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Gathering of Australia’s Best and Brightest Minds

As funders, we are often lucky to have the opportunity to talk with academic and civil society leaders. The AEGN’s Sustainability Statement workshop was no exception.

On February 12, 70 amazing environmental leaders gathered at Melbourne University to help the AEGN develop a statement, to be used as part of our work to raise an additional $50 million over the next five years. By bringing together our members with leading experts and environmental campaigners, we were aiming to identify key environmental issues where philanthropic funding could make an impact.

Participants were very excited to hear the AEGN report that AEGN members has already achieved close to $11.5 million of the $50m target with the Purves Tree Clearing Challenge.

So what are the priority issues for philanthropy to respond to? Interestingly, there was little appetite to talk about particular issues. Rather, there was a focus on how to achieve change through communications, storytelling, civil society and making linkages between environmental issues and people. We were challenged to embrace and amplify the change that is already happening in significant and powerful ways.

Strong cross cutting themes emerged from the day including:

  • Communication is key and needs to be values based and meaningful to all individuals.
  • Grassroots community organising and engagement is essential to ensure decision makers are kept under pressure to respond.
  • Being positive and solutions focused is critical as people are not motivated to act by fear but by a vision for a more sustainable world.
  • The focus needs to be on the root causes of problems, not just the symptoms. This includes the consumer economy, deficiencies with our democratic system and the disconnect between people and nature.
  • It’s imperative that we link with other sectors.
  • It’s essential to collaborate with each other and other sectors.

A group of AEGN members is working with AEGN staff to distil the day into a statement to galvanise greater philanthropic giving. We are hoping to have it ready in the coming weeks.

The Ian Potter Foundation (TIPF) played an important role on the day, supporting the AEGN with resources and the thinking and planning in the lead up. We were all very excited to acknowledge that TIPF has added $10m to the $50m challenge by announcing that their major grants program from December 2018 to December 2021 will focus on the environment. These funds will go to:

  • Reduce land based run-off that negatively impacts on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
  • Support high quality organisations working to reduce the impact of climate change on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
  • Support international and national science studies focused on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Support outstanding institutions and/or outstanding individuals seeking to better manage Australia’s fresh water resources in urban and regional areas.

In addition to this we heard that, subject to Board approvals, TIPF and The Myer Foundation are aiming to undertake a detailed scoping study to identify whether a new organisation that solely focuses on how Australia’s fresh water resource is managed is needed. It just goes to show what can happen when you put out a challenge to funders!

There were many great ideas for funders to fund and options for the AEGN to bring about a more collaborative sector and I look forward to sharing them with you shortly.

If you would like to discuss how you might participate in the $50m in 5 years challenge please give us a call. We would be happy to chat about options.