How a new governance approach offers hope for better educational outcomes

By: Sean Corey   |   Chief Executive Officer, Our Place

In November 2017, a landmark Partnership Agreement was signed between the Victorian Government, via the Department of Education and Training (DET), and the Colman Foundation to take the learnings from Doveton College and establish a place-based and integrated education approach at ten school sites across Victoria.

Sean Corey, Chief Executive Officer, Our Place

The $40 million, ten-year investment committed to by the Colman Foundation created the basis for negotiation. Steps in generating an enabling environment included:

  • Working to a shared vision
  • Enrolling senior stakeholders from the start
  • Taking the time to build relationships and trust
  • Enlist people who work within and across sectors to broker relationships and culture
  • Support at the highest level

Last year, we took another significant step forward in shifting the governance of that partnership beyond the Department of Education and into a whole-of-government approach that reflects the holistic philosophy behind the Our Place program. After extensive discussions with Premier Daniel Andrews, Deputy Premier and Education Minister James Merlino and other ministers, it was agreed that the whole-of-government approach would be navigated through an inter-departmental committee within the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC).  In addition to DET (whose Secretary will chair the committee) and DPC, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of Justice and Community Safety Victoria and the Department of Jobs Precincts and Regions will participate on the committee in the first instance with the potential to expand participation to other departments depending on need.  This is a bold innovation that offers a potential new model of how philanthropy can work with government.

It is also a reflection of the government’s goodwill and Our Place’s success in achieving significant educational and community outcomes since 2012.

The new central governance structure will also inform and support broader government membership of the local site implementation groups that oversee the introduction of Our Place at each of the 10 sites, better sharing of data and therefore more comprehensive and effective evaluation. 

Other philanthropic organisations have supported Our Place during its evolution at Doveton College and a number of these organisations continue to provide significant support as we scale our activities under the Partnership Agreement with government.

Dusseldorp Forum has committed $1.5 million over 10 years to support Our Place Robinvale and William Buckland Foundation’s $3 million over 10 years will support Our Place Morwell and Our Place Seymour. Our Place Frankston North, where two primary schools and the secondary school are involved, has received support from Equity Trustee’s RM Ansett Trust of $3 million over 10 years along with The Ross Trust, which will provide $300,000 over three years to the same community. The Ray and Margaret Wilson Foundation has committed $1.5 million to support Our Place Carlton over 10 years.  These significant long-term commitments reflect an understanding of the time and commitment it takes to achieve meaningful change when tackling complex challenges.

During 2019, the Colman Foundation signed an Our Place Philanthropic Alliance Agreement with Dusseldorp Forum and The William Buckland Foundation.  The primary purpose of the Alliance Agreement is to enable philanthropy to work together in a collaborative, long-term relationship in a way that provides visibility across all Our Place sites and other activity, to work together on issues beyond simply those at a site level.

With achieving meaningful system change as one of our primary goals, the Alliance offers a unique mechanism for leveraging the capability and expertise of our philanthropic partners to provide access to new means and opportunities to support our objectives.  It also enables Our Place to operate with minimal overheads and administration because we can adopt a standardised approach to reporting and governance of philanthropic funding across all Our Place sites. Signatories participate fully in the planning and reporting processes and are able to provide input and support to activities and plans reflecting their expertise and interests.  We hope that this approach can demonstrate different ways for philanthropic organisations to engage with each other – and government – to achieve long-term positive outcomes that have proven difficult to achieve and sustain alone. 

The agreement is structured to allow other funding partners to join this Alliance with the RM Ansett Trust recently becoming a signatory.  Our goal is to ensure this place-based initiative has every chance of informing the way schools in disadvantaged communities are built and operated, ultimately leading to better child, family and community outcomes across Victoria.

Mar. 04, 2020

Philanthropy Weekly Newsletter

Sign up to our weekly e-newsletter for sector news, expert opinion and resources.

Sign up here