As we wrap up 2017 I’ve been reflecting on what a very significant year it has been. Of course you know what’s going through my head – from the inauguration of President Trump in the US and what this means for our environment to the Carmichael coal mine remaining a possibility and the continuing decline of almost every environmental indicator we track.
But there is something else happening. I wonder if you have noticed it too? With this continuing decline of our precious environment and the ‘in your face’ and flagrant lack of care by our government and many others in positions of power, people everywhere have had enough. I’m not talking about those you would expect this from. I’m talking about conversations I hear in my local community, in my family and among friends. I read it in the media and I certainly see it in our sector – the philanthropic sector.
Indeed what I have noticed within the AEGN and across the philanthropic sector is a sudden and significant step up to a whole new perspective on the role of philanthropy as it relates to advocacy, public policy and risk taking. Of course this follows years of leadership by many AEGN members like (to name a few) the Reichstein Foundation, Purves Environmental Fund, McKinnon Family Foundation and the Poola Foundation and the hard work of many of our friends in the environment movement. But there are other factors too – like the growth of a more connected and professional giving sector that enables funders to do more and challenges them to think more adventurously.
It feels like our sector is vibrant, creative, focused on impact, collaborative and has a thirst to be the best it can be. And there has never been a time in our sector’s history when all of these qualities have been so urgently needed.
One of the major highlights for me in 2017 clearly demonstrating this change has been the AEGN’s clearinghouse. In the 2016-17 year the clearinghouse raised more than $1m, largely toward issues that needed rapid, urgent funding or that were hard to fund via a formal proposal process.
I recently spent time with Jason Franklin who is the Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair at the Johnson Centre for Philanthropy in the US and whom many of you know. Jason spends a lot of time researching, reviewing and thinking about strategic philanthropy and said to me, “I think the AEGN clearinghouse is one of the most impressive and actively used vehicles I’ve seen globally for quickly mobilizing resources for critical new projects in a fast and flexible way. We use a similar model within the Solidaire donor network in the US and have seen how powerful these quick responses can be to sustaining and accelerating movements for social change which need money in the moment to respond to a rapidly changing policy environment. More communities need to be adopting approaches like AEGN and Solidaire if we really want to make philanthropy the responsive and powerful force for change that we hope it can and should be.”
No more needs to be said! But I am looking forward to working with all of you as we head toward upgrading our website and a more efficient digital platform for our clearinghouse in 2018.
The other highlight for me has been Rob Purves’ commitment to ending tree-clearing in Australia by unexpectedly announcing the Purves Environment Fund Tree Clearing Challenge of $1m at our conference in May. The challenge has the aim of raising $2m over the next year and AEGN members have responded: together with Rob’s contribution you have now raised $1.4m and tree-clearing is on track to be stopped in Queensland following the state election this year.
2018 will be the AEGN’s 10th birthday and our most significant year yet. Our challenge to members and others to step up your environmental giving will be facilitated by a fascinating conference in March, field trips and a snappy and inviting new website and member digital platform. There will be loads of opportunities for you to keep collaborating, sharing and learning so that together we are making the most effective and powerful impact we can.
Go well over the holiday season and I look forward to seeing you refreshed and ready to go in 2018!