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The Innovation for Community Impact Program (I4CI) is using the collective resources of the NSW Government, philanthropy and local communities to tackle some of the state’s most pressing social issues across 10 regional local government areas.

Facilitated by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), the program provides grants of up to $100,000 to support innovation and sustainable social change in areas such as family and domestic violence, education disengagement, criminal behaviour and unemployment.

With assistance from Philanthropy Australia, seven philanthropic donors (Snow Foundation, nib foundation, Flannery Foundation, Katz Family Foundation, Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, Sally Foundation and CAGES Foundation) have contributed $270,000 towards a $500,000 philanthropic sector target, to match the NSW Department of Families & Community Services $500,000 contribution. The collaboration will invest $1 million in innovative projects in regional and rural communities.

Recipients of the first grant round were announced in early April with $479,000 awarded across 13 projects.  Natalie Egleton, Program Manager at FRRR says the collaborative funding model has been an eye opener for many communities.

“Philanthropy can be a bit of a mystery to smaller nonprofits and communities,” she says. “One of the aspirations of I4CI is to support projects that are innovative in their approach to addressing social issues but may also, for a range of reasons, be difficult for either government or philanthropic trusts and foundations to fund. The collaboration between government and philanthropy enables the best elements of all partners to be drawn upon when considering projects and organisations. It also allows projects to access and connect with funders they might not otherwise be able to connect with in a two-way funding relationship.”

Shared opportunities for philanthropy have also been an early highlight. “There’s been sharing of information, data and insights,” Egleton says. “Some philanthropic donors and government had worked with certain groups before and there was robust discussion and sharing of experiences around the table—it’s like a peer network in a way.”

“The assessment of projects has been so much stronger and deeper as a result of the collaborative approach because we had such a wealth of experience available. It’s early days, but I like to think we’ve made some really good decisions based on the depth of knowledge and the recommendations that have come from bringing all those minds together.”

“It takes transparency and willingness to be open and slightly vulnerable when you work together like this but collaboratively, a little bit goes a long way.”

Emily Fuller, Foundation Manager at Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF) says collaboration was one of the most appealing aspects of I4CI. “We were interested in being involved because it was a unique opportunity to bring philanthropy and the NSW Government together in a collaborative funding process,” she says.

“One of VFFF’s goals is to contribute to the growth and development of Australian philanthropy and closer collaboration with all levels of government is key to augmenting the impact of the philanthropic sector.

“We were also keen to support the call to action that I4CI offered to philanthropic organisations to work together. Collaboration is a challenge for a sector that is built on the varied passions of individuals. Maturing as a sector requires recognition (and action) that using our collective resources is better for the communities we seek to support.”

Amy Tribe, Executive Officer at nib foundation says the appeal of the collaborative approach was the opportunity it presented “to leverage our contribution ten-fold.”

“Even though nib foundation is used to working very closely with our charity partners to achieve a shared vision, this is the first time we have worked collaboratively with other funders,” Tribe says.

“Although we knew that all parties involved were aligned with the broad objectives of this initiative, the devil is often in the detail and this was one of the considerations for us in deciding whether to participate.”

“We have, however, been pleasantly surprised by the ease with which a disparate group of donors, including government, reached consensus on the finer points of developing guidelines, assessing applications and awarding grants,” Tribe says. “Key to this success has been the experienced and professional way FRRR has executed its role as lead coordinating agency.”

“There’s great value in collaborating with like-minded funders,” she continues. “In addition to the added value and efficiency of a collective approach, we’ve gained valuable insights into how other funders think and operate. These learnings will inform our own grant making practice which we are always working to improve.”

The opportunity to share learnings also caught the attention of the CAGES Foundation. Executive Officer, Rachel Kerry says the notion of bringing community, government and philanthropy together helped secure the Foundation’s involvement.

“Each stakeholder has such different but valuable perspectives to share and the real power of collaboration and opportunity for learning from each other came from the potential of working together,” Kerry says.

“I expected conflicting opinions to complicate the process but was delighted to discover that from a funder’s perspective there was such a common view around achieving the best for community, in partnership with community organisations.”

Kerry believes the opportunity to extend philanthropy’s reach has been one of the program’s most valuable early lessons.

“Keep sharing information and keep finding new people, organisations and stakeholders to share with,” she urges.

“You can fund in an area for years and have done so much research but there is still always something valuable to learn or something to share which is valuable to someone else. Obviously there is great efficiency in collaborative funding in terms of the multiplier effect of the funds but there is even greater value in collaborating on information and experiences.”

 

For more information about I4CI or to discuss funding opportunities, contact Natalie Egleton at FRRR n.egleton@frrr.org.au or Katy Tyrrell at Philanthropy Australia ktyrrell@philanthropy.org.au

 

Philanthropy Australia is proud to support this Collective Impact edition.