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First Models for Centre for Excellence Revealed

22 July 2014 at 11:33 am
Staff Reporter
The architect of the proposed new National Centre for Excellence, the Centre for Social Impact, has revealed its three recommended operating models as part of its mid-project report, along with the results of a sector survey into the possible activities of the Centre.

Staff Reporter | 22 July 2014 at 11:33 am


First Models for Centre for Excellence Revealed
22 July 2014 at 11:33 am

The architect of the proposed new National Centre for Excellence, the Centre for Social Impact, has revealed its three recommended operating models as part of its mid-project report, along with the results of a sector survey into the possible activities of the Centre.

CSI was commissioned by the Federal Government last month to develop a preferred model for a National Centre for Excellence – originally earmarked as a replacement for the charity regulator, the ACNC.

CSI has spent the past six weeks working on the draft models through a process of consultation – which included an online survey, attracting 227 responses; focus groups in Sydney, Melbourne and Kingaroy in Queensland; desk research on potential models drawing on international examples; and stakeholder interviews.

The survey revealed that there is no clear consensus from sector feedback about key areas of need for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) or the key activity focus areas for a National Centre for Excellence (NCE).

The survey report said a number of respondents were critical of the use of the term “civil society” saying the focus should be on social relationships in society.

The report said a handful were strongly critical of the definition, arguing for a “traditional” definition of civil society focused on relationships between individuals.

“This (and similar views) is a very strongly held view in some stakeholders,” the report said.

“‘Civil Society’ language is not in as common usage in Australia (as in some overseas countries); this may be either a barrier or an opportunity to define/introduce it. Retaining this name – depending on the scope of the final NCE – will also alienate some.

“Inclusion or specific exclusion of relationships with either business or government sector is an important question in refining the scope of the NCE.”

The report said that throughout the survey and in some of the focus group discussion, there were consistent responses critical of the repeal of the ACNC and/or related discussion of the role of a regulator for CSOs.

“Some feedback was direct – that the NCE should not be created and instead the ACNC should be retained, for example in this response to a question of NCE purpose, while others commented that the ACNC should be adapted to fill roles proposed for the NCE,” the report said.

CSI said this held implications for Phase 2 of their work which would include the continued need to clearly articulate the difference between the NCE role and ACNC/replacement roles.

“The potential for confusion in particular about areas that may be common in both agendas; red tape reduction and ‘registry’ function being two; this further exacerbated by the timing of consultation about ACNC replacement options.”

The CSI survey results found that stakeholders are also pessimistic about the potential for self-generated income to help the NCE achieve financial sustainability, with scores among the lowest in the survey.

The focus groups were “strongly negative about the potential for sustainable income generation – broadly agreeing that civil society had little appetite for a subscription or membership model”.

“The question of financial sustainability is arising as a key barrier for the NCE, both because of the emerging model (facilitator rather than provider) and the perception that this is a government initiative/desire,” the report said.

CSI says the overall feedback from stakeholders is that there is a need for an NCE that can:

  • Greatly improve the accessibility of existing tools, resources, education and capacity development programs, research and more.

  • Facilitate connections and networks between people in communities and in community organisations with common interests and needs in strengthening civil society outcomes.

  • Be a champion and thought leader, providing the evidence base for civil society best practice and leading thinking in this field.

As a result of its investigation, the CSI interim report lists three proposed models for the second phase consultation process:

  1. The Centre for Effective Civil Society Organisations

The focus of this model is broad capacity development for Australian ‘civil society organisations’ – charities and Not for Profits, social enterprises, associations, mutuals, co-ops, and more. The rationale for this model is that stronger and more effective civil society organisations equates to stronger civil society.

  1. The Centre for Civil Society from Grassroots to Government

The focus of the second model is strengthening culture, systems and processes for effective engagement in civil society from local community to charities and Not for Profits to interactions with business and government. The rationale for this model is that through connecting and empowering people, organisations and sectors, we create a stronger civil society.

  1. The Centre for Stronger Civil Society Organisations as Catalysts for Civil Society

The third model is a hybrid of models 1 and 2; the rationale for this model is that stronger, more productive civil society organisations acting to connect people, organisations and sectors create a stronger civil society.

CSI said the report also described an alternate model – Power to the People: The Centre for Local Community.

“In this model, the focus is connecting, empowering and enabling people in communities, with the rationale that the strength of civil society rests in social relationships between individuals as friends, neighbours, carers, residents, volunteers, club members, community participants and grassroots enterprise,” CSI said.

“The report suggests this model is a valid model in response to stakeholder feedback, but also suggests that this model may not be the right one for the proposed National Centre for Excellence.”

CSI says it will launch the second phase of the consultation process, refine and gain further feedback on the Draft Models report from Phase 1.

As part of the process they have opened a second online survey – open till August 15; it will run consultation workshops in Perth (August 5), Melbourne (August 6), Sydney (August 12 ) and Brisbane (August 13); desk research and analysis; and more stakeholder interviews.

CSI said the final report will be presented to Federal Government in early September.

“In the first phase of the consultation project, we’ve had a wealth of responses from across Australia about the proposed Civil Society National Centre for Excellence. The feedback and views expressed have been passionate and thoughtful, challenging and constructive,” Dr Andrew Young, Chief Executive Officer at the Centre for Social Impact, said.

“Our aim in this mid-project report is to reflect openly the views we’ve heard and to be transparent about the thinking we have done in arriving at the proposed models for consultation.

“The second and final phase of the consultation process starts now.

“This is a great opportunity for everyone with an interest in strengthening civil society to have their say and help us shape the right model for the Centre for Excellence that will benefit us most in the future.”

To take part in the Phase 2 survey and workshops, visit  

To view the Mid-Project Report and see the draft models, click here.


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