Program Director – Innovation

Friday, 7 Jun 2024

The Program Director for Innovation will join our growing team to develop a new stream of work supporting innovation and ideas, complementing the Judith Neilson Foundation’s ongoing commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia.

About the Judith Neilson Foundation

Judith Neilson is an Australian businesswoman and dedicated philanthropist. Through the Judith Neilson Foundation, she invests in organisations working to create a fairer society where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive. Her work has led to the Foundation’s current focus on supporting vulnerable communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia, and backing innovative solutions for development challenges. We forge partnerships with organisations that understand the diverse and interconnected challenges experienced by disadvantaged and marginalised communities, delivering locally-led solutions to social, economic and resource inequities. We work across the following priority focus areas:

In Africa:

  • Tackling critical health challenges
  • Advancing educational & economic equity
  • Supporting community development & environmental stewardship.

In Australia:

  • Addressing disadvantage for women and girls in Sydney
  • Investing in Northern Australia initiatives
  • Legal support for vulnerable women.

Position summary

As a key member of the Foundation’s executive team, and joining the existing programs team, the Program Director for Innovation will be responsible for developing a new stream of work that will complement the Foundation’s continued deep focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia. The Foundation is looking to support innovation and ideas that have the potential to improve people’s lives, wherever they are found. These could include (but are not limited to):

  • innovative application of technology to solve social problems.
  • new funding or scaling models.
  • innovative business models such as social enterprise or impact investing.

The mandate for the role is intentionally broad, and it will be a key task of the successful candidate to develop an approach that can embrace that breadth, finding themes within the work that allow the creation of a great narrative.

It is expected that the portfolio will span the full range of the impact continuum, from grant making, blended capital through to impact investment.


The Program Director for Innovation will be responsible for all stages of the grant making cycle, namely:

  • designing a pipeline for sourcing and evaluating opportunities. This could include development of networks, an application process and so forth.
  • identifying suitable opportunities with a focus on locally led organisations.
  • identification and development of other strategic partnerships.
  • engaging with the Founder and members of the executive team to assess and develop opportunities.
  • presentation to the board of directors.
  • ongoing management, review and evaluation.

The Program Director will form part of the Foundation executive team to review, refine and expand the Foundation’s strategy and operating model. In addition, the successful candidate will work alongside the Chief Operating Officer to continue to develop systems and processes that facilitate the safe and successful delivery of the overall strategy.

This role reports to the Chief Executive Officer. The role has no direct reports at this stage, although the intention is the successful candidate will recruit for a direct report within 12 months.

Key skills and attributes

  • A strong understanding and experience of philanthropic strategy and grantmaking approaches.
  • At least 10 years’ relevant experience. This could come from a variety of areas such as international development, philanthropy, commerce, media, scientific research, etc.
  • A demonstrable commercial mindset is essential.
  • First-hand experience of working in the Global South will be highly regarded.
  • Ability to communicate complex issues in a simple, persuasive manner.
  • Ability to produce high quality written and verbal presentations.
  • A natural multi-tasker with strong time management abilities.
  • Strong interpersonal and people management skills.
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Flexible and professional manner.
  • Receptive and open to giving and receiving feedback.


  • Any academic background will be considered, however, the right candidate will have a demonstrated track record of relevant experience.
  • Must have or be eligible to apply for full working rights in Australia.

Values and behaviours

  • Team focus.
  • Ability to work autonomously.
  • Ethical, professional, and respectful behaviour.
  • Results driven.
  • Ability to perform within a “start up” environment.

Other information

  • This position is based at the Foundation’s offices in Chippendale, Sydney.
  • Some international travel will be required. The successful candidate should expect up to two international trips of up to three weeks each per year.
  • The salary package for this position is circa $250k inclusive of superannuation.

To apply for this role

To apply for this role, please email your CV and a brief cover letter of no more than two pages to [email protected].

To learn more about the Judith Neilson Foundation please visit our website: or please email [email protected] with any specific questions.