t1Seri Renkin, Managing Director of the ten20 Foundation, on how place-based, collective impact initiatives contribute to long-term systems change, and how the Opportunity Child initiative – ten20’s key collective impact investment – is gaining momentum in this space.

At the ten20 Foundation, we know that local conditions are different in every community. Because of this, we also understand that national and state policies and philanthropic approaches must create the conditions for solutions that are relevant to people living in unique community contexts. Each unique community requires a long-term, place-based approach to build their own community leadership, alignment and governance, so that the community own and drive their own outcomes specific to their particular needs.

Working with others to co-create new models for shared learning and impact in the early childhood system is the singular focus of the ten20 Foundation. We’ve invested significantly to build the infrastructure and ecosystem that will allow the ‘how’ of collective impact to grow, flourish and remain accountable to its goals.

Innovation isn’t new in the field of early childhood development, nor in philanthropy itself. But if we want to make long term systems change, innovation in small pockets isn’t enough – we need to innovate across organisations, sectors and, indeed, geographies.

Opportunity Child initiative gaining momentum

Opportunity Child is ten20’s key ‘collective impact’ investment – and it is rapidly building momentum. In a little under two years, ten20, along with co-convenor Woodside and our other partners, has generated tremendous support and energy for this collective initiative.

Opportunity Child brings together six partner communities who are all applying the collective impact approach, along with eight leading national partner organisations who are aligning their contributions. As a collective, Opportunity Child is focused ultimately on improving the lives of the 65,000 five-year-old children who start school each year in Australia with big challenges in learning and in life.

The first step towards this goal is to create positive change for children in the six Opportunity Child partner communities, as well as starting the important innovation work with other like-minded leaders and organisations to change the system nationally. The issue we are working on – early childhood vulnerability – is global in scale and importance.

Rethinking early childhood investment

ten20 continues to work with its partners to change the pathway for vulnerable children, by rethinking how we invest. This is not based on some warm, fuzzy notion. On the contrary, there is significant evidence that investing in the health and wellbeing of children – particularly young children aged 0-8 – has huge economic benefits. By investing in early childhood, we can stop issues before they start. The connections from birth to pre-school to reading proficiency to high school completion – a bare minimum in today’s economy – could not be clearer.

We are developing an approach to ‘de-risk’ systems change investments for investors and prove that the community driven, collective impact model is socially and economically viable. This is not an alternative to grant making – but rather a complementary approach that moves beyond ‘giving away money’ to actually aligning with others to solve social problems. The really smart investors right now know that you have to do both – invest in the capacity for change, as well as in specific programs.

Seri Renkin
Managing Director, ten20 Foundation

Recently Liz Gillies, Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Social Impact Centre at the Melbourne Business School, visited the ten20 Foundation offices to film a series of video podcast interviews.

In this video podcast with Caroline Chernov, Executive Director of the ten20 Foundation, Liz and Caroline discuss the importance of collaboration in the work of ten20 and Opportunity Child, the initiative we support and host.

(Photo above: by Flickr user m.sanhuezacelsi)

t1Seri Renkin, Managing Director of the ten20 Foundation, reflects on the major themes from the recent Leadership 2016 summit in Canberra and the Asia Pacific Venture Philanthropy Network conference in Hong Kong.

In early June this year, I attended the Leadership 2016 summit in Canberra with 200 leaders from a range of civil society and non-profit organisations. The shared message from this gathering, held just before our federal election, could not have been clearer: all who attended are absolutely committed to building an innovative, inclusive, sustainable and resilient Australian society.

So much of what we have accepted as “the way things are done” needs to be re-imagined and adapted for a very different world. However, the vision, sacrifice and risk that it takes to initiate and drive change of this order is impossible for one individual leader or party to hold accountability for, or represent.

The challenge we all face now is to move beyond this resolve to find new ways of working together, across communities, sectors, political ideologies and systems. Working independently – or worse, in silos – won’t drive the kind of results we all want for Australia.

How do our public and private institutions align their efforts to an overarching bi-partisan national agenda?  What organising structures can drive short-term reactive and long-term systemic strategies at the same time? Do our public policy experts have the reputation, independence and legitimacy to support collective advocacy around issues that matter for future generations of Australians?

Like many Australians, ten20 aspires to a new social contract that moves beyond historical political ideology and fear and provides a shared framework for our nation to achieve its future potential. In Australia there is no shortage of resources and goodwill, but time is of the essence. New leadership is urgently required from all parts of our society.

Asian region poised for change

Many of the themes from the Leadership 2016 summit were echoed at the Asia Pacific Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) conference in Hong Kong at the end of May. Speaking on a multi-sector panel about how funders can support communities to drive systems change, I was struck by how much we can share and learn alongside our Asian neighbours.

The Asian region is struggling with some of the most challenging and complex development issues in the world, yet there was a tangible sense among conference goers and presenters that there are also significant opportunities there. Various presentations focused on new forms of governance, multi sector collaboration, community development, community-centred design, entrepreneurship, digital disruption and policy and systems change.

There was growing recognition, too, that change makers in Asia need to move further up the food chain to better understand and transform public policy and the dysfunctional systems they work in. This recognition was balanced with discussions and presentations that explored how business disruption strategies could create new markets, offering fresh solutions to the region’s complex social, environmental and economic problems.

ten20 – driving collective innovation

At the ten20 Foundation, we identify strongly with this need for fresh solutions to complex problems. We advocate for new thinking, different answers and a more efficient use of resources to create opportunities for everyone in our community. We can see that community leaders and organisations around Australia are increasingly wrestling with questions about how to address the underlying conditions in our society to enable change to occur – and for communities themselves to work together to change our society.

We believe new forms of funding are key to catalysing, convening and supporting the learning networks, knowledge creation and changes in practice and mindset required for real transformation to happen. The approach we are taking is unique because we are resourcing the infrastructure required for ‘collective impact’, led by communities, to drive local and national innovation together. At ten20, we recognise that people-centred approaches are the key to addressing complex problems and place-based disadvantage.

Seri Renkin
Managing Director, ten20 Foundation