“To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together”
Returning from a conference it is always important to reflect on some of the themes and key learnings while they are fresh. I’ve just come back from three days at Te Papa with around 500 attending the biennial Philanthropy Summit 2019 which is organised by Philanthropy New Zealand This post describes the highlights and gives a chance to type out some reflections.
In this post I am going to explain what I attended at the conference (info here) and set out any key learning from that – perhaps the particular stream of which of the four workshops I chose and what I took from the keynotes will even help others who attended and went to different sessions. Also, I am linking within this post any of the content I recorded (with permission) so that others can benefit from it, if they choose to do so. I host a podcast called seeds which is a platform for sharing interviews about inspiring people as well as other challenging content that helps build up the ecosystem of knowledge here in New Zealand. Where a session was recorded on video will add those links too. The reason for making the effort to record and democratise access to the information is that I have been challenged by Kaye Maree Dunn recently who asked in a Korero, “so, who is not in the room??” When we are having our discussions this is important to ask – and the follow up is how can we at least make content more accessible to those who are not able to attend for whatever reason. Seeds is one way to empower those who could not be there by spreading the knowledge.
The theme was “The Future of Trust” and the conference was organised by Philanthropy New Zealand with 19 sponsors such as AMP Capital (and a big shout out to Rebekah Swan and Emily Woodland who invited me along). I enjoyed attending the conference because it got me out of the silo of only being with other lawyers or professionals – there were few of those here. Instead, those in attendance were mainly from large and small Community Trusts, private family foundations as well as people on the ground working in a variety of charities and social enterprises. Keynote speakers included Sir Stephen Tindall and Dr Jane Goodall – there were 9 key notes in total. There were also many workshops with 4 sessions of breakouts and 8 running at each for a total of 32 sessions. I counted in the program at least 140 different speakers who were involved in delivering content and there were around 500 who attended.
The event was curated well with a particularly noticeable and really beautiful strand woven through of Te Ao Maori that went beyond mere tokenism – for example, not only did key note speakers have a song sung for them when they finished, some of the topics tackled were thorny and not easy to grapple with (such as one key note “Undoing colonialism to do good: building constructive relationships between philanthropy and tangata whenua”). That session (discussed below) really raised the difficult – often ignored – issues around the current state of our society.
My hat is off to all of the volunteers and organisers led by Sue Mcabe and Yvonne Trask. These events take a lot of mahi – the content described below is good but just as important are the connections made over coffee or lunch, collaborations started and ideas shared that may only have measurable ripples some years in the future. It is possible that thought leaders in an area have connected with others and through challenges received each of their research and understanding will go deeper. The “vibe” in the room was not one of white privilege giving out grants – instead questions were being asked of how change can be empowered and enabled at a structural level and new ways of thinking about philanthropy encouraged – both from a Te Ao Maori perspective as well as looking to the next generation and harnessing their ideas as well as recognising the diverse ethnic communities in Aotearoa.
As a way to break down the main theme of “The Future of Trust” there were many breakout sessions that you could choose from often centred around the following four themes:
• Future trends in Philanthropy: What changes are coming?
• Building trust: engagement and relationships and how to build them to in turn build capability
• The work we do: the “how-to” and a focus on the practical side to enable bigger change
• Impact: what difference are we making and how do we know?
Dinner: Disruption and the future of Philanthropy
First up for me was a dinner hosted by Sam Stubbs from Simplicity. This was an intimate discussion over some really good food with the focus on disruption and technology and how it is changing the face of philanthropy – and how it might change even more. Sam explained how Simplicity works and how it would not have been possible even a few short years ago. Operating a Kiwisaver scheme where a large amount is given away to charities is a unique business model for sure. We had an interesting debate about whether they are a social enterprise or not, probably concluding that the terms fade in importance when what you ultimately need to consider is “impact” and how it is reported on – the word I am hearing more and more these days (and using myself!). I encourage you to check out what they are doing as they are seeking to disrupt the traditional banking models and drive lower prices for consumers while also doing good. It was an engaged group
Key discussion points:
• The next generation is not trusting institutions and looking for online recommendations/social media guidance – threat and opportunity;
• Consumers have desire to do good with their dollar and technology enables them to do that;
• What form does new reporting take on impact?;
• Is there a new paradigm coming where business itself is transformed (see Akina report “Structuring for Impact” released in April here and discussed in detail here).
Key note: “The future of people, planet, money and technology”.
