Collaboration key to a better tomorrow
4 May 2021 at 7:00 am
By taking fresh approaches, grassroots charities can play a vital role in the community sector. Two AMP Tomorrow Fund grant recipients and founders share their stories of collaboration and innovation.
Because everyone needs a bed
Carmen Platt knows there are no stupid questions. Curiosity led her to co-found The Generous and the Grateful (GG), a grassroots charity that has been helping Sydney caseworkers provide clients with vital household goods since 2017.
While volunteering with Mums4Refugees, Platt saw the many ways that community service agencies transformed lives. Yet she was surprised by the delays between people being offered housing and receiving the key items needed to make it a home. So she started asking questions.
To help caseworkers boost security for their clients – including domestic abuse survivors and at-risk youth – Platt began collecting beds, sofas and fridges on a trailer. But with backgrounds in equity research and photography, founding a charity was never on the cards.
“Heavens no! I just wanted to know why families escaping harm didn’t have beds. The more I looked into it, the more I understood,” Platt says.
“Pre-loved goods are readily available, but collating and getting them there is tricky. We deliver the large goods so caseworkers can focus more on vital support like employability and mental health.”
Today, GG connects those in need with quality items sourced from hotels, online retailers and private donors. It recovers some costs with service fees by the item for caseworkers funded to establish tenancies, and raises funds for those that can’t. GG also channels smaller designer goods to Lifeline for resale.
With only four part-time employees, GG relies on its 54 volunteers – some in its Ryde warehouses, and many providing remote customer support and project management.
“Our volunteers step up because they believe everyone has a better chance in life if they can sleep well, eat well and present well,” Platt says.
In 2020, the team’s can-do, collaborative approach turned 489 properties into inviting homes and re-directed 122 tonnes from landfill. They average 11 homes per week in just two dispatch days.
“I picture life as a highwire act. Sometimes your performance goes well and sometimes you fall. When the safety net is intact, you bounce back. But when there’s a gap, you may slip through. GG is one small part of that net. By joining with others, we help more people bounce back,” Platt says.
“I am looking for organisations of a similar mindset, values and governance to see how we could partner. We’re all working towards the same goal, often with the same limitations, so let’s change things up.”
While Platt received a $30,000 AMP Tomorrow Fund grant in recognition of her work, she insists it is a shared effort.
“I am proud to be a founder, but GG’s is the sum of the contributions of many amazing people sharing their minds, muscles, services, warehouses, vehicles and, most of all, heart,” she says.
“I’ve been dealt a good hand in life and didn’t have experience in social services, so there was a bit of imposter syndrome early on. Then I realised it is a superpower because questions lead to deeper understanding and receiving of wisdom.”
Equalising education online
Bronwyn Covill founded Need a Tutor with Michele Layet in 2018 with the intention of providing a self-serve platform to connect students with tutors online. It would act like a broker – or an educational Airbnb.
During a career in corporate learning and development, Covill became interested in social educational support. By the time Need a Tutor was launched, she was serving on the board of Cambodian Kids Can – a not for profit empowering young Cambodian women through education.
The opportunity to take Need a Tutor down the for-purpose path came when she was approached to provide one-on-one video tutoring to Indigenous, remote and disadvantaged children through schools and community learning centres.
“Working with these children made us realise the impact we could have,” Covill says. “It turned our focus to providing support to young people in real need – and meant we could work for good in the community. There was no looking back when we decided to go down that path.”
Need a Tutor offers organisations involved with educating children and youth in remote, isolated or disadvantaged circumstances, accessible and secure support from experienced educators Australia-wide. This tutoring has greatly improved literacy and numeracy levels, school attendance and completion rates.
With online learning now widespread, and COVID-enforced school shutdowns resulting in a 10-fold increase in demand in tutoring services, Covill believes Need a Tutor has great potential.
“Technology is playing a huge part in the learning space, giving access and equity like never before,” she says. “Through our proprietary technology and matching service, we ensure the utmost in safety, security and effectiveness in remote support. This creates a pathway towards tertiary admission, employment and economic security.”
Need a Tutor is supported by charities, foundations, large corporates and school equity funding. Its profits subsidise Indigenous and rural education in Australia and tutoring girls in Cambodia.
Recognition of Covill’s work, including a Pride of Australia Award and a Pro Bono Australia Impact 25 nomination, led to the creation of Enrise – a charity enabling tax-deductible donations. Established with help from her $20,000 Tomorrow Fund grant, it delivers educational support, learning aids and donated devices to students in need.
“Post-COVID we’ve seen huge demand and, if not for the Tomorrow Fund, we would have struggled to establish Enrise and extend our reach and impact,” Covill says.
With the eighth Tomorrow Fund now open, head of AMP Foundation Helen Liondos is looking forward to supporting more social entrepreneurs like Platt and Covill.
“The Tomorrow Fund has the flexibility to help early-stage enterprises to formalise structures and build capacity,” Liondos says.
“While it’s not just for not-for-profit founders – individuals doing great things in any field can apply – those Tomorrow Makers certainly epitomise what the program is all about.”
Australians of all ages, interests and walks of life can apply for an AMP Tomorrow Fund grant until 9 June at ampstomorrowfund.com.au.