Smarter Impact

Dr Catherine Brown OAM - Rising to the challenges of our time - CEO, Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation

February 02, 2021 Philip Bateman Season 2 Episode 1
Smarter Impact
Dr Catherine Brown OAM - Rising to the challenges of our time - CEO, Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation
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Smarter Impact
Dr Catherine Brown OAM - Rising to the challenges of our time - CEO, Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation
Feb 02, 2021 Season 2 Episode 1
Philip Bateman

Join Dr. Catherine Brown OAM, CEO of the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation and I, as we delve into her experience, challenges and strength, in a quest to bring about a more inclusive and sustainable Australia.

The Foundation Catherine acts as CEO for is Australia’s largest and oldest community foundation, her background includes extensive experience in for profit sector in executive, legal and advisory roles, and Catherine has completed her PhD on philanthropic foundations and innovation (Centre for Social Impact, Faculty of Business & Law, Swinburne University) in April 2019.

Additionally Catherine has held Victorian Government Board Chair and Deputy Chair appointments in health and women’s affairs, is a member of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce advising the Prime Minister in 2019-2020, published Great Foundations - a guide to more effective and resilient not for profits in 2010 (ACER Press), and has presented at international conferences on community and environmental philanthropy.

On 26 January 2020, Catherine was awarded an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) for service to the community through charitable organisations and since 2019 has been the Deputy Chair of the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN).

If you enjoyed this content, please give it a like, leave a comment, subscribe for more and share the video - it really means a lot to see your support coming in :)

Want to stay up to date with the latest Tips, Tricks and News for Global Impact Leaders?  Don't miss a thing - jump on the Bravo Charlie / Smarter Impact mailing list at https://bit.ly/TipsTricksAndNews

Smarter Impact is hosted by Philip Bateman (connect with him on LinkedIn) and produced by Bravo Charlie (click to visit the http://bravocharlie.global website)

****

As the Managing Director of http://bravocharlie.global, I specialise in targeted video communication for impact investors and their portfolio companies, using marketing, business development, investing and production skills to engage stakeholders and amplify returns.

Are you struggling with the capacity to take on and successfully operationalise new things to improve your investor and stakeholder engagement?

Does the complexity of digital marketing, the barrage of interconnected software, and directing, filming, editing and distributing high-quality content, especially video, feel like an extremely steep learning curve to climb?

Do you feel the majority of business video you see is missing that special something - I call it honesty; that it’s contrived script reading and doesn’t have that human spark you see in unscripted interviews?

Is ensuring that your brand presentation is world-class, whilst having an industry leading, fast and cost effective production partner, that comes from a business first perspective important to you?

Does a turn-key platform, featuring compelling short video insights from your executive and clients, that emotionally and logically articulates your raison d'etre sound appealing?

If you are deploying capital or growing a business focused on improving the world, I’d love to hear from you.

- Philip Bateman

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/SmarterImpact)

Show Notes Transcript

Join Dr. Catherine Brown OAM, CEO of the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation and I, as we delve into her experience, challenges and strength, in a quest to bring about a more inclusive and sustainable Australia.

The Foundation Catherine acts as CEO for is Australia’s largest and oldest community foundation, her background includes extensive experience in for profit sector in executive, legal and advisory roles, and Catherine has completed her PhD on philanthropic foundations and innovation (Centre for Social Impact, Faculty of Business & Law, Swinburne University) in April 2019.

Additionally Catherine has held Victorian Government Board Chair and Deputy Chair appointments in health and women’s affairs, is a member of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce advising the Prime Minister in 2019-2020, published Great Foundations - a guide to more effective and resilient not for profits in 2010 (ACER Press), and has presented at international conferences on community and environmental philanthropy.

On 26 January 2020, Catherine was awarded an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) for service to the community through charitable organisations and since 2019 has been the Deputy Chair of the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN).

If you enjoyed this content, please give it a like, leave a comment, subscribe for more and share the video - it really means a lot to see your support coming in :)

Want to stay up to date with the latest Tips, Tricks and News for Global Impact Leaders?  Don't miss a thing - jump on the Bravo Charlie / Smarter Impact mailing list at https://bit.ly/TipsTricksAndNews

Smarter Impact is hosted by Philip Bateman (connect with him on LinkedIn) and produced by Bravo Charlie (click to visit the http://bravocharlie.global website)

****

As the Managing Director of http://bravocharlie.global, I specialise in targeted video communication for impact investors and their portfolio companies, using marketing, business development, investing and production skills to engage stakeholders and amplify returns.

