20 March 2015
I have to start by letting you all know that I’m not presenting to you on my own today. I am actually joined by ‘Blue’ who is all of 20-and-a-half-weeks way ready to join the world. I mention Blue because in preparing a presentation for this breakfast surrounded by very accomplished professional women, it got me thinking about Blue, and what her life will be like.
Blue will be born into a family, who own a home in a nice suburb, with working parents, who have both graduated high school, and are either undertaking a degree or have finished a degree. She will be born into a neighbourhood that has a GP clinic a couple of hundred metres away and two schools within 500 metres. She will be born into a socially connected family, with a street of friendly neighbours, a group of friends and a big connected family.
Blue will be born into a privileged environment, which will have a significant impact on her life. In fact Blue has already had access to world-class pre-natal care.
She will, as best we can predict it, have economic security, shelter, access to education and healthcare and the support of a broad social network.
Working in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector, I understand that people are not born on an even playing field. There is significant inequality in the world, in Australia and even in Canberra, and where a person is born is one of the biggest predictors as to how their life will turn out. This fact drives my work in the NFP sector. Because the NFP sector is all about one thing: eliminating disadvantage.
The NFP sector provides services to support people when they need it the most. Services like emergency housing for people escaping domestic violence, alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation for people who are dependent on these substances and foster care services for children needing a safe and secure home.
Thinking about Blue again, she will start her life in the best possible way and as a young woman Blue will be more likely to achieve academically at school and university. As she gets older things may change. Women are most likely to experience inequality in their professional career, with fewer women in leadership roles and less pay, even for the same job. If she chooses to have children, Blue will most likely be the primary carer, without access to adequate and flexible maternity leave and child care. Devastatingly, women are also more likely to experience violence at the hand of a loved one, with 13 women killed by a partner or ex-partner this year alone.
I hope that none of these things happen to Blue and, like any parent, I will do all I can to protect her. I mention these things, because the NFP sector also works to address these inequalities. The NFP sector advocates for changes to systems to have a greater impact on the predetermined factors that contribute to inequality. These changes aim to alter the environment, to even the playing field and to eliminate disadvantage. They aim to stop systemic disadvantage that seems beyond our control.
This advocacy work is the type of work that I do in the NFP sector. In doing this work, some days I feel shattered and as though I’ve failed people who are much stronger than I am and who’ve been through life circumstances that are unimaginable.
But every day I know I can make a difference, because over the years I have seen significant positive changes happen.
For the NFP sector to take on these mammoth challenges, we need a highly-professional workforce. We need to invest in professional development and innovation. We need our best people working on tackling our biggest social problems.
The idea behind For Purpose is that we can do more to address some of our biggest social problems if we develop professionals working in the sector.
For Purpose provides targeted professional development that is relevant to people working in the sector and delivered by people who understand the sector.
For Purpose has an alumni network that connects people even after their professional development has been completed.
For Purpose provides opportunities for innovation, offering space for shared thinking to tackle shared problems.
The work of the NFP or for purpose sector is vital to ensuring that for the next generation, and the generation after that, we can even the playing field.
This work will mean that hopefully one day Blue will be talking about inequality as being a thing of the past, rather than a growing and ever-present reality.
Find out more about the For Purpose Bootcamps.
YWCA Canberra’s Great Ydeas small grants program is currently calling for applications, closing 5pm Friday 27 March 2015.
Follow For Purpose on Twitter – @purposeaus.
Image: Caterina Giorgi (second from right) participating in the Women Leading Change panel, as part of the 2014 Changemakers Festival.