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When Philanthropy Met Parliament

17 September 2015 at 11:10 am
Ellie Cooper
The inaugural Philanthropy Meets Parliament summit brought Australian funders, political leaders and policy makers together in the heart of Australia’s political system, Parliament House, in Canberra last week. Philanthropy Australia’s Krystian Seibert reflects on the event.

Ellie Cooper | 17 September 2015 at 11:10 am


When Philanthropy Met Parliament
17 September 2015 at 11:10 am

The inaugural Philanthropy Meets Parliament summit brought Australian funders, political leaders and policy makers together in the heart of Australia’s political system, Parliament House, in Canberra last week. Philanthropy Australia’s Krystian Seibert reflects on the event.

It was the first event of its kind, and the next step in Philanthropy Australia’s strategy to more actively engage with political and policy debates about the role of philanthropy in Australia.

As the curator of the Summit, I’ve spent a few days reflecting on the key themes and ideas based around the Summit’s various sessions. Here are some of my thoughts.

Collaboration – It’s fair to say that we don’t have enough collaboration between philanthropy and government. So there’s an opportunity for both philanthropy and government to engage more closely. But to do so effectively, philanthropy needs to have an understanding of what government is trying to achieve, and vice-versa. There won’t always be a meeting of the minds, and that’s alright. But with more active and strategic engagement, both philanthropy and government can benefit from collaboration.

Regulation – It was pleasing to see that Minister Morrison showed that the Government’s view of the ACNC is changing. Although he stopped short of actually announcing that the Government will formally change its policy to abolish it, it was clear from his speech that Minister Morrison recognised the strong and broad support which exists for the ACNC and a firmer commitment to retaining the ACNC does not seem to be far away. Once we have such a commitment, there will be a real opportunity to reduce red tape in areas such as fundraising regulation – with the latest NSW jurisdiction indicating that it wants to work with the ACNC to achieve this.

A New National Compact? – In his speech, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, stated that the Opposition will seek to revitalise the National Compact with the Not for Profit Sector should it win the next election. A new National Compact is a worthwhile idea, however it’s fair to say that the full potential of the former Compact was not realised, and that some felt that words weren’t always matched by actions. Any new Compact will require extensive engagement, and a “down payment” in the form of policy initiatives that can instil confidence in the practical value of a new Compact.

The Big Ideas – It was fantastic to have all the members of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership at the Summit, with two members joining a panel discussion focusing on the policy ideas to underpin the next boom in philanthropy. The Partnership is considering some exciting ideas to recommend to the Government, including “Community Development Trusts”, which involve making a 10-year investment with earnings directed towards a nominated charity. The investor obtains an up front tax deduction when they make the investment, and receive the real value of their capital back at the end. This focus on new structures to grow giving is very welcome, but it’s important that we also focus on fixing what’s currently not working. David Locke from the ACNC reminded us that our complex and cumbersome DGR framework is badly in need of reform, something I’ve written about in the past.

Parliamentary Perspectives – It was particularly exciting to have three “rising stars” from across the political spectrum join us to share their perspectives on the role of philanthropy in the communities they represent and discuss ideas for closer engagement. They all showed a deep appreciation of the importance of philanthropy. It was very clear that they each had a strong desire to engage more closely with philanthropy, but acknowledged that it can be hard to identify what initiatives philanthropy is supporting or could support in the communities they represent. This highlights the need for philanthropy to engage more strategically with elected representatives in the communities where they fund, but also the need for data driven solutions to share more information about the role of philanthropy in our communities.

Impact Investing – In his speech, Minister Morrison highlighted the work underway to apply New Zealand’s “investment approach” in Australia. The approach will identify groups of people at risk of welfare dependence and will enable the Government to better target early interventions. By modelling the costs and benefits associated with different social challenges and interventions respectively, the investment approach provides a big opportunity to expand the use of tools such as social impact bonds to try and address these challenges. It’s very likely that we’ll see much more of this collaboration in the years to come.

Systems Change – In this session, the words of GenerationOne CEO, Jeremy Donovan, still ring in my head. If philanthropy really wants to change the system and address the root causes of disadvantage, it needs to be brave. These sentiments were shared by Tim Goodwin, a trustee of the Reichstein Foundation, who pointed out that philanthropy likes to talk about innovation, but should be talking more about being brave and bold. I think this is an important message – if philanthropy really wants to change things, it needs to be brave and bold, take risks, be persistent and be ready to accept failure as well as success.

Ships Passing in the Night – Dan Corry, CEO of New Philanthropy Capital in the UK, provided the final keynote via video link from London. In his final three points he pointed out that philanthropy and government should see each other as important stakeholders, but that it can be a tricky relationship. He emphasised that if we accept our interconnection, something I don’t think is currently widely accepted, then we can find better ways to help each other. And in doing that we can help our community flourish, which is our ultimate shared aim.

About the author: Krystian Seibert is the Policy & Research Manager with Philanthropy Australia and tweets at @KSeibertAu.

This article was first published on Philanthropy Australia’s Our Voices blog.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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