Are you struggling with the capacity to take on and successfully operationalise new things to improve your investor and stakeholder engagement?

Does the complexity of digital marketing, the barrage of interconnected software, and directing, filming, editing and distributing high-quality content, especially video, feel like an extremely steep learning curve to climb?

Do you feel the majority of business video you see is missing that special something - I call it honesty; that it’s contrived script reading and doesn’t have that human spark you see in unscripted interviews?

Is ensuring that your brand presentation is world-class, whilst having an industry leading, fast and cost effective production partner, that comes from a business first perspective important to you?

Does a turn-key platform, featuring compelling short video insights from your executive and clients, that emotionally and logically articulates your raison d'etre sound appealing?

If you are deploying capital or growing a business focused on improving the world, I’d love to hear from you.

- Philip Bateman

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/SmarterImpact)

Welcome to Smarter Impact produced by Bravo Charlie with the support of Pro Bono Australia. I'm your host, Philip Bateman, and I'm excited to kick off our 2021 series with Dr. Catherine Brown OAM. Greetings Catherine, how are you today? Greetings Catherine, how are you today? Hi Philip, very well thank you. If you'll give me a minute to talk about you in the third person for our viewers; Catherine is a lawyer by training. Last year, you received your Order of Australia Medal for your service to the community through charitable organisations. The year before that in 2019 completing your PhD thesis regarding philanthropic foundations and innovation at Swinburne - great school, I've been there myself. Since 2011 you've been the CEO of the largest public community foundation in Australia, the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation, based in Melbourne. And also in 2019, you joined the Social Impact Investment Taskforce for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, made up of four other industry leaders. One of whom, Sally McCutcheon, I interviewed two episodes ago, for those of you interested in joining the dots. I was wondering, what do you love about your work? One thing I might just add there is I'm also deputy chair of the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network. That's quite an area of great interest for the Foundation and myself personally, so just add that in. So what do I enjoy? In a sense, a foundation like ours, we basically need to know what the community needs at any time, what the big issues are of the day. And then we have to find people who can solve them. And then we invest in them and their organisations and we get to see the results and perhaps invest in scaling up. So I think it's the opportunity to change ideas into reality and to make a difference. What I'm hearing is you have this mechanism like a lens for what's going on and then finding the people who are doing it and amplifying their work. Yeah, and believing in them. Sometimes a very small grant from us will just be the tick of approval which then brings in other funders, including government. I find that really quite exciting. That takes me back to Alan Schwartz. My last interviewee was talking about approaching government with this idea of saying, look we're going to do this. And if it works, we want you to do this and using that as a mechanism by way of basically opening doors to start projects. Do you find that is the case? Yes, and I think also there's an opportunity now Yes, and I think also there's an opportunity now to not just get government funding but maybe through social enterprise or impact investing to scale up in other ways as well. So there's many types of scaling and bringing in government is one, but I don't think we should replace government. I think we should be looking ahead and testing ideas and demonstrating what's possible, so that it's de-risked for government. A minister once said that to me, he said, "Catherine, the Foundation and philanthropy, you de-risk things for government." By the numbers, you're giving away several million dollars a year, I believe. Yeah, about 12 and a half million this year. How do you generate that money again? Like, how does it come in? We're a community foundation which basically means we have an endowment made up of bequests and donations from people, many people over many years, some very large bequests from two particular people Arthur Martin, and also Eldon Foote, the largest bequests, but also many others over many years. Our first bequest was actually from Sir John Swanson who set up the foundation in the beginning. So that was rather lovely. So basically it's invested and then the income is used for grants. Could you share one of the hardest moments you've experienced? At the Foundation? Yeah. Hardest... Hardest... Hardest probably is really in relation to impact investment. So when you're a foundation and people come on the board So when you're a foundation and people come on the board they think about granting and they might also think about developing the fund. The leap to move from granting here and investing the corpus there, and to actually think that the investments could have a social and environmental impact not just as responsible investment, which we also have a responsible investment policy, but that you actually consciously think about the social or environmental impact and then the financial return. That's quite a leap for the investment committee and the board. And so it's taken, really, five years to slowly, slowly develop our programme. And we still haven't fully expended the allocation we've got. So we're looking for more opportunities, but it's a very educational role. And so I guess the hardest times are just when you have to bring a particular proposal back for the third time with more information, because even though it's not a large amount of money in the scheme of things, in the investment committee, it's something new, it's a quantum change and it's taken.. You just have to learn patience, and take it step by step. And then eventually you bring everyone along. Beautiful. I was going to ask, what did you take out of that? But sounds like that progress, small steps, taking everybody along. Do you find you're leading from the front or are you looking to peers and the industry and being like, "How did they do it? How do we do it?" Or is everybody going at the same speed? In some areas we're leading from the front. I kind of see that as our role too. I think philanthropy should be looking forward. I think philanthropy should be looking forward. Now and then we've learned. We've learned from the US the Skoll Foundation particularly. Long story about how I met some of them. But they actually did come out in 2014 and did a really great presentation for the sector and spoke to some of the board and helped us get going in that impact investment, where they were further along than we are. Internationally there'd be many foundations ahead of us, but in Australia there's a small group of us all working together to move forward. But then in other areas, like climate and health, for example, or food security in an urban setting, or even affordable housing in Australia, we would be leaders. And we've, sort of, taken risks. When you say taking risks? We've either funded things were entirely never been funded in Australia before or we've tried to demonstrate something completely different. If I think of the Affordable Housing Challenge, that was the idea that if we put a grant of $1 million on the table, what would that bring? of $1 million on the table, what would that bring? The first idea was to engage local government, because local government hadn't really thought about, how could they use their own land for affordable housing? It's been really transformative to think that now the city of Darebin, who had the site, that we selected, that now they actually have a project happening in Preston that will build affordable housing. And it's really engaged a lot of local governments. So just to try and think, what's the solution and where else can we find land for affordable housing? And then use money to leverage other support has been really exciting. But you start from ground zero. You're not sure if it's going to work. This is the first moment where I've realised I've always been looking at land in Melbourne and our urban sprawl and wondering, where's all the land to do this? And it's like, it's with the governments. And it's with VicRoads and it's with churches and large not-for-profits that might have spare land. It's not only commercial land. It's really interesting.

