After focusing my attention on regional and economic development for the past 7 years my return to the social impact world in the context of regional Australia has been somewhat disappointing – why?
Nothing has changed.
Of course there are flurries of activity surrounding champion regional enterprises and even some communities – but by and large nothing has really changed in the regions.
Our social problems have not shifted and perhaps post Covid and natural disaster it could be said that they are even worse.
Fundamental to this lacking change is the void of the ecosystems required to create, sustain and support REAL change; we (regional communities) are still a curiosity for well intentioned intermediaries who fly in and out without leaving real and lasting legacy and we are still wanting for funding models that can stretch across enough time and scope to dig into the real change required.
Again, I’ll reiterate there are pockets of really excellent work happening across regional communities and I invite you to highlight these in the comments – but more broadly I believe it’s time for us to really start challenging our approach to regional impact and driving it FROM the regions.
It’s tough being a social impact practitioner in the regions. Why? Well let’s start with language. Unless you’ve self-invested or are employed by an organisation with large enough budget to invest in you it’s not likely you’ve been exposed to social impact language let alone a tidy label to stick upon yourself read ‘social entrepreneur’, ‘impact practitioner’ etc etc
There is NOT a pitchfest in every calendar month, a readily available like minded cohort to lean upon nor is it likely you’ll find support in local government or even your members of parliament (unless you are very lucky).
According to many I’ve worked with over the years, social impact is ‘the fluffy stuff’. In fact, I still remember the exchange as I skipped out of a role in corporate procurement to pursue the social impact work that really inspired me “enjoy chasing rainbows” trailed behind me as I got the hell out there.
At best regional social impact practitioners are left with the options of putting their head down and forging forward anyway; to get a job in a not for profit and hope that they can have just enough influence to create change their way and/or a combination of both having the social impact work as a side hustle until it can eventually generate enough revenue to make it viable.
At what point do we, and when I saw WE I mean the whole regional ecosystem from impact practitioners to local government, business and beyond
And really ask ourselves why things are not shifting in our regional communities?
We need to ask why our efforts aren’t linking, why we have multiple groups, organisations and individuals working on the same thing in isolation and we need to ask WHY the linkages aren’t being made and nurtured.
Among the many reasons I’d place a solid bet on the immature ecosystems for change being the root cause.
And follow this up with a question / challenge…
What are we going to do about it?