As the ten20 Foundation has officially wound down its operations after a decade-long strategy that has seen millions funnelled into empowering disadvantaged communities, the organisation’s CEO looks back on the challenges and triumphs of collective impact…

Opportunity Child was catalysed as an independent legal entity with grants from ten20 Foundation on 24th October 2018.

The establishment of Opportunity Child was an important and exciting milestone for the roll-out of Collective Impact in Australia. It acknowledged the boundaries of ten20’s role as a philanthropic catalyser and the importance of Opportunity Child as an on-going and independent organisation in the CI space.

When ten20 entered the philanthropic sector as a ten-year sunset organisation, it was dedicated to early childhood vulnerability and community-led, collective impact efforts. It saw an urgent need for a national intermediary that:

  • Supported community initiatives in an open source peer-to-peer learning network
  • Focused on the importance of shared data in community planning
  • Linked local insights to national, systems-level discussions around policy reform, and
  • Explored the funding infrastructure required to support local community efforts

ten20 believed that Opportunity Child demonstrated this capability and that its establishment as an independent legal entity positioned it better to help local communities and national systems work differently to improve the lives of young children. Opportunity Child:

  • Evolved its strategy based on ten20’s commitment to Collective Impact
  • Strengthened its senior team to support CEO Dr Dianne Jackson, by hiring Tara Kleine as Director Innovation, Capability and Development with Wendy Mason as Director of Strategy and Operations. Joyce Teo was appointed as  Operations Manager.
  • Secured an influential new board including Ivan Power from Macquarie Group as Chair, and NSW’s former and inaugural Children’s Commissioner, Gillian Calvert.

Under this new arrangement, Opportunity Child received grant payments from ten20 wound down its operations. Unfortunately Opportunity Child was unable to secure sources of further funding from a wider range of players committed to improving early childhood vulnerability through community-led, collective impact and closed its doors in January 2020. Many communities are continuing to drive the placed based CI model to address childhood vulnerability and other critical areas.

At South Australia’s very first Collective Impact Symposium hosted by Together SA, Seri reflected on ten20 Foundation’s journey and shared some lessons learnt as a catalytic funder on how to influence lasting, systemic change. Here is a blog version of Seri’s keynote.

In 2013 I sat with a group of non-profit, government and philanthropic leaders in a room in Adelaide, convened in a new conversation called – Together South Australia. The intent was bold – how could they change the way they worked together to create better futures for all South Australians?  Especially given the increasing complexity of the social, economic and environmental challenges experienced by regional and urban South Australian (SA) communities.

The leaders around the table asked not only what do we need to do, but also how do we do it within a democratic system that is increasingly failing to address systemic issues of inequity and inequality. Of note this was a time when the SA Government was reviewing the child protection system and GMH was winding back its manufacturing operations in Adelaide. There was genuine concern that communities with families already facing complex problems, were going to be even worse off.

Now four and half years later I observe a movement taking place in South Australia and other Australian states. It is a pioneering movement and one I hope will be embraced more widely. It’s the movement that runs counter to, and in spite of an overall lack of institutional leadership. The leadership, that whilst holding a lot of power, is often not close enough to the problems they are authorised and resourced to solve.

This is a community organised movement dedicated to building new ways of doing things for its citizens and stakeholders. It has at its centre the ideas, voices and lived experiences of those that are often left behind or forgotten in the organisational noise. Its undertaking is all about what it’s going to take to build a prosperous, inclusive and engaged Australia where everyone gets the chance, at the right time, for the best opportunities in life. A nation where the lottery of birth, which dictates your first experiences of family and community, doesn’t necessarily predict (or stigmatise) the direction of your life.

Social change of this scale progresses at the speed of trust. But as I reflect on the last four years of the collective impact movement in Australia, I recognise there are more of us starting to think and work differently with communities to break cycles of inequality and inequity in Australia. We now understand that the question before us is not why, or even what needs to change. We have enough research and data that tells us this. Instead we are interested in how we build the eco systems around entrenched social issues and resource the collective efforts required to develop a proof of concept around working differently. How do we manage the change required to embed new leadership models, authorising environments, organising structures and networks? How do we enable the shared learning, measurement and communication of the progress of place based collective impact, to ensure these efforts have the time to drive long term population level change?

As a catalytic funder, I’d like to reflect on four key areas:

  • The promising progress that comes when funders intentionally catalyse and/or support the development of a social innovation eco-system, responding differently to enable communities to develop a proof of concept and evidence base to share with others;
  • The changing role of funders in supporting new collective investment models, to embed and sustain community driven, collective
  • Four areas of new knowledge about this work – that can influence lasting, systemic change and
  • What’s next in terms of going the right way – it’s all about bold leadership and this includes philanthropy.


