From the CE: The Network Symposium

April 13, 2018

We’ve just wrapped up our two-day Network Symposium in Auckland. With 120 registrations across the four Network meetings, two international presenters, a video link with Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, and 14 local panellists and presenters, the two days were full of connection, conversation and challenge. All of which were marked by energy, good humour, and great engagement across our Youth, Environment, Education and Family Philanthropy Networks.

Philanthropy New Zealand CE Tony Paine draws on highlights from the Symposium, and reflects on the recurring and proactive theme around philanthropy’s role in advocacy: 

Should philanthropy be bolder in expressing political points of view, helping preserve civic space, and funding social movements? Although that takes us into controversial territory, it was a recurring theme of PNZ’s Network Symposium. Several presenters encouraged us to carefully use our power to address the causes of social and environmental problems, influence the policy agenda, move public opinion and build coalitions in the pursuit of solutions to the wicked challenges that are behind so many of the responses and organisations that our grantmaking supports.

Network Symposium

Tony Paine (PNZ) and Tom Kelly (Hawai’i Community Foundation)

Tom Kelly from the Hawai’i Community Foundation offered some nuanced thoughts about our role in what he called “advocacy grantmaking”. He suggested we have the power to change minds, policy and laws in ways that will further our missions. We can “put a flag on a problem and rally people around it”, we can help “convince people that change is possible”, “demonstrate an idea”, or influence others by being an independent convenor of the multiple and often antagonistic stakeholders who need to find ways of working together to address a social, community or environmental concerns.

UK philanthropic and impact consultant David Carrington reminded us we have a role in “speaking truth to power”. That’s a much-used expression but as David quite correctly pointed out, it’s not one that springs to mind when we think of philanthropy. Indeed, he went further to suggest that there were ways in which we could be seen as part of the “power” rather than the speakers of “truth”. He reminded us that even if we couldn’t be part of advocacy ourselves, we could support and resource others who were. Making a difference to any of the problems our world faces demands clear theories of change. It’s hard to see how we can do that without taking positions on the policy, regulatory, legislative and public contexts.

Lani Evans from the Vodafone NZ Foundation shared an early draft of their Youth Accord. PNZ is delighted to support this idea and has been part of the initial conversations about what we think could be a transformative and galvanising act. The Accord—if we can navigate our way to some consensus—will be a powerful and unique symbol of our desire to publicise a collective willingness to address a profound social concern, and to impose upon ourselves a form of public accountability for impact that is often missing from our world. As David Carrington pointed out, philanthropy and grantmaking operates in an environment where the desire for impact, excellence, innovation, and self-accountability has to be self-imposed. No external stakeholder expects or demands these things from us. If we don’t demand them of ourselves, we risk living in a natural state of under-performance and comfort.

My sincere thanks to all who participated in the Symposium, the presenters and facilitators, and to my colleagues at PNZ who work so tirelessly behind the scenes to build and run successful events, especially Yvonne Trask who makes managing logistics and wrangling great content look much easier that it actually is.