And that takes me to what I have:

I believe homelessness and affordable housing are two areas of focus for you. They're obviously deep community issues. One thing that pleasantly surprised me about the COVID crisis is the support for homelessness by the Victorian government, that relatively overnight we seemed to house a lot of vulnerable people. I was wondering what stopping is continuing that? We shouldn't stop. I mean, it's just demonstrated what can be done. We really encourage that to continue. The Big Housing Build, which the Victorian government announced, that's a big response to the affordable housing crisis. that's a big response to the affordable housing crisis. But it's so clear the more you work in this area that if you don't have a stable home, it's impossible to deal with your physical and mental health problems and to get a job or get education underway. It's just so unstable. That whole idea of having a home and a base from which to live your life, yes, it's critical. I'm really, on a personal level, pleased to see the adoption of the idea that drug and alcohol usage is a societal problem rather than a criminal one. And I think that ties into the secure base of a home because when they're seen as the same thing then we can be like, okay, people need help. There are a lot of other issues where if you have a stable home you can start to deal with them. We try and fund things which are social innovations in themselves. If I think about Ozanam House which was a project that VincentCare came to us with.. Quite often we'll talk to people very early, we go in actually often as the first funder in this area. Their idea was to basically demolish Ozanam House, which was a very institutional depressing place for homeless men with drug and alcohol issues, and rebuild very attractive housing at different levels. and rebuild very attractive housing at different levels. So people who needed intense support, medium and then longer term, and to also have women as well as men. It's really the most magnificent project. When that was launched.. You can actually see it now opposite the children's hospital, that just nailed what they wanted to do. It's such valued housing. They've got services co located and it's really sustainably designed. So for me, because I'm always trying to have the sustainability element in there as well, it was just fantastic. What other innovations are you excited about that you've participated in? Many. There is another project that's just starting which we funded. Launch Housing, which is a women and families project in Dandenong. It's really incredibly well-designed. There's really a lot. There's also one in the Nightingale Village where we funded Housing Choices Australia to actually where we funded Housing Choices Australia to actually own some of the apartments in that development. So there's actually affordable housing alongside other private rental. That's not built yet, but that's a great model as well. Hearing you talk, and especially with the people I interview, one thing that really strikes me is how much wonderful work the community and the business people are doing in Australia. I wondering what your message would be to people out there who read the news and kind of have this dire take on the fact that the sky is falling? take on the fact that the sky is falling? There is so much amazing stuff happening in Australia in so many areas. I might even talk about another area in a moment. The news just shows bad stories, normally. You know sad, sad news generating anxiety. But we have a lot to celebrate. We are just so fortunate in Australia that we have Medicare, for a start. We are so fortunate that we have a strong charitable sector. It's incredible that we have such a wonderful education system. It's such an egalitarian society and it's got that nice balance. I suppose that's why I like social enterprise, it's kind of this nice balance between a strong safety net, but still that opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship, if you want to go down that path. And I think that's really what Australia is about. We have endless talent really. I mean, you can see it even in how we're dealing with COVID. One thing we did fund in that area was One thing we did fund in that area was the Alfred Hospital to build on some research they'd already started, not related to COVID, but related to other infections. To look at the best possible treatment for COVID for very vulnerable groups. So older people in residential care and also people with immunocompromised systems. That's been exciting and they've come up with some recommendations and shared them nationally and internationally. I think I could do a weekly programme basically on all the great people in Australia tackling all the tough