Brave voices: key takeaways from the NEXUS Global Summit

Lucy Steggles Fri, 25 Aug 2023

Lucy Steggles, a member of Philanthropy Australia’s New Gen Network, and Chair and Regional Director of NEXUS Australia, reflects on the highlights of the summit that followed our New York Study Tour earlier in 2023. Storytelling and the voices of lived experience were an integral part of the summit, and left a lasting impression about the impact that’s possible with the power of collaboration.

In June, myself and 14 others embarked on the Philanthropy Australia New Gen Network Study Tour to New York. From trust-based philanthropy to giving circles and intergenerational philanthropy, our learnings were vast. Following the study tour, we headed to the NEXUS Global Summit, which included a private briefing at the United Nations Headquarters. Uniting Next Gen philanthropists, impact investors and social entrepreneurs, the flagship summit included keynotes, panel discussions and breakout sessions with notable leaders from all over the world. Here are the key take-aways.

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Pictured: Rachel Gerrol, Co-Founder of NEXUS Global speaking at the United Nations private briefing. Photographer: Brooklyn Prewett

Collaborative approaches: Strength in unity

A resounding theme throughout the NEXUS Global Summit was the recognition that complex social and environmental challenges require collaboration among various stakeholders. Participants emphasised that by joining forces, philanthropists, non-profits, governments and businesses can pool their resources, expertise and networks to create a more significant and lasting impact. Malala Yousafzai (Nobel Laureate) and her husband Asser Mallik, invited participants to collaborate with them on their mission of empowering women and girls through access to education and sport. Participants are now invited to offer their support via not only financial capital, but creative, social and intellectual capital.

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Pictured: Malala Yousafzai (Nobel Laureate) and her husband Asser Mallik. Photographer: Brooklyn Prewett

Empowering voices with lived experiences: amplifying impact

Empowering marginalised communities and amplifying the brave voices of those with lived experience was a central tenet of the summit. Recognising that affected communities possess invaluable insights into the injustices they face, speakers stressed the importance of centering these voices in decision-making processes. By doing so, philanthropists can support solutions that are culturally sensitive, contextually relevant and, ultimately, more impactful. Summit attendees heard from a range of inspiring individuals with lived experience in their cause area, including:

Nasreen Sheikh, Trafficking Survivor & Founder of Empowerment Collective

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Laureate

Leon Ford, Co-founder, The Hear Foundation

Charlot Magayi, Founder, Mukuru Clean Cook Stoves

Hearing from those with lived experience allows givers to gain a deeper understanding of the real challenges faced by communities, ensuring they support interventions that are most relevant and impactful.

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Pictured: David Dietz of NEXUS Global with winners of the Earthshot Prize, Kaushik Kappagantulu, Charlot Magayi, Sam Teicher. Photographer: Brooklyn Prewett

Art as a medium for cultural shifts 

Amid growing environmental concerns, summit speakers including Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland & former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) emphasised the importance of strong climate storytelling. The Summit reminded us that art serves as a powerful medium for prompting social change, channeling emotions and ideas into visual, auditory or performative expressions that resonate deeply with audiences. 

Through a range of art invocations, including one by Australian-based musician, indigenous activist and sustainability educator Nidala Barker, audiences were enthralled by the transformative force of art, and how creative activists can inspire collective action to address the climate crises. One example showcased at the summit of social movements and philanthropy supporting this, is the Environmental Music Prize, founded by NEXUS Australia member, Edwina Floch from her home in Sydney. Surprised by the lack of music energising and activating diverse audiences to address the climate crisis, Floch designed the prize to recognize artists who use their voices strategically – inspiring action for climate and conservation.

“By accelerating the cultural shift, we help ensure there is broad public support for the adoption of ambitious climate action at the scale and speed required.” – Edwina Floch

Through its ability to transcend language and cultural barriers, art has the potential to evoke empathy, challenge norms and spark dialogue on critical societal issues. 

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Pictured: Nidala Barker, musician, indigenous activist and sustainability educator, performing at the NEXUS Global Summit. Photographer: Brooklyn Prewett

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Pictured: Mary Robinsion, former president of Ireland & Chair, The Elders. Photographer: Brooklyn Prewett

The importance of wellbeing: nurturing sustainable change

An essential aspect of the discussions at the summit was the recognition of wellbeing as a foundation for sustainable change. Participants and speakers acknowledged that addressing social issues necessitates taking into account the holistic wellbeing of communities, including mental, emotional and physical health. By prioritising wellbeing in philanthropic efforts, changemakers can ensure their interventions are sustainable, responsive to real needs and focused on nurturing thriving societies.

The NEXUS Global Summit in New York City served as a powerful catalyst for positive change, uniting philanthropists, impact investors and changemakers from more than 45 countries around the world in their quest for a sustainable and equitable future. 

As delegates return to their respective spheres of influence, armed with newfound insights and connections, the NEXUS Global Summit’s impact will resonate across borders and sectors. Together, the next generation stands poised to effect transformative change and create a better world for generations to come.