t1Seri Renkin, Managing Director of the ten20 Foundation, on how place-based, collective impact initiatives contribute to long-term systems change, and how the Opportunity Child initiative – ten20’s key collective impact investment – is gaining momentum in this space.

At the ten20 Foundation, we know that local conditions are different in every community. Because of this, we also understand that national and state policies and philanthropic approaches must create the conditions for solutions that are relevant to people living in unique community contexts. Each unique community requires a long-term, place-based approach to build their own community leadership, alignment and governance, so that the community own and drive their own outcomes specific to their particular needs.

Working with others to co-create new models for shared learning and impact in the early childhood system is the singular focus of the ten20 Foundation. We’ve invested significantly to build the infrastructure and ecosystem that will allow the ‘how’ of collective impact to grow, flourish and remain accountable to its goals.

Innovation isn’t new in the field of early childhood development, nor in philanthropy itself. But if we want to make long term systems change, innovation in small pockets isn’t enough – we need to innovate across organisations, sectors and, indeed, geographies.

Opportunity Child initiative gaining momentum

Opportunity Child is ten20’s key ‘collective impact’ investment – and it is rapidly building momentum. In a little under two years, ten20, along with co-convenor Woodside and our other partners, has generated tremendous support and energy for this collective initiative.

Opportunity Child brings together six partner communities who are all applying the collective impact approach, along with eight leading national partner organisations who are aligning their contributions. As a collective, Opportunity Child is focused ultimately on improving the lives of the 65,000 five-year-old children who start school each year in Australia with big challenges in learning and in life.

The first step towards this goal is to create positive change for children in the six Opportunity Child partner communities, as well as starting the important innovation work with other like-minded leaders and organisations to change the system nationally. The issue we are working on – early childhood vulnerability – is global in scale and importance.

Rethinking early childhood investment

ten20 continues to work with its partners to change the pathway for vulnerable children, by rethinking how we invest. This is not based on some warm, fuzzy notion. On the contrary, there is significant evidence that investing in the health and wellbeing of children – particularly young children aged 0-8 – has huge economic benefits. By investing in early childhood, we can stop issues before they start. The connections from birth to pre-school to reading proficiency to high school completion – a bare minimum in today’s economy – could not be clearer.

We are developing an approach to ‘de-risk’ systems change investments for investors and prove that the community driven, collective impact model is socially and economically viable. This is not an alternative to grant making – but rather a complementary approach that moves beyond ‘giving away money’ to actually aligning with others to solve social problems. The really smart investors right now know that you have to do both – invest in the capacity for change, as well as in specific programs.

Seri Renkin
Managing Director, ten20 Foundation

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