Seri 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.
Managing Director, ten20 Foundation