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Churchill Fellowship Explores Giving to Women

10 October 2017 at 8:20 am
Wendy Williams
A recipient of this year’s Churchill Fellowships is looking to the world stage to increase giving to women and girls in Australia.

Wendy Williams | 10 October 2017 at 8:20 am


Churchill Fellowship Explores Giving to Women
10 October 2017 at 8:20 am

A recipient of this year’s Churchill Fellowships is looking to the world stage to increase giving to women and girls in Australia.

Julie Reilly, CEO of Australian Women Donors Network, was announced as a recipient of the 2017 fellowships, which see Australians travel throughout the world in search of new ideas, innovation and excellence.

Her project aims to identify global best practice in growing more effective personal and institutional giving to women and girls.

Julie Reilly headshot

Julie Reilly

She told Pro Bono News it was her “absolute passion” to see women and girls supported to participate equally in all levels of society.

“I absolutely believe that that’s how we’re going to get a better world,” Reilly said.

“I’ve been pursuing that through the work of the Australian Women Donors Network, because we’re all about making the business case for investing in women and girls and providing tools and resources to make that happen through best practice grant making. That’s a key focus of our work.

“And we’ve made some really good progress but I have to say I feel a real sense of urgency.

“I think that this is a critical moment in history when it comes to gender equality and the focus in business, in government, just generally, around the need to change the existing model.”

Through her Churchill Fellowship, Reilly hopes to learn from countries further advanced in gender based giving, about contemporary models and practices in philanthropy that benefit women and girls, the use of the gender lens in giving and the role of unconscious bias in decision making.

She plans to travel to the US, Europe and the UK next year to meet with institutions and individuals who are demonstrating success in these areas.

“I really looked to where are the most impressive initiatives around philanthropy, around gender equality and diversity and around activating new movements that give to women and girls,” she said.

“I could honestly kick myself for not putting in several other destinations, but the bulk of the time will be in the US, so San Francisco, Seattle, New York and a couple of other destinations, mainly because they are the centre of philanthropic activity. Particularly areas like Seattle where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is, have such a strong focus on women and girls. In San Francisco there is the Women Donors Network of America, the Women’s Funding Network, and New York has got some amazing, leading foundations that either have a gender lens or have strong programs that focus on women and girls.

“In Europe it is as much about innovation and equality in a broader sense, so I nominated Denmark, Belgium and Berlin, for various reasons.

“In the UK there is a number of targets I have got there, but one of the areas I’m particularly interested in is where we’ve got new global leaders that are really activating interest in women and girls, like the Malala Fund, like the HeForShe Movement, so powerful role models like Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson, who have really activated a different generation’s interest in these issues as well.”

She said while Australia had a lot to learn from other countries, she was confident Australia could also share some learnings.

“My sense is that we’ve probably got some innovations and some skills and some learnings to share, and I’m often encouraged that the rest of the world, when I think ‘oh we’re way behind’, that’s not always the case,” she said.

“Philanthropy in Australia has got some great innovations and has developed in ways that other countries haven’t.

“So while this is ostensibly to build on our experience and learning and to look at proven models and effective practices, as well as really exploring some initiatives that have been tried and not worked – I think that is just as important to learn from – [in terms of] how we stack up against other countries I think in that intersection of gender equality and philanthropic investment and understanding the lens of gender, I can see within Australia there is some great initiative.”

But Reilly said unconscious bias was still a “huge” problem.

“I have a fundamental belief that people who work in philanthropy are there because they want to see a better world and they want to do good things, they want to create good outcomes with their investment,” she said.

“But there is every bit of evidence to support the case that says until we are aware of our unconscious biases, and that’s all of us, and unpack them and really build in specific steps and triggers to our decision-making process to make sure that we’re looking at those blind spots, were not going to get the best outcome.

“I think when it is so clearly a focus in the corporate sector, and there would not be any sort of significant corporate player or corporate organisation that does not include a very deliberate diversity inclusion and unconscious bias program in the way they run their skills training and leadership and best practice… to suggest that we wouldn’t benefit from it in philanthropy is an absurdity.”

Reilly said she believed that understanding the gender component of social change was critical to the design and delivery of effective philanthropy.

“A gender lens is much more than women helping women,” she said.

“A gender lens is really about … [being] able to see and understand how women experience social issues differently.

“By adding a gender lens, you absolutely can be sure you are funding or creating and delivering a program that is going to not only include women – so partly it is about inclusion, making sure they are not locked out of the service – but is also about impact. It is about recognising women’s role in driving social change, and if you’re not really harnessing that you’re just not getting the best bang for your buck.”

She said there was some understanding of the benefits of a gender lens in Australia, but people were “a bit put off by the language or confused by the language”.

“That is a challenge for us and it is one of the things I’m really looking to work on with the study tour with the Churchill Fellowship, to say how does language play a part in communicating the outcomes we want to achieve,” she said.

“And really the world has shifted quite a bit since we began six or seven years ago, and the Churchill Fellowship as much as anything is about keeping pace with that changing world and being really well-positioned to have the best impact in the future.”

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was established in 1965 to honour the memory of Sir Winston Churchill, and fulfil his wish to offer people from all walks of life, the opportunity to travel overseas to gain new knowledge and insights that can be practically applied in Australia to positively impact communities and society at large.

Reilly said she couldn’t overstate the importance of a program like the Churchill Fellowships.

“I couldn’t be more excited and couldn’t be more appreciative of the opportunity,” she said.

“I would really encourage people who have got a personal passion to see some change in the world and a burning ambition about how that might be achieved to really consider applying.”

She said receiving the fellowship added a level of recognition to the importance of the issue.

“By getting the Churchill Fellowship it is not just that you’ve got the funding to go and build on your knowledge, but you’ve got the brand to go and open the doors, but it adds legitimacy and import to the issue, that a really rigorous national selection process has decided that this is an issue that really is important to Australia and should be invested in.”

This year, 109 people, from a pool of 1,140 applicants, were awarded fellowships worth more than $2.8 million in total, to fully fund their travel for up to eight weeks.

Winning projects included everything from high-energy batteries and milk pricing, to sustainable shoemaking and driverless cars.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust chief executive officer Adam Davey, told Pro Bono News the fellowships provided a “remarkable opportunity for all Australians to contribute to the enrichment of our society”.

“This year we again received applications from many different types of people including artisans, tradespeople, educators, artists, musicians, advocates for the disadvantaged, farmers, producers, policy makers and scientists,” Davey said.

“Diversity is core to the Churchill Fellowship and I think this is a powerful enabler for the Australian community. As diverse as Churchill Fellows are, they all share passion and a drive for excellence in their respective fields.

“The fellowships are a prestigious and fitting way to honour Sir Winston Churchill’s leadership and legacy in the modern world. I am sure that he would be proud of the achievements of each of those who have been awarded a Churchill Fellowship.”

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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