Catalysing an innovative eco system to develop a proof of concept

All too often, we want quick and easy solutions, even when we intuitively know that sizeable change requires a different formula. And while moving to a more nuanced understanding of how we address disadvantage is easier said than done, the principles that drive local innovation and a collective impact response are really based on common sense.

What ten20 Foundation is seeing in this long term systemic work across communities and organisations is that when we invest in structures to create new knowledge, evidence and practice, and when we at the same time support this with smart learning networks that connect up and embed local insights and challenges, we make progress. In this progress we are starting to observe new ways of coordinating and organising locally so that communities can improve their own prospects. A broader network of stakeholders has a greater understanding of the effort, time, risk and co-ordination it takes to develop shared accountability across a network, that sustains long term change. And through this new knowledge, these stakeholders (although still in pockets) are bringing different ways of measuring and interpreting data together to learn – allowing refinement and adaption of the collective effort on the ground.

A part of the new formula are intermediaries like Opportunity Child, that are essential for establishing critical evidence and proof of concept of the approach, peer to peer learning to support local skills building as well as providing the conduit to connect local work up to influence policy at the national level.


Changing roles of funders engaged in collective impact

At the same time there are an increasing group of funders speaking up on behalf of new approaches to support community led innovation and change. As we engage directly with communities we are finding other funders that have the appetite and ability to partner for collective impact. And the power of funders partnering, is that we have more resources to support the capacity it takes for innovation in community and across the non-profit system. It also means we learn more about how the collective impact approach works in practice and how we as funders can invest in: new notions of power, trust building, the strengthening of relationships across an eco-system, skilling up community leaders, scaling impact and taking on shared risk.

At ten20 Foundation we have been testing with community partners multi year, but long term seed grants as well as changing our own practices so that we can provide additional rapid response funding to support the unexpected costs of local learning and change. In high performing initiatives like Logan Together in Queensland, philanthropic, federal, state and local government are exploring how to align around collective place based social investment and service commissioning models.

New precedents will be established that allow others to think about how they might adapt these models to their own contexts.


Four areas of new knowledge that differentiate collective impact efforts

Like any new blue-print, the road to success is always under construction and we are continually evolving our funding approach in the light of what we learn. At ten20 our view based on our work with communities thus far is that: 

  1. We must invest in highly competent backbone leaders that drive local coordinated innovation and shared action. These leaders can be supported by a network of backbone functions (can be an organisation) but must have ability to engage with the public sector to add value locally.
  2. We must empower, and actively engage with the very communities who are impacted – supporting the additional resources and networks required to undertake collective impact efforts. Most importantly this includes investing in local skill development to enable sense making of community data and stories and co-design of improved solutions. As well as the processes required to set up effective decision making structures so that communities can take action.
  3. We must realign our funding and resources to make it more agile and accountable to community shared goals and plans.
  4. We must invest in the platforms and networks like Opportunity Child and Together South Australia, required to build and scale up the field of practice.


Next Steps

The highest potential collective impact initiatives we see are successful because of the small considered steps that keep them moving forward. That slowly accumulate into something more. Mostly, these steps are pioneered by a small group of change makers that lead a new path and think differently about the way they engage with other stakeholders. This takes enormous courage.

And It starts with how we as individuals show up to the work and think about social change; how we engage with the people and the communities we seek to serve; and act on what is in their best interests, as opposed to ours. It starts with how we stand in the arena day after day, how we persist no matter what the setbacks, how we bring our vulnerability to the complexity of the work, with the courage to not avoid the “hard stuff.”

And through this I see the power of the local leaders who are able to reflect on and share their personal learnings of doing the work to others, giving permission for mind shift changes more broadly.

At the end of the day this is the work – if we believe in the notion of common good and want to see Australia reach its potential as a prosperous and just social democracy.


Featured in the September issue of SVA Quarterly, Caroline and Seri were interviewed about ten20 Foundation’s journey. ten20 shared our story and lessons learned. Here are extracts from the article.

Since transforming from service delivery organisation to catalytic funder, ten20 Foundation has been on a steep learning curve. ten20 shares its story and what its learnt about funding collective impact initiatives to bring about systems change.

Article Summary:

  • ten20 Foundation describes its journey to become a catalytic funder of early childhood collective impact projects to bring about systems change.
  • The national initiative, Opportunity Child coordinates learning and change amongst the six participating partner communities and has developed a shared goal to align partners and communities around results.
  • ten20 Foundation funds qualifying partner communities to build capacity and also to quickly address unexpected obstacles
  • Learnings from the journey include: that affecting systems change is hard because it involves behaviour and organisational change; the importance of listening to the community; and how to leverage other funds and build local ownership and sustainability.

Lessons about being a catalytic funder:

1. Changing the conversation is hard work

“To change the way the system works, you need to change practices and mindsets at every level, individual, organisational, in the local community, and policy and government “

2. Listening to community

Renkin reflects, “We failed to appropriately listen and understand where that community was at; as funders we let that community and ourselves down. We’re grateful to them for respecting our learning ground and being the guinea pig. It was a critical experience for us.”

