At the recent Philanthropy New Zealand Innovate for Impact Summit, Allan English from the English Family Foundation encouraged funders to be more innovative and collaborative and called on governments to do more to enable innovation.

English acknowledged that while government plays an important role in the community sector, it needs to step into the space to change the rules to enable innovation to take place.

“If we are going to bring about the changes we need to see in society, philanthropy can’t just be in the space of cleaning up the mess,” English said.

“We have to be on the front foot to start bringing about the changes that are needed.”

While he acknowledged one very positive step was the recent allocation in the federal budget of $30 million in funding to establish social impact investing in Australia, English said social procurement was another approach government could look to be doing more effectively.

“Government should start outsourcing some of the funds they are spending toward social enterprise and social procurement to encourage the sector to move forward.”

English also said that philanthropy needs to find new ways to innovate and collaborate.

“Our ability to adapt in a new environment means we need to find new ways to be able to innovate —a way of thinking or backing social entrepreneurs and innovators. We need to collaborate more and share and understand each other’s skills and strengths.”

“There are no competitors in this sector. We are all in this business together so we need to collaborate and share to avoid cost duplication to deliver more efficiency with a greater degree of transparency.”

“We demand of our not-for-profit partners that they have great efficiency in their cost and management of cost, yet from our side of the fence, each time a foundation looks at making a grant, it does a lot of research into that which has a cost to it.”

English also proposed sharing more of the research between foundations which he says will result in less cost and more efficiency – getting collaboration happening in the sector by using bodies like Philanthropy Australia to encourage foundations to “do philanthropy better”.

Allan English’s daughter, Rachel, took the youth perspective on philanthropy and opportunities for innovation through the younger generation of future grantmakers.

“What’s been missing in conversations is that where innovation will evolve is through young people being energised to change the situation,” Rachel said. Generosity_Rachel-English

“The new generation of philanthropy is using technology and community to work together—none of these segments exists in silos anymore.”

“There is a cultural shift toward making philanthropy more accessible through giving circles and organisations such as The Funding Network.”

“There is great leverage that can come from funding with other people and within a group, but also a level of social connection and working toward a common goal which is becoming more important for younger people coming into the space.”

Rachel highlighted the Nexus Global Youth Summit which takes the concept of giving together to the next level with a global network of philanthropists under 40.

“With 70 per cent of wealth transfers failing in one way or another, Nexus exists with the belief that young people will be future leaders and future givers who are receiving this wealth and can create change faster than any government can,” Rachel explained.

“If we can make that change then that’s a very good step for the future.”

Rachel said that by 2061 an estimated 59 trillion US dollars will be transferred from the older generation to her generation in the US alone which is good news for young people who are stepping up and choosing social entrepreneurship as an actual career path.

“That’s innovation in itself, getting out of silos, and that is what will drive this collaboration with social entrepreneurs and social impact investors and non-profit granting partners—it’s key to creating value.”


Collective innovation

Mark Randazzo, CEO of the US-based Engaged Donors for Global Equity (EDGE) Funders Alliance, also spoke of innovation between a collective of large and small philanthropists from around the world.

Generosity_Mark-Randazzo“Funders come to Edge because they want to lift up and to be in a place where they can discuss some of society’s larger broader and long term issues,” Randazzo said.

EDGE organises within philanthropy to raise awareness and deepen understanding of the interconnected nature of the social, economic and ecological crises threatening the world’s common future. The organisation works to increase resources for communities and movements creating systemic change alternatives for a transition to a society that supports justice, equity and the well-being of the planet.

“It’s a space for funders with an interest in focusing their work with civil society leaders and community-based organisations and social movements,” Randazzo explained.

EDGE is a community with approximately 90 donors, foundation officers and advisors mostly from Europe and the US with a few Latin American members, who share knowledge, tools and approaches and a shared commitment to global social change.

As yet there are no members from Australia and New Zealand—something Randazzo is seeking to change.

“It offers an opportunity that is fairly unique within philanthropy to zoom up from the day-to-day work funders do, to think about the ways in which the crises that we are all facing are systemic in nature and to look at ways in which global governance and global trends are important.

“It also provides a sense of the grassroots organisations and movements around the world and what they are doing to inspire the work they do locally.“

Randazzo hopes his recent visit to Australasia for the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network conference and the Philanthropy New Zealand conference might encourage funders from the region to sign up. With a number of New Zealand funders keen on membership he anticipates there may be some Australian funders who follow suit.



Traci Wiliams is a former Australian diplomat and ABC journalist. An Indigenous Australian, former Chevening Scholar and Churchill Fellow, she is currently a PhD Candidate at Swinburne University researching philanthropic giving to Indigenous causes. Socialab is her avenue for consultancy work advising on Indigenous affairs and engagement. 


Photos by Ben Lawrence.