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Philanthropy called to step up support of community-led projects

29 May 2019 at 11:41 am
Luke Michael
The Australian philanthropy sector is being urged to help fill funding gaps in community-led place-based initiatives, with a number of collaborative projects facing an uncertain future.

Luke Michael | 29 May 2019 at 11:41 am


Philanthropy called to step up support of community-led projects
29 May 2019 at 11:41 am

The Australian philanthropy sector is being urged to help fill funding gaps in community-led place-based initiatives, with a number of collaborative projects facing an uncertain future.

The ten20 Foundation has released a report examining the growing movement of communities across Australia using place-based, collaborative, long-term approaches to drive better outcomes for children and families.

Completed at a time when considerable focus and attention is being directed to how government and philanthropy can partner better with communities to support this approach, the report found there was a limited pool of funders supporting community-led initiatives across Australia.

Ten20 Foundation managing director Seri Renkin told Pro Bono News there had been little published research on the role funders played in these community-led, place-based collaborative approaches.

She said despite significant progress, many of these initiatives faced ongoing uncertainty because of funding concerns.

“A limited and concentrated funding pool creates significant risk for the sustainability of current initiatives and the ability of new communities to embark on such promising change efforts,” Renkin said.

In 2012, the ten20 Foundation launched a 10-year place-based investment project focused on supporting communities to reduce child vulnerability and improving child health and wellbeing.

The report explores some of the learnings from the foundation’s place-based approach – which targets an entire community and aims to address issues that exist at the local level.

One key insight to emerge was the need for cultural authority, with researchers noting that Indigenous community-led initiatives were often developed without the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Another insight was the need to create high functioning funder and project relationships to achieve systems change and sustainability.

The report examines The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment project, an Aboriginal-led place-based model of justice reinvestment, based in Bourke, New South Wales.

Its focus is on improving outcomes and creating better coordinated support for vulnerable families through the “true empowerment of the local Aboriginal community”.

The initiative is funded by a number of groups including the Dusseldorp Forum, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and St Vincent de Paul, with contributions from the NSW and federal governments.

The project’s collective impact “backbone” team – which helps coordinate the collaborative work and has four full-time employees – is supported by the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT.

While funding for the project is secured for the next five years, there is still a challenge around long-term financing of the backbone team, which is looking to establish an incorporated entity to support its next stage of operations.  

Renkin said the backbone function was vital to the success of community-led place-based initiatives.

“This work recognises the need for a new holistic approach to working differently to address the complex and persistent challenges now impacting many communities,” she said.

“A particular feature of the efforts we are talking about that distinguishes them from other place-based partnerships is the backbone function.

“This plays a dedicated role to coordinate the local learning, change management and decision-making processes required to help all participating organisations and community stakeholders shift from acting alone to working together.”  

Ten20 is a legacy foundation committed to spending down its assets within a 10-year timespan.

Renkin said this meant ten20 wanted to serve as a catalyst and enabler of systems innovation that benefitted the community long after the foundation’s work was done.  

“As a sunset foundation with only a small time left, we felt it was important to work with our community and other funding partners to build a stronger funding ecosystem where new practices and mindsets become better understood,” she said.

“[And a system] adopted to create new levels of trust and impact work with communities.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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