Building communities, one small grant at a time

8 March 2022

YWCA Canberra is pleased to have Sustineo join us again in 2022 as a partner for our Great Ydeas Small Grants Program. With a focus on services that have positive social impacts, Sustineo is a natural fit as a partner for YWCA Canberra. We took a moment to speak to Tom Sloan, CEO of Sustineo, about the impacts of the Great Ydeas program and supporting the community sector. 


Image of Tom Sloan, with the Great Ydeas and Sustineo logosHaving been aware of the Great Ydeas Small Grants program for some time through contact with a previous recipient, Tom knew the impact it could have on both individuals and communities. And when YWCA Canberra asked if Sustineo would like to come on board as a partner in early 2021, the timing was perfect. 

“Sustineo works in Australia and overseas. Although we’re probably better known for the overseas work, the overarching purpose in both contexts is the same, in terms of working to promote positive social, economic and environmental change that’s sustainable,” Tom said. 

“We’ve done a lot of work in communities overseas in the gender equality and empowerment space, and in 2020 we decided that we also wanted to engage more with the ACT community, where Sustineo is based. So Great Ydeas aligned to that organisational focus.” 

As a researcher, one of the things that Tom loves about the Great Ydeas grants is how open they are to all different ideas. “It allows people the freedom to test, innovate and even potentially fail with grace as part of that. I like the unbound nature of it and the explicit emphasis on inclusion.” 

Tom particularly likes that the grants program does not put pressure on recipients to make big changes, but has still resulted in some significant community benefits. “It allows the scope for people to test ideas. And there is a clear emphasis on social and community good. Even if they apply for a more individually-oriented project for their professional development, there is still a broader community benefit to it.” 

“And I think, ultimately, an emphasis on that idea of empowering and uplifting a diversity of ideas was something that attracted us to supporting the initiative.” 

This emphasis aligns with Sustineo’s ethical stance. They deliberately approach their social research evaluation and impact assessment from a position of respect and understanding the diverse contexts of the communities and cultures they work with. 

“From the start, one of the things we’ve taken pride in is the way we engage with clients. We seek to be brave in terms of advocating for the importance of good research practice, including working closely with people like university researchers who have learned from a breadth of experiences working in different places and can hold us to account in terms of making sure our research questions are framed in a way that’s inclusive.” 

“The other critical part, is working closely with partners from the place that we are working, to emphasise Indigenous voices and methodologies where appropriate and establish a respectful relationship that has mutual benefit, while navigating power imbalances.” 

As a feminist organisation, YWCA Canberra is all too well aware of the impact of power imbalances, and we love partnering with organisations that recognise this in their own work. 

We also feel strongly about empowering people to build their skills and capacity, which is the purpose of the Sustineo Great Ydeas Grant, echoing their general approach with partners. 

“We see through our work such value in building skills and capacity in terms of the enduring benefits.” 

And for this grant program in particular, Tom loves that applicants get to self-identify the skills and capacity to develop. “It allows people to determine where they see their capacity needs to be built for the purpose of their dreams. I think there’s something to be said there, because they’re being particularly purposeful, and I think that’s something that we are seeking to support through Great Ydeas.” 

When the grant applications came through in 2021, Tom was floored by the range of great ideas proposed. “I was impressed with the creativity and innovation among the applicants, and it really highlighted the range of social challenges that this sort of grant seeks to support.” 

The whole Sustineo team has also loved hearing updates on their supported projects. “When we announced we were doing it again in 2022, our staff were really glad. They felt it was a good reflection of our community and a good reflection of our ethos in a domestic, very localised context.” 

Tom thinks more small businesses should consider supporting grants like Great Ydeas. “I think there’s more pressure on businesses to walk the talk on their ethos, internally and externally. As that grows, hopefully we will see more businesses being open to supporting their community.” 


We at YWCA Canberra hope so too! We are so grateful to have partners like Tom and Sustineo, who do walk the talk. 

Find out more about the Great Ydeas Small Grants Program.  

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