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Uncertainty and Change Forecast for NFP Sector in 2017

10 January 2017 at 8:50 am
Ellie Cooper
Experts have predicted that a “negative environment” will surround the not-for-profit sector this year, but advised organisations to use it as an opportunity to push for social change.

Ellie Cooper | 10 January 2017 at 8:50 am


Uncertainty and Change Forecast for NFP Sector in 2017
10 January 2017 at 8:50 am

Experts have predicted that a “negative environment” will surround the not-for-profit sector this year, but advised organisations to use it as an opportunity to push for social change.

Not-for-profit organisations faced a turbulent 2016, which included a double dissolution election, the return of Pauline Hanson, Brexit and Trump.

The sector rallied, going against the odds to make a difference in the lives of Australians, all while increasing their public trust in an age of post-truth.

But the chaos experienced last year is only expected to pick up pace in 2017.

Not for profits will face challenges from the “unfairness” and “ineptitude” of government, and their services will become increasingly stretched as the number of disadvantaged Australians grows.

“In 2017 the NFP sector is going to be dealing with increasing levels of uncertainty and accelerating rates of change,” Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie told Pro Bono News.

He said the actions of the government would negatively impact the work of not-for-profit organisations.

“The capacity of government to develop evidence-based policy, enact the policy through parliament and successfully implement and evaluate their activity is at an all-time low,” he said.

“Confidence and trust in government – already at an all-time low – will continue to diminish, which may lead to more attempts to restrict the public advocacy of charities and not for profits.  

“The already established pattern of shooting the messenger and blaming others when government unfairness or ineptitude is exposed will only increase as the government’s political situation deteriorates.”

Not all hope is lost, however. Crosbie encouraged organisations to use their strong standing in society to advocate for a better Australia.

“While in many ways this will create a negative environment for the NFP sector over the next 12 months, it also offers a very real opportunity for the NFP sector to leverage our high levels of public trust and confidence to push for and implement real change,” he said.

“CCA sees a lot of its work over the next 12 months as focused on ensuring gains made in recent years are not taken away, especially the right to advocate while retaining charitable status, strengthening the ongoing role of the ACNC in reducing red tape (including fundraising regulations) and building public confidence, seeking greater certainty in funding and new investment in the sector, and pursuing our broader agenda to make Australia a better place to live.”

Despite the challenges 2017 will bring, Crosbie said the not-for-profit sector “has never been better positioned to exert real influence and achieve positive change”.

“With courage, commitment and an even stronger focus on our purpose, the sector working together towards the Australia we want will better serve our communities, and create more opportunities for all Australians to flourish,” he said.

Beyond the scope of government, broader social change, including the dominance of technology, is predicted to disadvantage more Australians this year, making the work of social service organisations all the more important – and strained.  

Ross Dawson, chief futurist at Rh7thm, told Pro Bono News the changing nature of the workforce, which has been occurring over the past 10 years, would increase in 2017.

“Where we now see a very significant challenge is in the rise of, in particular, automation, driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning, which means that many jobs of today are being threatened, and those include some of the high-income jobs, but the nearer-term impact is going to be with many of the lower-skilled jobs,” Dawson said.

“Many people and an increasing number of governments around the world are looking at how it is we can address this challenge where potentially we will see significant unemployment… driven by new technologies and connectivity, meaning that people around the world can perform much of the work that is done currently in Australia, and finding ways to both support people who are affected, but also to give people who are affected the skills that will be relevant in coming years because the jobs of the future are significantly different to the jobs of the past.

“There are an increasing number of people that [need to] be helped certainly by financial support structures, but as importantly or even more importantly, by support in gaining the skills and capabilities that will be relevant in the changing world.”

The idea of a universal basic income, where all citizens receive a social security payment from government, has already made headlines this year as the answer to Australia’s changing workforce.

But Dawson said it was unlikely that any significant progression would be made this year.

“This is something which is currently happening more overseas than in Australia. We have Finland notably, some cities in the Netherlands, some areas in the US, California and some other countries where there’s active experiments,” he said.

“In other countries there’s been discussion in legislation, including in New Zealand… I think it is unlikely in this year that we’re going to see legislative traction in getting any legislation underway in Australia for the universal basic income.

“It’s possible, but I think it would be optimistic to suggest that might be the case.”

However, he didn’t rule out Australia adopting a universal basic income in coming years.

“What we are likely to see is there’s a very strong increase in discussion around the relevance of the ideas both federally and at state level in Australia, which could then flow through to be the proposed legislation or potentially the legislation over the coming years,” he said.

“So I think… we will see a continued rapid increase in the degree of discussion about universal basic income and its relevance in Australia, with the potential discussion at a legislative level.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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