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Why don’t changemakers in the social sector get the recognition they deserve?


28 October 2021 at 7:00 am
Karen Mahlab AM
Pro Bono Australia founder and CEO Karen Mahlab AM reflects on the Impact 25 Awards and the importance of celebrating those working to generate positive social change, often without thanks or recognition.  


Karen Mahlab AM | 28 October 2021 at 7:00 am


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Why don’t changemakers in the social sector get the recognition they deserve?
28 October 2021 at 7:00 am

Pro Bono Australia founder and CEO Karen Mahlab AM reflects on the Impact 25 Awards and the importance of celebrating those working to generate positive social change, often without thanks or recognition.  

Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25 Awards are one of the highlights of my year. 

It is truly inspiring to read through the work of those who have been nominated and see the breadth and variety of the work that is going on in communities around Australia. People from all walks of life, all types of experience, all types of cultures and all sectors are striving to make the world a better place. It gives me hope built on solid evidence that the world is full of excellent people! 

It also makes me proud that we are able to pay tribute to a sector that often shies away from self-promotion and is reluctant to fanfare its own achievements.

I’m always struck by how modest, self-effacing and reluctant to take the credit our Impact 25 winners are.

Whenever we tell people that they have been chosen to be part of the final 25, almost without fail one of the first things they say is that the award is really shared with the teams around them and the people they are working to support. 

It occurs to me that this hesitancy to seek out praise means that so often those engaging with the social economy – whether that is by working for a charity, running a social enterprise, donating time or money or investing in impact – do not get the recognition they deserve. 

This is one of the things that makes the awards so special for me.

This sector is full of people who give so much of themselves, fuelled by the desire to contribute to the greater good. Often their heart, head and spirit are deeply engaged with the social change they hope to achieve. 

The problems we are tackling are often wicked systemic problems. It can take years, even decades to see efforts come to fruition. When you know how great the task is, it can be hard to step back and it is one of the reasons that burnout can be such an issue.

In this context putting your hand up for an award is not front of mind.

But in spending all your time focused on what needs to change, you can forget to look at what has been achieved. There are so many reasons to celebrate. 

Celebrating along the way can be generative and provide inspiration to keep going.

So I encourage everyone to think about the people they know who are having a big impact and nominate them for the 2022 Impact 25 Awards.

It’s time to shout from the rooftops about how great the people in the purpose sector are. They won’t go unnoticed and unthanked on our watch!

Find out more about the 2022 Impact 25 Awards here. And if this has made you think of someone who is making a big impact, nominate them now.


Karen Mahlab AM  |  Founder  |  @kmahlab

Karen Mahlab AM is the Founder and CEO of Pro Bono Australia. In 2015 she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to the Not for Profit sector and philanthropic initiatives.

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