Collective impact and empowering communities: The legacy of the ten20 Foundation
28 August 2019 at 5:41 pm
As the ten20 Foundation officially winds down its operations after a decade-long strategy that has seen millions funnelled into empowering disadvantaged communities, the organisation’s CEO looks back on the challenges and triumphs of collective impact.
Seri Renkin, ten20 Foundation CEO, told Pro Bono News that the initiatives they funded may not have seen immediate outcomes for children and families but were instead aiming for long-term systemic change.
Renkin said this included funding backbone leaders and organisations to meet with international experts on social innovation and connecting leaders and organisations around Australia to learn from one another.
“What we did do was build a really strong network of practitioners who are now leading the way in these new models of problem solving and collaborating,” Renkin said.
The foundation was originally born out of Melbourne charity, GordonCare, which after 125 years of providing child protection services ran into funding challenges in 2012 and decided to shift focus, liquidating its assets to form the ten20 Foundation.
The foundation launched a 10-year investment project focused on funding communities across Australia to come up with community-led solutions to help vulnerable children. As a sunset organisation, it planned to spend down its $10 million corpus over a 10-year period.
Money was funnelled into backbone organisations and leaders so they could run their own projects and create change from inside their communities.
The foundation then brought together a number of NFPs, philanthropists and government groups under the umbrella of Opportunity Child – a national initiative that could link to work on the ground and be a neutral coordinator of learning and change.
In 2018, Opportunity Child became its own legal entity, but it has received grant payments from ten20 until now.
Renkin said another important part of the foundation’s work was influencing government policy so it was relevant to communities.
“It meant that we started to see policy that actually translated meaningfully to the community goals,” she said.
She said as an organisation with the intention of closing down after a finite number of years, they wanted to make sure the new programs and initiatives they were funding didn’t then fail.
The government has stepped into support the communities with a $35 million funding package over five years, but she said some communities will still need to look for outside philanthropic funding.
“In some cases the communities that we were supporting have really struggled and will continue to struggle without that support,” she said.
“That is the risk of a sunset organisation, that just as you start to get things moving in the right direction you’re not necessarily around to continue what’s required to take it to the next stage.”
She said the organisation also underestimated what it would take to change mindsets and behaviors of working collaboratively and funding communities to drive their own change, particularly in the NFP sector.
“People and organisations are risk-averse. There’s also not a lot of funding that enables NFPs and communities to invest in their own capacity, to learn how to work differently and to drive their own change,” she said.
“What we were trying to do didn’t fall within traditional programmatic lines.”
But she said being a sunset organisation meant greater accountability and encouraged sensible risk-taking.
“There was a greater level of interrogation from the board and public on what we were actually achieving and how we were spending our corpus,” she said.
“It drives a real focus on every decision that you make and makes you think if it’s going to be the best way to go or not.”
She said the work they did wouldn’t have been as effective if they had tried to operate in perpetuity.
“We were able to make a small but meaningful contribution as opposed to a very, very small and insignificant contribution over a long period of time,” she said.
While the systemic change the organisation set out to achieve is by no means finished, between the reports and papers the foundation published on collective impact, and the legacy of Opportunity Child, Renkin is confident the foundation’s work will continue.
“Practitioners, policymakers, and funders are starting to connect together in a much stronger way and are progressing the work that we started,” she said.
“So we’ve helped, but we’re probably not needed anymore to pick it up and continue this model of impact.”