Why business leaders should get out more; lessons from the outer suburbs
Submitted by United Way Australia, 25 Mar 2013
With all of the shenanigans that have been going on in Canberra in recent times you could easily be excused for ‘switching off’ at the mere mention of any of our political leaders. This is totally understandable but also a shame because sometimes we can throw the baby out with the bathwater. Take for example the PM’s visit to Western Sydney, it’s easy to be cynical about the politics of this but the principle of leaders listening first-hand to people in these often overlooked communities is a good one. And here’s something you may not have considered: Leaders of Australian Corporations would do well to follow the PM’s example and spend some time in the outer suburbs of our cities. This would bring insights to businesses and opportunities to provide support to communities grappling with significant social and economic challenges.
As a resident of a suburb on the fringe of south western Sydney, I travel every day to the CBD and know only too well the tremendous potential in these communities. In many ways they represent the future Australia – in 2010/11 the ABS found that the outer suburbs represented two thirds of the growth in the Australian population. These suburbs are characterised by many young families settling for greater housing affordability, young adults choosing to stay close to home and start their careers and new migrants investing their skills and capabilities in the local economies. All of this is borne out in the entrepreneurial energy of these communities which are the heartland for business in Australia.
Corporate leaders would do well to take notice of the opportunities these communities present to Australia because it’s in the outer suburbs that they will find their future customers with their increased discretionary income, their future skilled workforce will the have the luxury of choice in a labour market fighting for the right skills and a growing group of small businesses ready to compete as suppliers.
Of course the picture in the outer suburbs of our cities isn’t all rosy. As we keep hearing, there are significant infrastructure challenges that make it difficult for residents in outer suburbs to access goods and services and to commute to work every day- and they’re just a few of the challenges! A good number of these communities would be classified as disadvantaged and we know that only 43 per cent of kids from disadvantaged communities will continue into higher education. One in three will leave school without any career prospects. If the new frontier in our national economic debate is going to focus on improving productivity then here’s the low hanging fruit.
Australia is surprisingly one of the most urbanised communities in the world. Focusing on our outer suburbs will be critical to strengthening the social and economic capital of our cities. These issues are not solely the domain of our political leaders but require the attention and commitment of corporate leaders. Why? Because you can’t operate a successful business in a failed community. I’m sure most of our corporate leaders know all this but seeing the potential and the challenges of our outer suburbs is a different thing altogether. You could do this by having your next executive retreat in one of these communities, commuting with some of your employees one day to work or getting to know your future workforce through one of the local high schools. Perhaps the PM’s onto something in getting first-hand experience in the Rooty Hill’s of Australian cities.
Doug Taylor – CEO, United Way Australia
Tags: Australia's outer suburbs, Collective impact, Community Impact, corporate engagement, Corporate Social Responsibility, corporate volunteering, CSR, Employee engagement, Evidence-based need, Outer Suburbs Sydney, professional volunteering, Rooty Hill, Social Exclusion, social return, Sydney, United Way
Charting a course for change – advancing education, income and health through collective impact
Submitted by unitedway, 18 Jul 2012
The challenges facing communities today seem almost overwhelming – and are too big for any single organisation to solve; too big even for the non-profit sector to solve without engaging private enterprise and government as partners. There is no single “silver bullet”; instead, a strong cross-sector infrastructure is needed to support collaboration, guide evidence-based decision-making, track community-level outcomes, scan existing resources and identify priority strategies.
This newly released report is a good starting point for any community that wants to improve education, health and financial stability. It brings together high-impact strategies and expert-vetted implementation approaches for communities to consider as they sort through how best to tackle their individual challenges.
Having well-researched data-driven strategies is critical, but strategies alone cannot solve our society’s problems. Instead we must adopt a new way of working by bringing nonprofits, governments, businesses, and the public together around a common agenda to create collective impact. Our research has shown that a collective impact approach can produce large scale social change in ways that other forms of collaboration and individual efforts have not.
Collective impact is a disciplined effort to bring together dozens or even hundreds of organisations of all types to establish a common vision and pursue evidence-based actions in mutually reinforcing ways. Successful collective impact initiatives share five key conditions, distinguishing them from other types of collaboration:
- Common Agenda
- Shared Measurement
- Mutually Reinforcing Activities
- Continuous Communication
- Backbone Support
United Ways are powerfully positioned to lead this new way of solving our society’s daunting problems.
United Ways can train the spotlight on critical issues, engage with private and public sector leaders, and coordinate agendas with partners to leverage collective efforts. In many communities, FSG has found the traditional role of United Way as “neutral convener” is transforming to become the galvanizing force behind collective impact.
- Mark Kramer
Mark Kramer is co-founder and Managing Director of FSG (www.fsg.org) and a Senior Fellow at Harvard University. He is the author of influential publications on creating shared value for corporations, catalytic philanthropy, strategic evaluation, impact investing, and adaptive leadership.
Searching for Solutions in Melbourne
Submitted by United Way Australia, 9 May 2012
Our Community Impact work in Melbourne is focused on improving the lives of young people in the outer south-eastern region of the city. This is a region where statistics show high levels of concentrated disadvantage and social exclusion that carries over through the generations. In a series of community conversations and a ‘Search for Solutions Seminar’ we heard of the issues facing the community and also heard the interest, passion and innovative ideas by local community members to improve their communities.
We spoke with Afghan women in Narre Warren and parents of pre-school children in Doveton and heard the challenges of racism, isolation, depression, lack of meaningful employment opportunities and a divided community. These were not dissimilar to the issues raised on ABC’s Q&A program held in Dandenong on Monday night 30 April.
At the same time it became apparent that, with the right resources and support, there is enormous potential for migrant women, many of whom have highly under-utilised skills and face a range of barriers to engage in income producing work, to take control over their own futures and move beyond the challenges they face.
We conducted a ‘Search for Solutions’ seminar in Dandenong on a very wet and miserable Tuesday in late April. A broad group of stakeholders across the education, business and not-for-profit sectors, all with an interest in the region and young people, starting exploring joined-up collaborative solutions and cross sector support that have the potential to create lasting positive change in the conditions for residents.
In both the Seminar and the community conversations, participants were asked basic questions that focused on:
What makes for a vibrant and healthy community?
- What are the key barriers to achieving a vibrant and healthy community in the region?
- What solutions would the participants propose that would assist United Way in maximising its community impact in the region?
Solutions proposed by the community representatives included cultural awareness campaigns, multicultural events and service delivery that integrated communities rather than activities that disintegrated the community along ethnic lines or generational lines. We heard about ideas for education for parents and specific services for newly arrived migrants and refugees.
A key solution identified using local schools as community hubs – as a space for a range of initiatives to assist young people in the areas of education, income security and mental health. Using the school outside of the traditional school hours for a range of community events and projects could utilise the school’s resources 7 days a week and make a real difference to the lives of many community members.
United Way is now exploring how a coalition of individuals and organisations could develop the concept and create what may well be a unique response to the region’s evidence-based need.
Penny van der Sluys,
General Manager, Melbourne