It’s time to focus on professionals working in the ‘for purpose’ sector

14 October 2014

Caterina Giorgi

Caterina Giorgi

Caterina Giorgi is a member of YWCA Canberra, and the Director of Policy and Research at the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE). She was a Great Ydeas recipient in 2014, and a finalist for ACT Young Woman of the Year 2015.

Caterina GiorgiAs part of this year’s Changemakers Festival, we’re hosting a special panel on Thursday 23 October featuring three of our Great Ydeas grant recipients for 2014, Women leading change: small grants, big impact. Here, panelist and grant recipient Caterina Giorgi writes about her project, For Purpose, which aims to that will develop and implement tailored professional development training to support women working in the ACT not-for-profit sector, such as advocacy campaign design, strategic communications, and project management . You can read more about the panel on our events page, and RSVP to

The organisations that make up the ‘for purpose’ sector work every day to address some of Australia’s biggest health, social and environmental problems. These organisations work across a broad range of issues including housing, health, environment, education, multiculturalism, aged care – just to name a few. They also work across the spectrum of public policy development and service delivery from problem identification, to policy and program development, to communication and advocacy and providing services to people affected. The responsibility taken on by people working in ‘for purpose’ organisations is mammoth.

The Curtin Charities 2013 Report released last month, recently analysed data from almost 40,000 Australian ‘for purpose’ organisations. The report found that the ‘for purpose’ sector in Australia employs almost 1 million people and engages 2 million volunteers. People working in ‘for purpose’ organisations are employed in jobs that make the greatest impact on the lives of Australians. One of the authors of the Curtin Charities 2013 Report, Professor David Gilchrist said ‘All Australians are affected in one way, shape or form by the work of charities and a strong and sustainable charity sector benefits everyone.’

One of the ways to build a sustainable ‘for purpose’ sector is to ensure that we are investing in people working in the sector. The sector needs people with a range of skills, expertise and lived experience to ensure that it is working as efficiently and effectively as it can too support people in our community who are often at their most vulnerable.

This is where For Purpose comes in. In Australia, we have information on the organisations that make up the ‘for purpose’ sector, however we have limited information on the people that work within the sector. We know a bit about the demographics of the sector, but know little about what drives the people working in the sector, what their skillsets are and what they need to further develop themselves. The first phase of ‘For purpose’ is focused on finding out more about the people working in the sector through conversations and an on-line survey.

However the For Purpose project does not stop here. The Productivity Commission’s 2010 report into the Contribution of the not-for-profit sector stated that constraints on investment of knowledge and lack of collaboration with other not-for-profit organisations are two factors that restrict their ability to be innovative. ‘For Purpose’ will try to address this in part, through the second phase of the project, which will focus on three areas: connect, create and innovate.

For Purpose will ‘connect’ people working in the sector to build meaningful networks that can be used to work collaboratively to address common goals and use the knowledge of the collective mass to address complex problems. For Purpose will ‘create’ tailored professional development opportunities informed by the unique nature of the ‘for purpose’ sector and the time and resource constraints of organisations. For Purpose will ‘innovate’ by offering shared ‘thinking spaces’ to use different problem solving approaches to collectively brainstorm solutions to problems.

At the centre of For Purpose are the people working in the sector, with the focus being on connecting and developing people working in the sector. To that end, I’d really appreciate your input to the project. If you work in an not-for-profit organisation in the ACT or NSW please take 10 minutes to fill out the survey and help to develop the foundations of the For Purpose pilot project. The survey link can be accessed here.

If you want to keep informed on how the project is progressing and find out about the survey findings and programs being offered, email me at

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