On August 29th, Ashurst hosted the third annual Australian Pro Bono and Skilled Volunteering Summit in Sydney. Boasting 150 registrants, the majority from corporate and legal backgrounds the event was a one day intensive gathering to discuss best practice, trends, and challenges in pro bono and corporate volunteering.
The opening panel laid the foundation for the event, with Professor Kristy Muir from The Centre for Social Impact, challenging companies to be humble and consider the power dynamic they participate in when partnering with community organisations. She called corporates to begin by listening and aim to learn, to lift their sights and consider pledging billable hours pro bono [instead of painting fences] and to pay attention to the unintended consequences of their involvement in the community.
Jeremy Harris of The Department from Premier and Cabinet, followed this by urging companies to see the win-win-win of broadening their currently narrow definition of a successful business from profit to a shareholder, to encompass a wider appreciation of the benefits to ALL stakeholders including staff, community, the environment, as well as to customers and clients and shareholders.
Doctor Carolyn Curtis of The Centre for Social Innovation [TACSI] rounded the panel with a call for companies to see the community less as needing their support, but as an opportunity for impactful collaboration. She outlined many ways corporates can create social impact - through procurement of social services and products, through identifying and tapping into new demographics and underserved markets and by seeing communities as agents of their own growth and change.
Panels two and three followed a very rousing ice-breaker facilitated by Harry Morton, a young presenter of the Reach Foundation, a youth led organisation empowering young people with confidence and life skills.
Featuring speakers from Australian Business Community Network [ABCN], Good Shepherd Microfinance, SVA and PWC, the panels offered more intimate insights into the challenges, opportunities and tangible case studies of collaboration between corporates and not for profits. Speakers highlighted the need to ensure that social impact partnerships draw in a range of stakeholders and staff to keep them sustainable in the long-term and for expectations of volunteers and projects be realistic and managed wisely.
Afternoon break out sessions gave attendees the opportunity to focus on topics of interest including 'A Business Case for Pro Bono', 'The Role of Corporates in Constitutional Recognition' and 'Measuring and Reporting Impact: A Case Study'.
The day was brought to a close with a very energising presentation by Dominic Thurbon, founder of Karrakins Consulting, a sustainability consultancy recently bought out by EY. He challenged companies to consider a landscape of 'truth bending' and vacuum of leadership and integrity, considering how to build cultures of integrity and impact in a changing world.
The event was made possible by the sponsorship of Macquarie Group Foundation and the Westpac Foundation and the hard work of a Working Group comprising of members of staff from Ashurst, Westpac, EY, PwC, Sparke Helmore, Koda Capital, DLA Piper, Scentre Group, Commonwealth Bank Australia, Resonate Consulting as well as individuals including Justine Felton and Garth Tinsley.
To read more about the event you can link to summaries by attendees John Sturt Addicot and Elise Wiliams, You're also welcome to join the Australian Pro Bono Network LinkedIn Group HERE to stay up to date with news and ideas.