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NFP Degree Reaches 30 Year Milestone

5 December 2016 at 11:45 am
Wendy Williams
It is crucial we provide learning opportunities to the not-for-profit sector, according to a lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney which is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first not-for-profit degree in Australia.

Wendy Williams | 5 December 2016 at 11:45 am


NFP Degree Reaches 30 Year Milestone
5 December 2016 at 11:45 am

It is crucial we provide learning opportunities to the not-for-profit sector, according to a lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney which is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first not-for-profit degree in Australia.

The late Professor Mark Lyons, who pioneered the study of not-for-profit organisations and philanthropy in Australia, co-founded the Community Management Program at the Kuring Gai campus alongside Emeritus Professor Jennifer Onyx in 1986.

The course at UTS, which is now reformed as the Master of Not-for- Profit and Social Enterprise Management degree, marked the first accredited tertiary level non-profit management program in Australia.

Since inception hundreds of students have received specialised education and implemented practical field projects in the areas of not-for-profit management, fundraising, not-for-profit law and taxation, accounting, volunteer management, program evaluation and measuring social impact.

Dr Bronwen Dalton, coordinator of the Not-for-Profit and Community Management Program, told Pro Bono Australia News it was vital to “recognise, name, measure, understand, value and promote and provide learning opportunities to this sector”.

“Australians rely on not for profits for services more than any other country,” Dalton said.

“Together these nonprofits serve as the focal point for volunteering and collective action, institutionalise the virtues of helping others (altruism) and collective self-help (or mutuality), contribute massively to building and sustaining a strong and stable society and are the basis for the continued health of our democracy.

A cohort of students from 1986.

A cohort of students from 1986.

“The not-for-profit sector faces a range of challenges that are unique to the sector and are not covered in mainstream management degrees.”

She said the first university-level programs in not-for-profit management brought theory and practice together.

“The program was explicitly interdisciplinary and brought theory and practice together, to highlight practical solution and manage the challenges unique to the sector including operating in an environment driven by purpose, mission, values, the need to develop innovative resourcing strategies and to assess performance in the absence of profit,” she said.

“In the program, a balance between knowledge and understanding of the distinctiveness of the nonprofit sector has been sought, with an emphasis on theories and practices of management across settings and sectors.

“This has delivered depth and breadth that prepares managers for the demands of the not-for-profit sector, with knowledge and skills that transcend sector boundaries.

“This is different to generic postgraduate management programs in which nonprofit issues are marginalised and poorly understood, if addressed at all.”

She said the program had evolved over time as there was increasing pressure on not-for-profit organisations to become more business-like.

“More recently there has been pressure… to adopt the tools and mindset of market-driven private enterprise,” Dalton said.

“But, at the same time, there have been growing expectations of business to act responsibly and contribute positively to society and the environment.

“I argue that the best way for corporates to respond to this challenge is to become more nonprofit-like.

“The question is no longer what NFPs can learn from the corporate sector but what the corporate sector can learn from NFPs.”

Jennifer Onyx (on left)

Jennifer Onyx (on left)

Dalton said it was amazing to see the careers some of the students went on to have.

“[I am] enormously proud and they are great advocates for the course,” she said.

Onyx, who co-founded the degree, told Pro Bono Australia News she “keeps coming across” former students.

“They just kept popping up everywhere,” Onyx said.

“Some of them are now retired, it was a long time ago. We’re talking the 1980s… [but] they became CEOs of all sorts.”

She said the highlight of the program was just that it had survived all those years.

“We had really serious battles as everyone who has tried to do this sort of thing will tell you,” she said.

“We initially we made the decision to join with the business faculty rather than with the social science faculty or an education faculty because we thought that the business faculty would have more resources and therefore we would be more likely to survive and that was the right decision and it proved to be correct because similar programs in the other faculties were long ago axed.

“They just didn’t bring enough money into the university.”

But she said the program filled a need.

“We were the first ones in Australia to create a tertiary level training program for third sector managers,” she said.

Mark Lyons

Mark Lyons

“Both he [Lyons] and I had had quite a few connections with the community sector, I had just spent a year embedded as an evaluator in the Western Sydney Area Assistance Scheme… which was a pretty amazing funding program… I became amazed at how ordinary citizens were taking up the challenge and developing really complex small businesses basically in the community, for their community.

“They themselves had had very little education or training, and they just did it and in most cases were doing an extremely good job but it made me realise that there was a really serious gap in terms of general knowledge and specific training, for people doing these things in the community sector.

“We were very much concerned with the sort of small end of the market, so we’re not talking about big charities, we’re talking about small local embedded organisations and they were the ones that we were trying to cater for.

“So initially, we developed… a series of training packages which anybody around the country could obtain at very little cost and use as a kind of self help to develop their own training in a whole range of areas, everything from basic accounting to sort of analysis of disadvantage and oppression… we sold hundreds of those, they went all over the country, but they then formed the very basis of the first subjects we ran, and that associate diploma was fascinating.”

She said it was amazing the program had such a longstanding history.

“The saying goes you punch above your weight, we performed well beyond anything you might have expected.”

Settlement Service International CEO Violet Roumeliotis, who graduated in the class of 2011, from the Master of Management (Community), said the degree had informed the way she thinks and works.

“My master’s degree has informed the way I think and work in allowing me to apply innovative and creative thinking around leadership and management, intellectual rigor, and has provided me with the tools and curiosity required to build expansive networks and contacts, collaborations and partnerships and to think big and think positive,” Roumeliotis said.

“Further, the course fostered many great professional friendships and I am still in close contact with a number of my fellow graduates who did the course with me.

“We have provided a lot of peer mentoring and support to each other and worked collaboratively on projects.”

An anniversary celebration is being held on 8 December 2016 to honour current and former students and faculty.

The event will feature speakers including Emeritus Professor Jenny Onyx, Dr Bronwen Dalton, UTS alumna Violet Roumeliotis, Darren Fittler and Alastair McEwin.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.


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