Philanthropic Leadership for Systemic Change

Australia is facing increasing complexity, uncertainty and volatility in the challenges we face. Traditionally responses by services and funders have been programmatic, short term and focused on the symptoms rather than addressing the conditions that keep complex challenges in place. These responses are insufficient to tackle systemic challenges and require systemic action and leadership to address the underlying conditions of inequality and disadvantage.

Philanthropic Leadership for Systemic Change is a leadership intervention to increase and amplify philanthropy’s role in creating systemic change in Australia. Come and join a small diverse group of influencers and innovators learning together in a structured action learning process. You will work LIVE on the system and organisational challenges facing philanthropy, whilst increasing skills and practice in taking systemic action and developing a learning and impact network.

The leadership process will combine your lived experience with world class practice and application of skills in systems leadership, whilst learning from global and national case studies and speakers. Through this development and creation of a learning network of influencers and innovators, you will have increased capability and agency to work collaboratively to address the urgent systemic challenges of the sector.

The vision of Philanthropic Leadership for Systemic Change is: 

  • greater capacity, ambition and scale of philanthropy’s role in influencing systems change e.g. influencing policy reform 
  • systems leadership practice will become more embedded and supported across the Australian philanthropic sector 
  • understanding of collective challenges and systemic practice will be increased and shared 
  • a movement of influencers will be developed who can work collaboratively and adaptively on systemic challenges 
  • stronger connections for peer support will be developed across the philanthropic sector
  • improved collaboration and resourcing of systems change efforts by philanthropy 

By participating you will:

  • build and deepen your practice in thinking and working systemically on complex problems
  • feel more confident and able to influence and take up leadership in systemic change
  • have a deeper understanding of the mindsets required, along with appropriate theories, methods and tools 
  • to be able to apply systems change practice in contextually and culturally appropriate ways 
  • have greater understanding and ability to apply your individual and collective power and authority learn how to amplify readiness to work systemically in your organisation and networks 
  • build a network of peer support for ongoing systemic learning and leadership

Who is it for?

People in the philanthropic sector with:

  • urgency for working differently to address major systemic challenges affecting equity, justice and inclusion in Australia
  • a track record in experimenting to create innovative ways to tackle complex challenges
  • readiness and ability to work collaboratively with other organisations and networks
  • commitment to learning and systems change development
  • a willingness to hold individual and collective accountability for continuous learning and action
  • a remit to connect the learning and development to their role/function or organisation 
  • authority and capacity to create conditions for readiness in their own organisations and partners to work systemically 

What’s required?

An ability and capacity to fully participate in: 2 x 3 day learning retreats, 6 x 3 hour action-learning sessions, three individual coaching 90 minute sessions; pre-work and reflection. 

Pay a participant fee of $4,900 + GST. Fee includes all program, coaching and retreat costs. Fee excludes travel to and from the learning retreats, which will be required to be covered by participants.

Philanthropic Leadership for Systemic Change includes:

The opening and closing retreats will provide the opportunity to connect, build foundations in systems leadership and co-design content based on the systemic challenges the cohort is facing. Conditions will be created to learn together using a systems lens on the following:

Reflective learning on progress on systemic challenges and alignment of systems leadership practice

Translating systems leadership theory to practice and applying in real time to challenges as they arise with each other and externally

Holding and generating multiple interpretations of the system to enable innovative responses to systemic challenges

Ability to diagnose system, role and individual default and where they are impeding progress

Understanding systemic triggers and areas of vulnerability in complex work at a system, role and individual level

Deepening understanding and awareness of power and how authority in the system and role is being taken up – systemically and individually

Creating conditions to engage the philanthropic sector in their systemic challenges and bring others along

Understanding processes for building alignment and mobilisation of the sector to influence progress on systemic challenges

Creating conditions for network and coalition development to take collaborative action

Developing shared language and embedding ongoing systemic learning into 2023.

The Opening Retreat will take place at the Mildura Grand.



