Guest Post: An Education in Life

This guest blog written by Hunter Johnson, a member of Philanthropy Australia’s New Generation of Giving Program.

The face of philanthropy is changing and the room is no longer filled with balding, grey hair. A new generation of young philanthropists are making their presence felt and organisations like the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) and Philanthropy Australia (PA) are at the forefront of navigating the shifting paradigm that is the philanthropic world.

I have had the pleasure and privilege of growing up in a family environment across multiple generations that has supported the philanthropic sector in a multitude of ways, in particular through the Wallace Foundation, which focused on funding causes related to Indigenous communities in Australia, the South Pacific and South Africa and more recently the middle east; Kids in Philanthropy which supports programs for children at risk in the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne and Indigo Express Foundation which funds Indigenous Literacy. Through these programs I have been exposed to the values and ideals that philanthropy offers.

Currently I am undertaking an Internship through the Immerse Program at the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) which has meant my understanding and commitment to philanthropic goals of developing a broader and deeper social consciousness, providing opportunities for young people and giving have become significantly deeper.

My understanding and commitment to philanthropic goals of developing a broader and deeper social consciousness… have become significantly deeper.

Since February this year, I have been gifted with unique opportunities to work broadly across the organisation. Within my first few weeks I was in the Northern Territory assisting facilitate with the facilitation of FYA’s IMPACT Program – an initiative that focuses on Indigenous youth leadership and cultural identity. The program provides ongoing mentoring and support to the participants throughout their schooling careers and has a staggering 97% completion rate of tertiary education.

Next up was my facilitation of our Worlds of Work (WOW) program and something that I hold extremely close to my heart. WOW prepares students for the transition into life after school; their question of the week being “What does it take to succeed in life and work?” What makes WOW so effective is that it uses engagement as its key underlying motivator. In traditional education systems you add the attractions like sport, music and dance after learning has been done. The WOW program is proof that engagement with attraction results in masses of peer learning. It shifts away from the 19th Century model of learning upon which our entire education system is based on and focuses on engaging students before anything else. The programs results indicate that 98% of WOW participants responded positively to the survey statement, “Doing WOW has helped me set goals for the future”. Is there any program in our current national curriculum that delivers results as promising as that?

98% of WOW participants responded positively… Is there any program in our current national curriculum that delivers results as promising as that?

I have also facilitated our Change It Up Program – an initiative that focuses on social entrepreneurship in rural communities. The program, run over two and half days, began by identifying the problems that the participants saw were most prevalent in the Wodonga (Victoria) community; with issues ranging from environmental sustainability to support for refugee migrants to sexual education and equality. After identifying the issues, participants went through an intensive workshop to define the real purpose and goals of their chosen campaigns and clearly identified the ‘why’ and ‘how’ they were going to achieve their social change goal. Then on Monday morning, feeling highly motivated and their ideas fully generated the participants pitched to local council for the prize of $1000. It was amazing to see the journey of the participants over the course of the weekend and how the program affected not only participants but also facilitators and speakers alike. I noticed that the young people on the program quickly understood the essence of social enterprise and were driven with the passion to use their entrepreneurial skills to change society for the better. As the weekend progressed I came to realise that the program actually impacted participants at a much deeper level than I had anticipated; it wasn’t necessarily about who won the PitchUp – what was unique about the program was that it was essentially planting a seed for social enterprise and encouraging active citizenship.

With this realisation, I saw the program through a new lens. I experienced a space that young people could own, where they were in charge, where they could experiment with creating impact in the world and, in turn, let the world impact them. What makes Change It Up unique is its recognition that personal transformation of a young person is as critical as any societal transformation they can make.

Personal transformation of a young person is as critical as any societal transformation they can make.

My time with the FYA Partnerships team has offered me a completely different experience to facilitating with the IMPACT, WOW and Change It Up programs – yet it has been equally as valuable. The main thing I learnt is that relationships are paramount to organisational success. After sitting in on a range of meetings with government, high-profile corporates and other not-for-profits I saw that our Partnerships team’s relationships with their clients literally make or break their agreements.

I also saw the other half of the picture - business relationships - as organisations were eager to see how each FYA initiative aligned not only with their philanthropic goals but also their strategic goals. Attending these meetings provided deep insight on how crucial relationships are for not only FYA’s financial sustainability but for organisations in general. Two things that stood out to me were the power of networking; how every conversation should be viewed as an opportunity and resilience; and how going through the creative process and learning from your mistakes is as beneficial as learning from your successes – “to design well, one must have experienced the pain and frustration of an existing product not working well.”

The Immerse Program has provided an opportunity of invaluable educational experience and has offered professional support and encouragement to act in the philanthropic world and learn from that exposure. I genuinely believe that there is a massive opportunity to support this concept of active citizenship and ultimately make it more attractive to mainstream youth. 

Young people within Australia are constantly narrowing the gap of knowledge between their elders BUT not necessarily in terms of capability and experience. I believe that active citizenship and philanthropy must be fostered and developed from a young age. Young people must be encouraged to act in the real world and learn from that exposure. There is a wealth of opportunity available for young philanthropists and none more exciting than the upcoming Nexus Youth Summit in Sydney on October 20-22nd. Nexus will bring together philanthropists, investors, social entrepreneurs and allies under the age of 40 from across Australia – an ideal catalyst for exploring innovative approaches to creating sustainable change and provide opportunities to collaborate for greater impact.

Young people must be encouraged to act in the real world and learn from that exposure.

Philanthropy Australia is also leading the changing nature of the giving world with their one of a kind New Gen initiative; a national membership program to grow and develop the community of young Philanthropists and to equip them to become more strategic and professional givers.

In the last 5 months, through a process of exposure and introspection I have discovered that while impacting society, young people impact themselves and if facilitated properly these experiences will lead to heightened awareness of themselves, improved leadership skills, relationship building, capabilities, and value and knowledge based stances on social issues. My time as an Immerse intern has been a monumental “real world” educational experience and has provided an outstanding opportunity to become a leader in the field of youth philanthropy.


Hunter Johnson Hunter Johnson

Hunter Johnson is currently part of the Foundation for Young Australians’ Immerse Program; you can read more about his philanthropic journey on his FYA blog.

Hunter is also a member of Philanthropy Australia’s New Generation of Giving Program and will be attending the Nexus Youth Summit in Sydney on October 20-22.

Follow Hunter on Twitter: @hunts_96

Aug. 05, 2013

 Tags: what's new, stories, recommended reading, new gen philanthropy, guest post, general, education

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