosity and who want to build resilient communities and be a part of the solution. They are great to hang out with and be part of the heart beat inside philanthropy, it’s so rewarding.
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
Peter Hartchers “The Sweet Spot” – a thought-provoking introduction to Australia (it was profiled at an Asialink event). It talks about engagement with Asia as fundamental to this country’s prosperity. When I was in London the organisation I used to work for hosted a number of Chinese delegations that wanted to learn about the community foundation story. I believe the dialogue with countries like China can also be deepened by shared conversations on philanthropy, giving and community.