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A United Approach

24 August 2015 at 12:02 pm
Xavier Smerdon
Doug Taylor has a passion for encouraging Not for Profit organisations to reach their full potential. Taylor is this week’s Changemaker. He spoke to Xavier Smerdon.

Xavier Smerdon | 24 August 2015 at 12:02 pm


A United Approach
24 August 2015 at 12:02 pm

Doug Taylor has a passion for encouraging Not for Profit organisations to reach their full potential. Taylor is this week’s Changemaker. He spoke to Xavier Smerdon.

In 1996 Doug Taylor obtained his first job in the Not for Profit sector, working as a residential care worker in Sydney.

Since then he has held a high-profile position as CEO of United Way Australia before leaving to become Director of Strategic Engagement at UnitingCare NSW ACT.

In this week’s Changemaker column he tells Pro Bono Australia News what drives him to push for a more effective social sector.

Why did you make the move from United Way to UnitingCare?

I think it was for a couple of reasons. I was keen to continue to grow and develop and be stretched, that’s a critical part of anyone’s career.

The other thing was wanting to build on the work I’d done at United Way around engaging communities in the work of Not for Profit organisations and obviously with UnitingCare being a substantial organisation it created an opportunity to do that on quite a significant scale given the number of communities we’re involved in and the amount of services we deliver.

What was your first role in the Not for Profit sector?

I started out as a residential care worker in a medium-term accommodation unit for homeless people in Sydney in 1996.

What was it that made you want to turn that into a career and to stay in the sector?

It’s a hard question to answer. For me there was almost no other choice. I could have gone into other  fields but this just seemed like the only thing for me to do based on my passions, values and interests. It really just emerged out of that.

Prior to that I’d been involved in volunteer work as a younger person and it was kind of an extension of that in many ways.

You write a lot about effective management in the Not for Profit sector. Is that one of the areas you are most interested in or is it simply where you think you can impart the most wisdom?

I think I do have an absolute passion around Not for Profits being effective and efficient  –  running good Not for Profits from a management perspective. But I also have a real passion around Not for Profits living out their mission of social change, social justice and also innovation, that’s how in many ways Not for Profits started, as a movement in terms of pioneering solutions to social problems. So a lot of my interest is around seeing that Not for Profits do run well but also be absolutely focused on continuing to advocate and come up with new solutions to problems that have now been around for many years.

When you look at the sector, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing it at the moment?

I think there the sector is obviously going through significant transitions at the moment, particularly as it’s quite reliant on Government funding. In many ways the changes we are going through reflect the changes that the Government is going through. You see that manifesting in terms of the types of funding, the types of contracts and tendering that’s underway and also the expectations of Government in terms of governance and the like.

But I think there is a bigger challenge and change than that, which is organisations grappling with their fundamental purpose in society and in the community. From my perspective Not for Profits were created, as I said before, to be pioneers in social change but equal to that they also were created as a mechanism to involve the community in the solution of those problems.

I think that heritage has been lost over the last few decades and Not for Profits are rediscovering it again now. I think that’s a good thing for a whole lot of reasons.

Do you think the sector is largely aware of the challenges it faces?

It’s hard to generalise in many ways given the diversity of the sector but I think there are a significant amount of organisations in our sector for whom probably there are some blind spots and their focus is really on the delivery of services as it relates to Government contracts.

For those organisations there are some blind spots and I think they need to rediscover some of those things I’ve talked about.

But I do think there is a growing cohort that are realising the shortcomings of that kind of business model and are starting to respond and explore different things, and in many ways it’s the new funding models that are pushing that. You think about what has happened with the NDIS or some of the changes in aged care and those things force people to think differently about their business and ultimately the community’s needs and customer’s needs and with that comes a lot of discovery and innovation.

What is it that inspires you and what sparks your interest?

I think at the core for me there’s a sense that in the lottery of life I’ve landed this position that may not have been the case and were I brought up in a different context I think I would want to know that there are people out there that care and that they would want to advocate on my behalf and work with me in a way that would realise my potential.

I guess that’s the mental driver for me to ensure that we’ve got organisations in our community that have the back of people who are disadvantaged, marginalised or excluded and that they continue to respond as those people’s needs change over time.

I think certainly in my family history there are not any high-profile names or anything like that but a lot of the inspiration I have got over the years is just from people out in our community who day in and day out work in a really tireless way in putting aside their own time, often as volunteers, to make better communities and particularly work for those marginalised people in the community.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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