Role of Philanthropy in Multicultural Communities
21 October 2014 at 9:56 am
The role of philanthropy in Australia needs to be re-assessed in terms of assisting ageing communities, particularly multicultural communities to age well, a new report has found.
A report by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation found that the philanthropic sector is not currently taking a leadership role in relation to multicultural communities and could do more through proactive, innovative and flexible approaches to funding.
The report, Ageing Well in Three Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities investigated how best to support ageing well in Chinese, Italian and Greek communities in Victoria.
The report said ensuring that older people in CALD communities age well requires the philanthropic and the broader sector to build stronger working relationships with each other.
It was acknowledged that philanthropy has an important lead role to play in this regard.
Of those research participants who had direct experience of the philanthropic sector within their professional capacity, the following themes were evident:
- The general lack of understanding and experience of philanthropy on the part of both key informants and the community participants alike.
- Even when the work of the philanthropic sector was familiar, there was a lack of vision about the potential contribution of philanthropy to ageing well.
- An expressed need for more information to be available about the philanthropic sector.
In addition philanthropy was perceived by key informants in particular, as having a vital role to play in filling the gaps left by Government.
On this point, the Foundation acknowledges there is a perception that this is a key role of philanthropy, but at the same time it is important to recognise that this is unachievable as philanthropy is not in the position to fill such large gaps, the report said.
Despite varying degrees of professional experience of the philanthropic field, the majority of participants in this project offered insights and perspectives about the need for greater engagement and education.
Where philanthropy was acknowledged and understood, there was an overall positive view about the work of philanthropy, particularly in relation to the opportunity to play an influential role and provide leadership and financial support for innovative endeavours within the CALD ageing sector.
Most participants in the research had the view that, to some extent, the philanthropic sector is not currently taking a leadership role in relation to CALD communities and could do so through proactive, innovative and flexible approaches to funding.
In addition, philanthropy was discussed in its future capacity to work strategically by identifying need and aligning grant making decisions on the evidence of need.
The philanthropic sector was seen by some participants as currently positioned to take risks that Government and other funding bodies may not be willing or able to take. In addition, participants were also of the view that the philanthropic sector has the responsibility to take the lead and to be proactive in identifying where the greatest need exists.
The report said the sector also has a leadership role in ensuring that duplication related to funding and specific programs is avoided across the sector.
It was suggested by some that individual philanthropic organisations must lead by example and encourage others in the sector to undertake new and innovative work relevant to the ageing well of older CALD people specifically.
In addition, the report said philanthropy was described as positioned to take on a facilitator’s role and encourage dialogue across a range of sectors with older people, Government and non-government sectors.
Philanthropy was seen as well positioned to help drive the agenda within both Government and non-government sectors based on demonstration projects that demonstrate how innovation might work to support ageing well in the CALD community.
The significance placed on strategic development within the philanthropic sector, particularly in relation to financial support for CALD communities, could be underestimated as an emergent theme in the study, the report said.
Participants commented on the importance of thinking strategically about the political context in which they operate. Participants also reflected on the importance of thinking strategically about the diversity within and between population groups.
A number of participants emphasised the importance of the philanthropic sector building on the learnings of Government and considering the ideas of inclusiveness and diversity – outcomes for the individual rather than focusing on ethno specific communities.
Conversely, other participants argued that any strategic development must include specific CALD communities.
While it was acknowledged by participants that advocacy is not the business of philanthropic organisations, suggestions were offered around taking a subtle role in advocating on behalf of CALD communities.
There was a general consensus amongst participants that in a dynamic political and funding context, organisations including those from the philanthropic sector need to work together in partnership to better address the needs of the aged CALD population in Victoria.
The role and purpose however, of any partnership needs to be established and very clear to all agencies involved. It was suggested that there were many positive outcomes of partnerships between Government, non-government and peak organisations.
These included sharing of leadership skills across agencies at a CEO level, identification of CALD community needs, filling the gaps that Government is unlikely to address, and being able to target and partner with CALD communities to learn what they currently do.
Finally, the report said research was not seen as the key domain of philanthropic organisations.
Philanthropy does, it said, however, provide substantial financial support to individuals and organisations to undertake creative and innovative research studies that in turn provide an evidence base for decision-making and strategic direction in philanthropy.
Providing funding for research which explores issues of community diversity, organisational capacity including leadership, partnerships and governance in relation to ageing well in the CALD sector was discussed by participants.
It said it was acknowledged that the leadership in this particular research project shown by the Foundation was an example of how philanthropy can undertake research.