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Collaborative philanthropy: A new model to enable systemic change


17 March 2021 at 5:26 pm
Deb Tsorbaris
Collaborative philanthropy is an exciting way for philanthropists and organisations to combine forces in order to shape society for the better, writes Deb Tsorbaris, who shares the six key features that made The Out-of-Home Care Philanthropic Funders Network a success.


Deb Tsorbaris | 17 March 2021 at 5:26 pm


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Collaborative philanthropy: A new model to enable systemic change
17 March 2021 at 5:26 pm

Collaborative philanthropy is an exciting way for philanthropists and organisations to combine forces in order to shape society for the better, writes Deb Tsorbaris, who shares the six key features that made The Out-of-Home Care Philanthropic Funders Network a success.

While most not-for-profit organisations are resourced through government grants, donations, or selling products or services, philanthropists are increasingly working alongside organisations to not only fund, but develop solutions to, social issues.

More traditional philanthropic approaches such as individual philanthropic and co-funding efforts create significant impact in addressing societal challenges. Collaborative philanthropy is an emerging model that presents an opportunity for additional scale and reach.

It enables philanthropic organisations and stakeholder organisations – like not for profits – to combine and coordinate their expertise and resources to provide large-scale responses to complex social issues.

The Out-of-Home Care Philanthropic Funders Network

At the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, we facilitate the Out-of-Home Care Philanthropic Funders Network (the OoHC Network), a group of organisations with an interest in contributing to the safe and supportive care of children and young people. The OoHC Network is funded through Equity Trustees’ Mars-Stride Trust, David Taylor Galt Charitable Trust, R.M Ansett Trust and The James Raymond Hartley Charitable Trust, with the centre playing a key role in coordinating the group, its activities and connections with the child and family services sector.

When establishing the partnership in 2017, the OoHC Network identified a shared aim of improving the experiences and outcomes of children and young people who have an experience of, or are at risk of entering, out-of-home care. Out-of-home care is an alternative care arrangement for children who can’t live safely at home, with 45,000 Australian children and young people in the system. Many children in care have experienced immense trauma and abuse, and require significant support to enable them to thrive socially, emotionally and educationally.

The OoHC Network saw the pressing need for wide-scale and systemic solutions for children in care, and worked to develop its knowledge of the sector in order to inform its first initiatives for funding. Funding an initial project, the Home Stretch campaign, the OoHC Network contributed to policy change by seeking the extension of the leaving care age from 18 to 21.

A more focused approach was then taken to introduce innovation grant rounds, enabling the OoHC Network to identify innovative initiatives and more targeted projects. To date, two innovation grants totalling more than $1 million have been awarded. The Brighter Futures program, a collaboration across multiple organisations led by Anchor Inc., was awarded the first innovation grant to connect young people with an out-of-home care experience with community members who support their education, employment, health and wellbeing and housing goals. The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency was also awarded a grant for its Growing Up Aboriginal Babies at Home project, which is currently underway and aims to support young Aboriginal mothers in Victoria to raise their babies and infants at home.

The OoHC Network as a model of collaboration

Six key features of the OoHC Network’s collaborative approach have been critical determinants in its impact:

  1. Shared purpose. The group was established with the clear and shared intention of understanding issues in out-of-home care and exploring the benefits of a collaborative endeavour.
  2. Knowledge building. From the beginning, the group has been committed to continued learning about the sector, out-of-home care and the experiences of children and young people in, or at risk of entering, care.
  3. Working together. The OoHC Network has come together with a deliberate focus on cooperation to achieve its purpose. Members have committed to understanding and valuing each other’s individual and organisational values, funding priorities, timeframes and constraints.
  4. Resourcing. The group established a dedicated role to facilitate the group, appointing the centre to liaise with group members and stakeholders as well as foster a coordinated approach. The centre was identified due to our role as the peak body with strong sector expertise.
  5. Sustained commitment. In coming together, the OoHC Network’s members committed to a sustained period of time in order to build strong momentum and a more sophisticated understanding of funding opportunities.
  6. Amplified voices and impact. By working together, the group’s members have been able to amplify their voices and achieve greater impact, creating a space where all members, regardless of size, have influence.

The challenges of collaboration

Collaboration among philanthropic organisations brings its own set of unique challenges. Timeframes for collaborative funding opportunities can be lengthy due to administrative and funding processes. Members’ individual funding requirements, such as the legal status of trusts and foundations, also need to be considered. An awareness of these challenges is crucial to achieving progress in collaborative philanthropy models, and further highlights the need for collaborative philanthropy models to be facilitated and resourced.

Next steps

The OoHC Network continues to evolve and build on the success of its collaborative philanthropy model. In addition to continuing to build its evidence base and fund further innovative practices, the group has identified a need to grow and diversify its members in order to make continued improvements in the lives of children.

With more children predicted to enter care as a result of COVID-19, the OoHC Network can also play a role in understanding and mitigating the impact of the pandemic on children in, or at risk of entering, care.

Collaborative philanthropy is an exciting way for philanthropists and organisations alike to combine forces in order to shape society for the better. It is a true example of the power of collective action and a model for how societal challenges will increasingly be tackled. 

For organisations wishing to incorporate collaborative philanthropy into their own operations, you can view the centre’s new case study about the OoHC Network.


Deb Tsorbaris  |  @ProBonoNews

Deb Tsorbaris is the CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, the peak body for child and family services in Victoria.

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