The government, philanthropy, environment nexus

By: Amanda Martin   |   Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network

We know what the role of philanthropy is but do we know what the role of government is?

At our 2011 conference, we held a workshop asking funders the question – “When it comes to the environment what do you think the role of philanthropy is?”

What we captured during the discussion with about sixty AEGN members was, in my opinion, a brilliant statement on the role of philanthropy when it comes to any issue – whether it be health, education or the environment:

Philanthropy must play a leadership role in the environment.

The philanthropic sector can do this by setting an agenda that promotes long-term visions and solutions and by demonstrating ethical and sustainable principles in all that it does.

Philanthropy’s practice is about being nimble, flexible and innovative, generating ideas and models, taking risks where business and government will not, involving decision-makers and working with and empowering the community and its leaders.

The philanthropic sector should build accountability, evaluations and monitoring into all of its work, share its learning and communicate its work with the broader community.

But this raised another question for many of us. What is the role of government when it comes to environmental protection and how do we rapidly develop a collaborative, innovative and courageous philanthropic and public sector?

We live in a time of great environmental crisis. We have just seen the worst coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef ever, 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history and this autumn saw a blue-green algal bloom outbreak on 375 kilometers of the Murray, Australia's longest river. Something needs to be done – and fast….

You may be surprised to hear that we already have the solutions to these problems. We know what needs to be done…. we have the answers. We are living through a double edged technological revolution where innovation and community ingenuity are transforming the way we live and new ways to solve environmental problems are being learned, but at the same time we hare rapidly increasing our impact on the earth. The death of half the previously pristine coral of the northern Barrier Reef in recent weeks brings it home starkly: we are at a tipping point for the possibility of a healthy and clean environment.

Effective government policy, programs and funding, are absolutely essential in reaching this tipping point in a way that minimizes harm and catalyses a new and positive industrial revolution. So how can we motivate, persuade and collaborate with government to do the things that need to be done? There are many examples of how this has been done in the past and many big ideas of how we can achieve this in the future.

May. 10, 2016

 Tags: policy, government, environment

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