A year ago, it seemed like a great idea to co-host the Annual National Community Foundation Forum in Melbourne. The thought was, what a fabulous way to celebrate the anniversaries of Australian Communities Foundation and Inner North Community Foundation.
12 months on, after adding a third co-host in the Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation, organizing three days of conferencing and an Anniversary Event at the Fitzroy Town Hall for 200 people, someone asked – was it still a good idea?
Hosting the conference gave the Inner North an opportunity to demonstrate place-based philanthropy in an urban context.
Our Foundation covers an area with about 400,000 people, out of a city of over 4 million. While it manifests differently in built up areas compared to rural or regional areas, the connections we build around place is just as important.
The NCFF17 spoke about how belonging begins with place. It was a focus on the first day of NCFF17, and the name of a session. It was important for the organisers to have people rooted in the place of the conference, and delegates spent time in the morning thinking into belonging to different places.
The online webapp sli.do was used to facilitate interactions between people in the room, through allowed live polling and voting on questions. This aimed to make sure content discussed was relevant to the most amount of people.
By the afternoon of the first day, people were ready for guest speakers. Each member on this panel had a lots of good quotes. I have taken one, and added my interpretation afterwards:
- Anchor yourself in the journey for the long term – Belinda Duarte, Chief Executive Officer, Culture is Life.
- When you think about belonging, if you know where you come from then you can commit yourself for the long game
- Be curious about people and their lives’ -Anthea Hancocks, Chief Executive Officer, Scanlon Foundation
- Racism and prejudice can be overcome by fostering inquisitive minds.
- Challenge people requires digging into and increasing their ability to express humility. Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
- People don’t like to think that they are wrong about their prejudices. We have to be more uncomfortable, to better understand what people think in order to connect them to their better selves.
- We have to make ourselves frequently uncomfortable about our privilege and what we do – Sylvia Admans, Chief Executive Officer, The RE Ross Trust
- Philanthropy is often an activity that has structural barriers and power imbalances. We do a disservice to the communities we serve if we don’t think about that.
- Walk beside people– Ian Bird, President, Community Foundations of Canada
- Often the simplest thing, is to be there for people.
In addition to directly integrated place into session, NCFF17 demonstrated the impact of place through:
- Showbags: our conference bag was made by Sisterworks, a local social enterprise, that supports local refugee women. For people who were able to spend more time in Melbourne, a walking tour map of other social enterprises was included. There were soap gifts from the Thank-you.co group.
- Anniversary Dinner: feedback from the local Mayor was that the annual conference dinner felt legitimate. In part this is because it was rooted in place:
- Drinks: wine donated by a local donor, and beer from Stomping Ground in Collingwood
- Plants: potplants of natives were purchased from Brunswick Communities for Nature
- Food: catering supplied by STREAT and Charcoal Lane
- Entertainment: from Outer Urban Projects, a local social-enterprise that creates new forms of contemporary performance imagined from the life experiences of young artists from the outer northern suburbs – a part of Melbourne though not the epicentre of mainstream cultural life, possess great artistic wealth and community energy.
- Videos: anniversary films were made by Youthworx Productions, a not-for-profit (NFP) film production company that creates professional videos with a social conscience.
Conferences take time and energy, and we’re am extremely thankful to Australian Community Philanthropy, Lord Mayors Charitable Fund, and Australian Communities Foundation for coming on the journey. We look forward to doing it again in 2027!
Ben Rodgers is the Executive Officer at the Inner North Community Foundation, Australia, and is the incoming Chair for Australian Community Philanthropy.