Kristy Muir: Reflections on the past five years

These are strange times. All organisations should go through evolution, renewal, and refresh, and ensure they are always fit for purpose given the context and the needs of the world. But the evolving part never feels good. There is always uncertainty and discomfort in the unknown.

By Professor Kristy Muir

The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) is no different. It has evolved enormously since its inception in 2008 and it is in a strong position - with >100 incredible people, financial resources, strong partnerships across sectors and an impressive reputation. We have achieved the 2017-2022 strategy and CSI is ready for its next evolution.

Growth edges are always difficult and, possibly more so, in a global pandemic, where people are still isolated and there is uncertainty and fear. But the hardest moments are always when we grow the most.

Over the last five years, I’ve had the absolute privilege of working with, growing and learning from an incredible leadership team, Board, Advisory Councils, talented colleagues, amazing partners across all sectors, hundreds of students and people from all parts of life’s tapestry.

There is much to be proud of in what has been collectively achieved and besides the organisational shifts and the remarkable achievements throughout COVID, it’s the social impact work that are in the top five of my personal favourites (all of them accomplished in collaboration with friends, colleagues, peers and partners):

1. Building the capability of understanding and measuring social impact at scale: Amplify Social Impact

I still believe Amplify Social Impact will change the landscape of how we understand and measure social impact. I’m so proud of it, from its ideation to its development, to garnering almost $6m in funding; to shifting how we think about progress in Australia from an economic measure (GDP) to a social one.

2. Shifting the thinking of for-purpose Board Directors to govern for social impact (and not just their organisation): Governance for Social Impact

The identification of the gap, design, piloting, and successful delivery of Governance for Social Impact has been one of my favourite and most impactful pieces of work.

Despite the inability to run face-to-face courses through the lockdowns, we have challenged and lifted the gaze of 273 Board Directors to increase their social impact.

3. Building the capability of leaders across the social purpose ecosystem: Social Impact Leadership Australia (SILA)

The $9.8m Social Impact Leadership Australia (SILA) Program has been years in the research, development and now implementation with partners from across CSI and strong philanthropic supporters. I’m delighted I’ll still be part of leading SILA.

4. Educating the social impact leaders of today and tomorrow, including those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to study social impact: Rebuilding our pool of philanthropic scholarships

Rebuilding ourscholarship and prize pool has been critical for CSI to live its values and equitably educate the social impact leaders of today and tomorrow. We have been gifted incredible support to rebuild this funding from philanthropy.

5. Collaborations, conversations and provocations

Working in collaboration with others across sectors, having engaging conversations and being provocative have been some of my favourite moments at CSI.

Some of the most profound conversations I have had have been with people who, as a friend of mine would say, ‘have been dealt a poor deck of cards or who acquired bad cards along the way’.

People who are or were homeless, young people struggling with education or work or mental health, single mums and dads, front line service providers, families with children with disabilities, kids who are vulnerable.

These are people who, despite the cards they have been dealt, have been some of the most resilient, wise, and generous people I have met, and I am richer and wiser from hearing their stories.

Over the years as the CEO of CSI I have benefited enormously from these conversations and from the support of people around me. I have learned from and feel so humbled by and grateful to the many people and organisations that I have walked alongside.

And, while I’m handing over the CEO CSI reigns to the next leader with some sadness, and my pathway might look a little different, I look optimistically forward to continuing to partner with many others in our sector and community as we strive for a brighter future.