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The funders of tomorrow unite for lasting change

5 March 2021 at 5:35 pm
Maggie Coggan
The fifth biennial NEXUS Australia Summit featured international speakers such as Dr Jane Goodall DBE, and Valerie Rockefeller, chair of Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Maggie Coggan | 5 March 2021 at 5:35 pm


The funders of tomorrow unite for lasting change
5 March 2021 at 5:35 pm

The fifth biennial NEXUS Australia Summit featured international speakers such as Dr Jane Goodall DBE, and Valerie Rockefeller, chair of Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Over 170 of Australia’s most influential next generation philanthropists, impact investors and leading social changemakers have gathered to find solutions for some of the most pressing problems currently faced by the world. 

Taking place over two days via virtual and physical events in Sydney and Melbourne,  this year’s biennial event had the theme “building tomorrow today”, something NEXUS Australia co-chair Lucy Steggles said had never been more relevant.

“In the wake of the intersecting crises of 2020 it’s vital young philanthropists and investors come together at this moment to discuss new approaches,” Steggles said.   

NEXUS Australia is part of the global NEXUS network that supports 6,000 members across more than 70 countries. NEXUS’ young wealth-holders represent over $700 billion in combined family net worth.

Speakers at this year’s event included world renowned conservationist, Dr Jane Goodall DBE; chair of Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Valerie Rockefeller; founder and CEO of Tobacco Free Portfolios, Bronwyn King AO; and Australia’s first Indigenous consul-general, Benson Saulo. 

Rachel English, NEXUS Australia co-founder, told Pro Bono News that everything from racial injustice, democracy, and climate change was covered at the summit, equipping attendees with the tools to rethink their philanthropy or funding practices to make more impact. 

“There are funders out there being expanded in the way that they’re thinking about giving power to communities or why impact investments or investments generally can help address racial inequalities if you’re investing in black businesses,” English said.  

“I think sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, and so coming in, hearing from domestic and international speakers has really expanded the way that people are seeing things.” 

The summit also took on issues a little closer to home, discussing the power imbalance that exists between philanthropic funders and the causes they are funding. 

Read more: We need to talk about racism in philanthropy 

English said that she did not believe these “frank and powerful” conversations would be taking place unless everyone was in the same place.  

“To know that the 200 other delegates that came along are probably having similar conversations about the way that we do philanthropy and the way that we engage people as philanthropists is really exciting,” she said. 

In 12 weeks time, attendees will be invited back to discuss and document the steps they have taken to create lasting change discussed during the summit. 

“This is about building in that accountability piece by bringing our members back together and actually asking what they’ve shifted in the way that they are behaving, whether that’s as funders or as changemakers,” English said. 

“Because this has been a great three days, but if it’s just three days, then we’ve failed.” 

Young people to the front 

She said that events such as these were critical for young changemakers, philanthropists, and funders as a way to build networks and shift thinking to solve future problems.  

“We talk a lot in NEXUS about the trillions of dollars set to be transferred down into our generation and the incredible opportunity to harness that for positive social change,” she said. 

“If you get people that have resources and people that have ideas together, that can catalyse things so much faster than anywhere else.”

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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