3. Building local ownership and sustainability

“We realised that we can catalyse backbone infrastructure, but it’s important for us to exit and let local people and organisations – the local stakeholders – step in and lead their change”

4. Leveraging the investment

“A good example is Logan Together, the Queensland urban community where we leveraged our seed funding at a ratio of 1:20 which really gave them the platform they needed,”… ten20 committed $100,000 per annum for five years. This led to a significant commitment from the Queensland and Federal Governments, as well as other philanthropists such as the Dusseldorp Forum.

5. The capacity building required is the same no matter the social issue

“We are all asking the same strategic question, whether we’re working in early childhood or juvenile justice. How can we scale up the new funding models that are critical to enable others to engage?”

6. The role of philanthropy in terms of influence and advocacy

“This underscores our interest in finding places or spaces where we can work with others in the system,” explains Chernov. “One funder alone is not going to get the systems change needed so it’s really important that we work nationally and locally with the other voices around this.”

What’s next for ten20?

“We continue to fund and support conditions for local collective impact work, and in addition, are placing increasing emphasis on partnering with other funders for knowledge capture and systems shift around funding conditions,” says Chernov.

Renkin affirms, our greatest learning is that catalytic philanthropy must continue to play a role in seeding the conditions and capacity for early childhood systems change. “So, we continue to support Opportunity Child and remain focused on addressing the broader funding barriers that prohibit, rather than advance, these emerging community initiatives in Australia.”

>>> Read the full story and listen to a podcast of the interview on SVA Quarterly

Harwood value proposition: “If you Turn Outward and make more intentional judgments and choices in creating change, you will produce greater relevance and impact in your community.”

At the ten20 Foundation, Woodside Energy, FRRR and Philanthropy Australia we recognise we need to shift our ways of working and thinking to solve the complex social problems we have in Australia.

Such a shift requires a change of mindset and practice to place communities, each with their unique contexts and experiences, squarely at the centre of any change effort.

This requires both dedication and hard work.  We are challenging long-held assumptions around how we work, and we are open to fresh ways of thinking and partnering so we can create new and more effective solutions.

As a result, we have come together as a small group of funders and invited The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to conduct its Public Innovators Labs in Australia.

These labs are internationally recognised for supporting leadership in Turning Outward – working with diverse groups of community and cross sector stakeholders to build the foundations for the mindset and practice shifts we need for success. Rich Harwood brings to the Labs practical, hands on experience of Australian communities ensuring learning is tailored to our cultural context.

We are proud to join with Woodside Energy, FRRR and Philanthropy Australia with in-kind support from Centre for Social Impact, University of Western Australia, to host Rich Harwood and his colleagues.  We hope you will be able to join us on this change journey.

Follow this link for event details and booking:

Our Managing Director, Seri Renkin, presented the 30th annual WJ Craig lecture on Friday, October 21 in Melbourne, with a speech entitled ‘The art of how: Intergenerational disadvantage and collective impact’. Here is the full text of her speech.

Before I start, I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered and pay my respect to their elders past and present.

Thank you for the opportunity to deliver this year’s WJ Craig lecture – it is indeed a privilege to recognise the great philanthropic work started by WJ Craig more than a century ago. Read more “Seri Renkin presents 30th annual WJ Craig lecture”

Seri Renkin, Managing Director of the ten20 Foundation, describes how our new Funders Roadmap, co-designed with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in the US, has been developed to ‘de-risk’ funders’ and communities’ investment in innovative collective impact work.

At the ten20 Foundation, 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 find the support they need to work together for progress. We believe new forms of funding are key to catalysing, convening and sustaining the knowledge creation, learning networks, and changes in practice and mindset required for real transformation to happen.

The ten20 Foundation recognises that people-centred approaches are critical to addressing complex problems and place-based disadvantage. National and state policies and philanthropic approaches must enable solutions that are relevant to people living in unique community contexts. Read more “Creating a pathway for funders and communities to work together”

Seri Renkin, Managing Director of the ten20 Foundation, on how our collaboration with key partners such as Rich Harwood of the Harwood Institute is designed to shift the focus of the Australian philanthropic sector towards large-scale, long-term systems change.

mainstreamAt ten20, we want to see collective impact investments and catalytic philanthropy move from the margins to the mainstream. It is new territory for many philanthropists in this country, but we aim to help guide the sector towards a new approach that we are certain will benefit investors, vulnerable children and society at large. Read more “Moving catalytic philanthropy to the mainstream”

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 Seri Renkin, Managing Director (formerly CEO) of the ten20 Foundation, Liz and Seri discuss what smart philanthropic investment in early childhood outcomes looks like. Read more “Video: Smart investment in early childhood outcomes”

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