Stories in philanthropy

From impatience to action: Millennial philanthropy and NEXUS

Next-gen philanthropist and Chair of the 2018 NEXUS Australia Youth Summit, Rachel English, on why we need to build, share, learn and create new solutions to old problems (with an apology to her Dad).

Nicole Richards, Feb 2018


Philanthropy has been a mainstay of Rachel English’s personal and professional life for years. As the daughter of SilverChef founder and former Philanthropy Leader of the Year, Allan English, she knows how to navigate her way through the philanthropic sector, and its many challenges and opportunities, better than most.  

As Chair of the 2018 NEXUS Australia Youth Summit (18-20 March, Melbourne), the younger English is stepping up to be the Australian face of the famed global youth movement which has 3,500 members across 70 countries.

In this Q&A with Philanthropy Australia’s Chief Storyteller, Nicole Richards, Rachel shares her insights about Millennial philanthropy along with her hopes and ambitions for the biggest NEXUS Australia Summit yet.


NR - You’ve had significant exposure to established philanthropy through the English Family Foundation as well as your role at Mutual Trust. What are the biggest differences in philanthropic approaches and expectations that you see coming through in the next generation of changemakers?

RE - I’ve worked in philanthropy for a few years, both in Australia and abroad but what’s interesting is that the intensity with which young people are engaging with social change is always there. Next gens look at their lives differently, rather than in silos of ‘work’, ‘charity’ ‘social’ they’re all getting lumped in together which means we’ve got the drive to engage now rather than waiting ‘til retirement.

The other difference is that as millennials we’ve got this stereotype of being impatient. But that impatience translates into action in this case. We’re looking at innovations and how to create change now, believing that we can create change faster than waiting for our parents or the government.


There’s always a lot of energy and inspiration at a NEXUS Summit. What is it that makes it so special?

What’s special about NEXUS is that we’re a part of a movement with 3,500+ members from 70 countries, bound together by our drive to explore the most pertinent social issues and the most innovative approaches to creating positive change. So, when we can come together it’s pretty amazing!

It’s also a great opportunity to connect with other young people from diverse backgrounds in an action-oriented and solutions-focused safe space. There’s a feeling of being a part of something bigger than you, working towards a collective goal, despite being from different countries and communities.


What are the key themes at this year’s Summit?

This year we have decided to design the Summit around the concept of build, learn, share and create:

Build a common understanding

Learn from each other’s perspectives

Share ideas and lessons learnt in solving problems

Create ways to solve new challenges facing the world today.  

We have some really exciting international and Australian speakers, with a mix of keynote presentations, dynamic workshops, master classes and networking opportunities. You will just have to come to see for yourself!


Tricky question, but how do you make sure NEXUS isn’t just another feel-good talkfest?

What we really want to focus on this year is to challenge the group think nature of our sector. A conference, especially in our sector is a dangerous place for people to come together and pat themselves on the back for doing good, leaving with nothing changed.

We're hoping to challenge the thinking of a fairly privileged group of young people as well as sparking collaboration to create change. The sessions will be fast paced and interactive so we can hear as many diverse views as possible.

We are excited to have NAB on board as our platinum sponsor. They will be supporting our 4th Innovator of the Year award which encourages meaningful partnerships and collaborations from the Summit. Putting the talk into action!


Which speakers and sessions are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to all of them; what I’m not looking forward to is choosing between sessions that are running at the same time!

We’ve got Yael Stone (of Orange is the New Black) who is involved in the TimesUp movement talking on women’s rights, Grace Forrest unpacking human trafficking and Sara El-Amine from the Chan Zuckerberg initiative talking neuroscience and persuasion. It’ll be great!


What’s your fondest Nexus memory?

NEXUS was my real introduction to philanthropy (sorry, Dad). I went to the first NEXUS Australia in 2013 and had never been around young people involved in philanthropy or social change. I spent the two days with my head swimming with information and terms I’d never heard of, but at the same time I felt really centred by being around young people I could finally talk to about our Foundation and the work that we do. That’s why I keep coming back and have taken the step to Chair; NEXUS was my catalyst to hold my own in the sector.


Where can interested folk go for more information?

You can check out the NEXUS Australia website for speaker details and registration.

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