stuff. The good news. It's necessary. In 2010 you released your book, "Great Foundations: A 360-Degree Guide to Building Resilient and Effective Not-for-Profit Organisations." It talks to key areas such as sometimes the back office should be front of mind. Why slick marketing is not enough without solid programme delivery. Why folks need to know legally what is under the hood of a not-for-profit engine. Why thoughtful planning and active networks are critical to the survival of a not-for-profit. Looking back on it, what did you include or what would you add now with another decade's experience? That's really interesting actually. Most of it, I think, would still stand. I think probably what I'd really.. I think I touched on it but adaptability is probably the thing I'd be really thinking about now having gone through the COVID experiences. What does that mean on the ground - adaptability? That means being an organisation that is able to stay true to your mission and still deliver your services or achieve your goals in a different environment. And for example, some of the organizations like Justice Connect or the Ask Izzy service that Infoxchange run, or the Ask Izzy service that Infoxchange run, STREAT's collaboration with other social enterprises around food. There's more. They were able to use digital tools and deliver, They were able to use digital tools and deliver, scale up their services, so brilliantly to meet demand. It was really inspiring. So I think that whole organisational resilience adaptability could be another chapter now. resilience adaptability could be another chapter now. resilience adaptability could be another chapter now. In relation to your leading of the oldest charitable trust in Australia, what are the questions you struggle with on a day-to-day basis? Hmm. You mentioned the strong back office that I mentioned there. I sometimes say that you need a strong back office if you're going to trampoline into innovation and funding interesting work. So, you need really good due diligence and you need to understand the legal framework that we're operating in in Australia and you need to know the areas. and you need to know the areas. The thing we've done is deepen our knowledge of the areas we're funding in, having programme managers that actually work in each area. having programme managers that actually work in each area. I'm not sure if I've answered that very well. It sounds perfect to me. What do you struggle with on a day-to-day basis? And it sounds like having domain expertise in the areas you're putting money into and then also having team that are adaptable to the nuance of technology and the pace of change. Yes and also understanding the accountability Yes and also understanding the accountability and the regulatory environment. It's much more regulated than people expect. It's much more regulated than people expect. I think we saw that with the bush fires last year and the Rural Fire Service case. and the Rural Fire Service case. There is a whole body of law to try and protect funds There is a whole body of law to try and protect funds so they are used for charitable purposes or DGR purposes. I put money into the wrong Celeste Barber fund. Not the wrong one, but I mean.. In a way really it's a interesting thing for everyone to learn about. I put money into her New South Wales Rural Fire Service and then I started one for the Vic Fire Service and then shared it with some friends because I'm like, look, hey all the money's going over there. Legislation says, it's a bucket. Exactly. And they can't give the bucket over here and we live here. It's a good idea to think about buckets and where the buckets can go and what's the purpose of the different buckets. It's more complex than some other countries. It must require astonishing forethought if you're setting up something to know what buckets you need for what you're going to do in the future. Yeah well I think.. In Australia In Australia We go through a couple of processes. If you want to have a tax deductible foundation, obviously you become a charity and then you get charitable status, but you also have to apply to be a deductible gift recipient and get into one of the categories that is allowed or be specially listed. So it's quite a process for a foundation. There's public ancillary funds and private ancillary funds which you would have heard of. They've got quite general purposes in terms of what they can grant to but you have to grant to a DGR Item 1, so there are some limitations on acting quickly. I think the government's actually looking at that at the moment at a federal level. Be lovely to think we could get a little bit more Be lovely to think we could get a little bit more effective in that area. And just to go back a little bit, we did the