Australia’s Only Challenge to Be Ambitious: Owen
28 October 2014 at 10:17 am
Australia’s next generation of philanthropists and changemakers must be more ambitious and avoid complacency, Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen warned a Melbourne conference this week.
Speaking to an audience of youths at the Nexus Youth Summit, Owen said Australia’s challenge was to be sufficiently ambitious for change.
“We live in a country that has everything. Everything that we could ever want and more. So our only challenge is to actually stay awake, and to never, ever be complacent.
She said that living a country with the highest per capita income, highest health outcomes, highest engagement in volunteering and giving back by young people and now the happiest people in the world, Australia’s next generation would have to try harder.
“We have to be more ambitious for change than other people because it is so great here,” she said. “We need to be thinking really carefully about what we’re doing, being rigorous, challenging each other, having robust conversations to help us think beyond what we think’s possible, and to think and act in a way that’s truly authentic.”
Owen urged her audience of philanthropists and social entrepreneurs to harness its position of influence.
“[We need to think about] the way we communicate. The wider community is in such a transition about so many key issues. They understand it, they see things – but they don't know what to do.
“I had a great example of this on Saturday when we ‘Walked Together’ [at a Melbourne rally] to welcome asylum seekers to Australia.
“There was a good number of people there, but there were a lot more that clicked like on Facebook than there were there, walking together.
“That transition must happen, we must get physically moving. Where were the people in this room who have incredible networks on Saturday across the country? Were you ‘Walking Together’? Were you walking alongside asylum seekers and the people working with them?
“Groups like change.org have exploded and we’re seeing individuals’ ability to create change in people’s lives day by day happening.”
“The new Climate Council which was shut down by the Federal Government popped up again within about a week as a new community-led and funded platform in Australia. It shows that we can do this. Australians can actually get up, get moving and make things happen – and in the face of things being shut down, can actually start them again.”
Owen’s call to action proved a rousing end to her keynote, which received a standing ovation from some members of the audience.
The need for better communication was one of several global trends Owen said continued to define the social change space – trends she emphasised needed to be tracked, not ignored.
“The way the work is measured is something we need to stay on track with. Moving from short-term solutions to much more thinking about on long-term outcomes. We’ve moved from inputs to impact.
“We’re getting much tighter and more focused about evidence. Is there an evidence base? One thing your generation is leading is this push for data and evidence.
“We’ve also seen this major shift from silos, where we’re trying to move from silos to place-based approaches, [asking] where is the need, and how do we work much more effectively with people to create solutions that they care about and that matters for them?”
Owen said the social change sector was in “an incredible stage of the journey.”
“We are all simultaneously service providers, collaborators, co-investors, and recipients of philanthropic-led change. Those providing change now are simultaneously philanthropists, entrepreneurs and social justice advocates all at once,” she said.
“We have genuinely, globally in the world made progress on health, on poverty, on education and democracy…we’ve made more inroads in the last 100 years than in any time previous.
“Globally, there’s this compelling picture.
The opening plenary also featured the personal stories of philanthropist and businesswoman Audette Exel AO, who spoke of her own experiences as part of the protest movement in New Zealand; academy award-winning filmmaker Eva Orner, and college student-turned social entrepreneur Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes.
The Nexus Youth Summit brings together social entrepreneurs, young philanthropists and changemakers to tackle global social, economic and environmental issues.
The 2014 Summit has a gender lens, with a focus on women and girls. The Nexus movement began in New York four years ago, with the inaugural Nexus Youth Summit held in Sydney last year.