The next morning the first keynote discussed “The future of people, planet, money and technology”. There were four speakers who provided different perspectives on each aspect of that. An interesting perspective was provided by Matthew Monahan who had sold his tech start-up in America and moved to New Zealand several years ago. He talked about his philanthropy journey and helping set up the Edmund Hillary Fellowship here. Each of the other speakers (Rod Oram, Shamubeel Eaqub and Tahu Kukutai) shared their concerns about the state of our world and the need to take action individually and collectively if we want to halt the big issues facing us of climate change, economic disruption and relations between Maori and Pakeha.
Key discussion points: We have the data, we know the state of issues like climate change – what next? Do we inherit the planet from our parents, or hold it as guardians for our children?
Interspersed through the days were 5 minute talks which provided short challenges. These were:
• Lani Evans from the Vodafone NZ Foundation: Declaring our intentions and launching the NZ Youth Accord – see www.nzyouthaccord.org
• Manaia King and Chelsea Grootveld from JR McKenzie Trust: On Internatioaln Funders for Indifenous People
• Sam Stubbs from Simplicity on whether companies love their shareholders more than their community
• Leighton Evans from Rata Foundation on the idea of a tradeable impact investment market
• John McLeod from J B Were on The changing shape of giving in New Zealand.
The talks by Lani, Sam and Leighton are going to be put up as a short podcast episode on seeds in the near future so be watching out for that…
Breakout 1: Investment trends and the case for impact investing
This whole breakout has been released as a seeds podcast bonus episode here because I thought the content was great and deserved to be heard by more than the 86 in the room on the day.
Description: This workshop will provide insights into the future of investing, and will pay particular attention to the role of Responsible Investing generally and impact investing in particular. The workshop will be interactive and will provide practical advice and useful insights for everyone with an interest in future-focussed investing.
I was fortunate enough to be able to help out with facilitating the Q&A session here and realy enjoyed that. Prior to that the four speakers, Rebekah Swan, David Woods, Emily Woodland and Clive Pedley had shared their perspectives on investment trends when it comes to impact investing. If this is of any interest then suggest you listen to the podcast episode.
Key themes and questions:
• how do you actually measure “impact” across diverse sectors and drivers;
• how you report on it – what shape will reports in the future take and will their be standards of how you talk about impact?
• What due diligence is needed into an entity beyond the usual financial checks when you are also concerned about impact?
• How do you build a community of investors who are willing to think in this way and could there be co-investment opportunities?
Key note: Undoing colonialism to do good: building constructive relationships between philanthropy and tangata whenua.
This was a two part session with Ani Mikaere (Te Kahui Whakatupu, Te Wananga o Raukawa) and a response to her talk from John McCarthy (The Tindall Foundation). Probably one of the most challenging sessions the questions being asked were cutting to the heart of our society and asking if we are perpetuating colonialism. At a personal level the challenge to me was to think more deeply about my attitudes and whether I am truly seeking to know and understand the perspective of others. For example, do I suggest that the headings in a document be translated into Te Reo when nothing else will change about the organisation? How do we deepen the engagement and willingness to listen closely and what does that mean practically? Those were some of the questions that surfaced for me while listening to this talk.
John McCarthy gave a response to the talk from Ani which showed that he had been grappling with similar questions in his role at The Tindall Foundation. I spoke to John afterwards and learned that they have been having someone come in every two weeks or so to provide guidance and training in both Te Reo but also the culture so that it can be better understood among the staff.
Key themes and questions:
• How much do we each know about the past and have we thought about what the implications are for the present?
• What does meaningful engagement look like and what shape does that take?
Breakout 2: Bridging the generational divide to redefine philanthropy
This was a fun session with four young people who have each started their own charities/businesses or gotten involved in some way with movements that challenge the old ways of thinking. The description of the session was:
Millennials are doing things differently, redefining generosity, disrupting traditional models with radical collaboration, harnessing technology and social capital to drive positive impact. But how can we work together better across generations? We know there are challenges from succession planning, to funding youth-led change. Share your questions, concerns and opportunities leading us to find common ground so that together we can re-define philanthropy. We know you’ll leave with golden nuggets to take action on!
This session was recorded on video here.
It will also be released as an audio episode of seeds soon.
Key themes and questions:
• how do you transfer wisdom between generations – is it a baton passing? Is it another wave rolling in? Do you reinvent / disrupt the old ways or adapt the old and combine with new thinking?;
• how do you identify and encourage those young people with skills coming up and give them opportunities for leadership – and potentially failure too – so that they can learn and grow;
• What does the next generation need, particularly millenials, who may want to be fluid with how they use their time and what they are supporting/