24th May 1.30pm – 4.30pm
21st June 1.30pm – 4.30pm
19th July 1.30pm – 4.30pm
22nd August 1.30pm – 4.30pm
20th September 1.30pm – 4.30pm
18th October 1.30pm – 4.30pm

The action learning process will provide a regular structured, reflective learning opportunity for philanthropic innovators to work together to develop their practice in the following three areas:

Systemic challenges: Through the integration of systems leadership content and practice,  innovators will develop further awareness of philanthropy’s role in systemic challenges and capability to influence and intervene systemically.

Strategic challenges:  Opportunity to work live with strategic or practice challenges innovators are facing through a peer learning process to enable deeper understanding of the issue, share learning, develop practice, and explore potential for collaborative action.

Management challenges: Reactive process to provide a sounding board (“phone a friend”) support on day-to-day challenges as they arise.

Additionally, the systems leadership action learning process will provide a safe space to reduce the sense of isolation, provide professional development and access to a ‘critical friend’ role to enable individual and collective learning and development.

The closing systems leadership retreat is the culmination of the formal learning for 2023 and the beginning of the collaborative action for the learning cohort. The retreat provides the opportunity to consolidate and reflect on progress in your individual and collective systemic leadership challenges and explore the next horizon for ongoing learning and application of learnings. This will be determined by the cohort but will include:

  • Reflective learning on progress on systemic challenges and alignment of systems leadership practice
  • Condition building for ongoing engagement of the philanthropic sector in their systemic challenges and bring others along
  • Progressing opportunities  for building alignment and mobilisation of the sector to influence progress on systemic challenges
  • Consolidating conditions and next steps for network and coalition development to take collaborative action
  • Embedding ongoing systemic learning into 2024

Systemic capacity will be amplified and accelerated through an individual coaching process. The coaching sessions will provide participants with the opportunity to work intensively and individually, on specific challenges facing the philanthropic sector and/or themselves in their roles.

Specific areas that coaching will support and build capacity on include, but are not limited to:

Understanding, developing, and navigating individual and system authority and power

Deeper diagnosis of systems, adaptive and technical challenges to identify areas of leverage for change

Working with conflicting perspectives and holding conflict

Understanding and working on leadership development areas and vulnerabilities

Working politically and holding heat

Each participant will receive three individual leadership coaching sessions.

The sessions will occur at the beginning of the process, in the middle and one at the end with each session being 90 minutes and follow up resources provided.

To maximise the connectivity, ongoing learning and purpose of shared action of the learning cohorts, network infrastructure will be developed to facilitate greater collaboration on systemic change initiatives which emerge from the learning process.  This component will be designed with the participants in response to the learning needs and the systemic challenges identified in the program.

How do I apply?

Complete the online application outlining how you meet the selection criteria and invite someone to nominate you. This can all be done by completing the application form below. You should ask a nominee who can best speak to your work in philanthropy, and suitability against the selection criteria. 

Complete the application form HERE 

For further information and opportunity to ask questions, two information webinars will be held on the following dates.

Monday 30th January 2023 2.00pm – 3.30pm AEDT (Register here to attend)

Tuesday 21st February 2023 2.00pm – 3.30pm AEDT (Register here to attend)

For further details and more information contact

Applications close on Monday 27th February 2023 with interviews will be held throughout March 2023.

Download the program brochure HERE [PDF]

The Catalyst Group for Philanthropic Leadership for systemic change are:

  • Cages Foundation, Rachel Kerry
  • Collaboration for Impact, Liz Skelton
  • Dusseldorp Forum, Teya Dusseldorp, 
  • Fay Fuller Foundation, Niall Fay
  • The Wyatt Trust, Stacey Thomas

Convened and delivered by Collaboration for impact working in collaboration with, supported and funded by Catalysing Group of: Cages Foundation, Dusseldorp Forum, Fay Fuller Foundation, Paul Ramsay Foundation and The Wyatt Trust.