Empowering small charities and businesses to maximise social impact

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The Growth Project brings charity and business leaders together in a unique personal development program to foster effective collaboration.

Contribution to charitable causes has gained momentum among businesses and individuals over the years. The organisational mindset towards corporate social responsibility (CSR) has also seen change, primarily moving from a once-a-year contribution or ‘annual report formality’ to a mechanism for actively engaging and working with the community.

The Growth Project (TGP), a social purpose organisation established in 2015, takes this a step further by establishing a collaborative relationship between businesses and charities to create a positive impact on society at large. TGP facilitates an innovative 12-month personal development program for a cohort of 10 charity leaders, matched with 10 business leaders, and touches upon a range of topics including Building Networks, Governance and Creating Shared Value.

TGP’s Chairman Martin Mulcare shares how this program – offered at no cost to charity leaders – is enabling small, successful charities to maximise their social impact while providing leadership development opportunities to business leaders who are willing to make a difference.


How are ongoing collaborations benefitting the businesses and charities involved with The Growth Project?

The most obvious benefits are the sharing of skills and experiences for mutual gain of the leaders involved. This manifests itself into remarkable improvements within both the businesses and the charities. For example, one of our sessions is focused on building better strategic plans. Being able to share ideas and past examples are obviously helpful. However, the value-add comes when these leaders apply their insights in practice, whereby it begins to shape the thinking of their respective teams, as well as to improve their planning skills.

At another level, we have seen several business leaders join the board of their partner charity to continue their contribution after their program completed. We now have evidence of valuable co-operation between members of different cohorts. We have also seen the growing involvement of other elements of businesses such as input from the CBA Innovation Lab. More significantly, the collaboration at an organisational level is fundamentally changing the way that charities and businesses engage.

What is the key to establishing these partnerships so that they are effective?

Effective engagement means working together as equals, with a common purpose and common values, to solve social problems for the benefit of the community – and the business. This means being very selective about choosing charities. The criteria need to be based on the charity’s alignment with the business, not the emotion in their story nor the personal interests of the business owner. It’s not easy and it requires a lot more thought than that needed to write a cheque. It also requires a different mindset.

In your view, how can businesses, especially SMEs, work together with social purpose organisations to make charitable initiatives a part of their strategic plan?

Let me give you a simple real-life example that Phil Preston uses to explain the concept of “shared value”. A real estate business may choose to support its community by giving a $200 cheque to the local fete. It could, at a higher level, encourage its employees to participate in the local fun run to raise money and promote teamwork.

However, their strategic solution would be to partner with relevant local charities to help its customers who are experiencing trouble with rent payments (e.g. through sickness or unemployment). This could be by way of an intervention plan, supported by the real estate agency, to help the family remain in their home (and sustain their rent).

After an established career in the financial services industry, what inspired you to pursue this initiative?

I was inspired by the vision of TPG’s founders, Peter Baines OAM and Larry Fingleson. I had been involved with a single charity and was looking for a more suitable means of impacting the charity sector, in a more profound and enduring manner. TGP offered me a means of directly influencing 100 charity leaders over a five-year period, to build sustainable organisations. The format of the program also appealed to me – I couldn’t find anyone else in Australia with a similar proposition.

What are you most looking forward to for The Growth Project in 2018?

  • Selecting two new cohorts, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, each comprising another ten charity leaders and business leaders
  • Gaining further evidence of the power of collaboration and implementation
  • Clarifying an ambitious vision for TGP beyond 2020


Learn more about the program at www.thegrowthproject.com.au


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