Brexit, Trump, Hanson – a Clarion Call to the NFP Sector
28 July 2016 at 10:12 am
Opinion: Brexit, Trump and Hanson have fueled a robust discussion about safety and terrorism, disadvantage and elites. It’s an ongoing discussion the Not for Profit sector needs to actively participate in, writes David Crosbie CEO, Community Council for Australia.
Many involved in this discussion have focused the emerging debate around issues of fear and resentment. I am not sure there is strong evidence or data supporting an increase in fear or resentment, but I have seen good evidence around a decline in the public standing of our major social and democratic institutions.
This is a fundamental issue for the charities and Not for Profit sector. At the heart of most charities, what is being traded in the day to day work is not economic exchanges or even access to services, it is trust. Trust matters to us all. Trust is an antidote to fear.
When we think about our market, when we think about our commodity, we are dealers in trust. We ask our communities, our clients, our public, to come with us on a journey, to put on hold reservations, to allow us to serve them, challenge them, change them, their families and their communities.
From early childhood learning to aged care, arts to emergency services, whole communities to a single lost dog, we ask people to put their trust in us. We can help. We can make a difference. And we do.
A little over 12 months ago, I wrote an article on fear and politics highlighting that fear is a primitive survival reaction that has served us well, but irrational fear is no-one’s friend.
Several paragraphs from this article are worth re-visiting:
Henry Thoreau wrote in 1851 “nothing is so much to be feared as fear itself”. Franklin D Roosevelt used this idea in his 1933 inaugural presidential address rallying US businesses crawling out of the depression saying “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Roosevelt had been diagnosed with polio and survived a recent assassination attempt, so his push to put aside fear had real credibility. The important part of the Roosevelt speech that many leave out is where he describes the kind of fear we should dismiss: “Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Fear can be a good thing when it is about highlighting real threats and concerns, or seeking to reduce harm. Fear can keep us safe. It can also be used to divide. We need to be very careful that the politics of fear do not leave us isolated, or diminish our role, our responsibilities to each other and the world we are a part of.
As Roosevelt said in his 1933 inaugural address: “If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well.”
It doesn’t take someone with the insight of Roosevelt to realise that the temper of Australia’s recent public discourse has drifted away from the understanding and acceptance of our interdependence within our neighborhoods, our communities, our country and the world.
Complaining about the rhetoric, giving more attention to divisive views, attacking individuals for the views they express, all tends to polarise debate. Bringing people together, sharing all we have in common, acknowledging how much more we can achieve together moves us forward to a better community.
This is not about the politics of the day, this is about the community we want to live in, the country we want to be part of.* This is why charities and Not for Profits exist. Charities and Not for Profits of all shapes and sizes are an expression of the capacity for collective action to change things for the better. They are about bringing people together in a common cause, to make a difference, to do good.
There is amazing work happening in Australia, work that takes hope and building trust. People from entirely different backgrounds and cultures, different religions, different ages, different levels of wealth and income, all work together on a daily basis to make their communities stronger. As volunteers, workers, parents, children, carers, we support each other despite of, and in some cases because of, our differences.
Now is the time to blow our own trumpet, to sing loudly about our achievements, to create information platforms about our work within our communities and beyond, to celebrate the joy of shared journeys to a better place. If we remain silent or become part of a vitriolic debate, we betray those who put their trust in us. And what could be more important than to honor that trust?
*CCA has for some time recognised the need to promote the value of the work done in our sector and will be bringing forward the AusWeWant report in the next few months as a way of focusing the community on the invaluable contributions the sector makes to building flourishing communities.
About the author: David Crosbie has been a leader in the Australian NFP sector for more than 20 years. He is CEO of the Community Council for Australia (CCA), an independent member-based organisation promoting the work of the Not for Profit sector. He is also a former member of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Advisory Board. He has served on a range of key national bodies including as chair of the National Compact Expert Advisory Group, the NFP Sector Reform Council, and as a member of the Community Response Task Group chaired by former prime minister Julia Gillard.
David Crosbie will be writing exclusively for Pro Bono Australia News on a fortnightly basis, covering issues of importance to the broader Not for Profit sector.