day-to-day, but if we push the horizon out to five years, what questions are keeping you occupied in relation to the Foundation? Well, I think climate change is a focus. Well, I think climate change is a focus. You mentioned this was a particular lens of yours. Could you talk to that? Five years ago, I was.. Is it already five years? I was very fortunate to go to a funders initiative alongside COP 21. So there were about 100 foundations from all around the world. And excuse me, acronym alert - COP 21? So that's where we signed the Paris Agreement. Oh thank you. So that's the UN Council of the Parties. So that's the UN Council of the Parties. That was just very eye-opening for me because we not only met each other and heard what each other were doing, but we were briefed every day by people who were presenting to COP 21. And we had farmers, health workers, indigenous groups, young people from all over the world, talking about what the impact of climate change already was on them. And we weren't really talking a lot about it here. It just was starting, but there wasn't a lot of momentum. There'd been momentum, I guess in people who knew for a long time but not so much the general public. I came back and said, climate change is going to affect everything we do, whether it's health or whether it's housing or whether it's food, we need to think about having a lens over it so that we actually are thinking ahead and thinking, what are the health impacts of climate change? How do we help reduce emissions? What are the job opportunities? It's very broad. It's a reflexivity of the integrated system that affects everything. It does affect everything. There are opportunities as well in jobs and so on. So, it's kind of inspiring. So, it's kind of inspiring. Last year, I had an opportunity through the Smart Energy Council, one of their forums which we'd actually helped fund as part as the clean energy powerhouse initiative we had to pose a few questions for the UK minister for green jobs pretty much. They just have a whole plan of what can happen. I'm really looking forward to us having the same plans. I'm really looking forward to us having the same plans. In that regard, through your time on the Social Impact Investing Taskforce what have you discovered that surprised you? From my point of view I'm a little surprised that some of the things that we actually made grants to were really important in terms of later being able to create social impact bonds. To help people demonstrate, say, the Journey to Social Inclusion with Sacred Heart Mission or there was the Staying Together Project as well. That's quite incredible because you fund them on the basis of the social outcomes but then over time with more and more evidence because of the projects they can actually begin to design a social impact bond. So that was really great, and I think that's an important thing for us to learn. In terms of.. Well, it's just inspiring to think what's possible. You look at what they've done in the UK with Big Society Capital and the Access Foundation to support social enterprises and the Access Foundation to support social enterprises and impact investing. They've taken such a leap forward in 10 years because of that. If we could have that sort of thing that'd be a quantum leap forward too. I've been just blown away by looking at what people are doing in the GSG and Michele Giddens and The Bridges Foundation. Michele Giddens and Rosemary Addis were the two people I interviewed at the start of the Smarter Impact series. I've met Michele and I know Rosemary well. It's really great. Yeah, it's amazing. It is amazing, I'm sure in five years, we'll see it more as business as usual. One thing I would like to mention, the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation, the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation, we're essentially a community foundation. And so we're not set up by one hugely successful business person, we're set up a whole lot of people who are comfortable but are very altruistic. In a way the media don't find us very sexy. I mean, it's not quite Bill Gates or Twiggy Forrest or whatever, doing things. But I think there's a huge potential. In Canada the Governor General there maybe five, 10 years ago ran a Smart and Caring Canada Campaign to encourage Canadians to give to their community foundation, to get involved in philanthropy. I suppose I'd like to say that philanthropy is for everyone at whatever level you can participate. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for watching. Thank you Philip. If you enjoy this material, please get it out there. Help us spread the message. There's wonderful people doing amazing work and the more we are aware of it, the more it will happen. Yeah, great. Thank you. Thanks.