New Social Movement Incubator Looks to Support Advocacy in Australia
22 February 2018 at 4:06 pm
A new accelerator for social change movements will look to support a new generation of advocacy organisations engaging Australians in “positive action”.
Progress Labs is an initiative of Australian Progress and the Australian Council for Social Service (ACOSS), modelled on successful tech-world programs like Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator and Australia’s Startmate.
Nick Moraitis, the executive director of Australian Progress said: “Australians are deeply disengaged from our political system but are passionate about so many issues. We need a new generation of organisations to help engage people in new ways.”
This dedicated social movement incubator offers office space, strategic advice, investment support and mentorship in Sydney and Melbourne, for organisations advocating on social issues such as Australia’s social safety net, mental health and education.
The CEO of ACOSS, Cassandra Goldie, said ACOSS was pleased to be supporting the program.
“Progress Labs is backing innovation in the non-profit landscape through supporting the authentic leadership and voices of people who are most impacted by government and business decision making,” Goldie said.
Progress Labs was launched in Sydney on Wednesday night, at an event emceed by journalist Tracey Spicer.
The event brought the first seven movements supported by the program together, to share their projects for social change with a room of philanthropists and not-for-profit leaders.
— Tessa Boyd-Caine (@tboydcaine) February 21, 2018
One of these projects is led by Meagan Lawson and Corey Irlam from the Council on the Ageing (COTA).
Lawson told Pro Bono News that COTA wanted to provide older Australians with “a concerted voice”.
“Our project is called One in Three and it represents the fact that one in three voters in Australia are aged between 50 and 69, but we don’t think they have a concerted voice to speak about issues for older people,” Lawson said.
“So we’re looking at a range of issues for older people that we think aren’t being systematically addressed, and trying to engage those people to be involved.”
She said that Progress Labs would give her organisation the capacity to engage older Australians in the issues affecting them.
“I guess it’s a different way of how COTA has done business before. It’s about having the capacity to spend time to do the thinking to put a project together, which when you’re doing day-to-day work is actually quite hard,” Lawson said.
“But we’re looking at creating a digital platform that we can engage people through. And if you think about the fastest growing Facebook group at the moment it’s actually older people.
“So we want to take advantage of that and engage them in that process. But we also want to build community groups and individuals in communities to become the voice of aging in their communities. So they become the people who speak to the MPs with the things they are concerned about.”
Lawson said the launch event for Progress Labs had been a great opportunity to engage with a diverse group of potential funders and stakeholders.
“Last night was great. There was a real good feel in the room and a really diverse group of people there, from creative agencies and philanthropic organisations to other social justice organisations,” she said.
“We had lots of really great conversations with people who are able to help us in a practical sense with skills and knowledge we don’t have, but also talking to people about potential funding sources for some of the work we need to do.”
Col Duthie, the chair of philanthropic organisation Donkey Wheel, said philanthropy had a role to play in supporting these social movements.
“Philanthropy is increasingly looking for opportunities to support systemic change, and that means getting behind social movements. ACOSS and Australian Progress have a unique capacity and reputation in this space, and we’re very pleased to be in at the ground level,” Duthie said.
Lawson added that Progress Labs had the scope to support more social change movements in the future and reinvigorate advocacy in Australia.
“I think if you look at people involved in this, there’s seven projects [spanning] a whole range of issues, and what’s nice about that is it’s actually about engaging the community and getting community discussion happening with all of those groups of people,” she said.
“But it’s also about learning from each other as we go along the way. And like all social movements, you are then able to share your knowledge with the people behind you and I think there’s a real potential for this to happen in the future.”