Every year, the Foundation has an invitation-only funding round which allows the Foundation to invite applications from particular organisations for projects that address specific issues or areas of concern.
To this end, a recent initiative taken by the Foundation was the Water Forum held at Griffith University’s Rivers Institute in July this year. The Foundation brought together 17 experts from academia, research, government departments and NGOs to discuss the state of fresh water management in Australia. Following on from the 2015 review of the Foundation’s Environment & Conservation (E&C) program area, water was identified as a key issue by the E&C committee and program staff.
The Water Forum provided us with an opportunity to listen and learn, to engage with key organisations and experts in this area, raise awareness among them of our interest in the issue, and identify potential opportunities and pathways for informed and strategic future grant making.
The Ian Potter Foundation representatives who attended the forum were Professor Tom Healy (Chairman, E&C committee), Craig Connelly (CEO), Louise Arkles (E&C Program Manager), and Squirrel Main (Evaluation Manager).
Based on input from the invited participants, three key aspects of fresh water management were discussed: landholders, water and sustainability; biodiversity; and water management issues in rural centres.
After much discussion the following key message emerged – the science is there. However, what is needed to turn this science into effective fresh water management is:
- national leadership and local action to ensure resilience and expansion of existing good policies and programs, and to stop poor practices
- informed, proven and practical/demonstrable solutions
- a national open-access data set
- better monitoring, evaluation and dissemination of outcomes, and
- effective networks/communications.
So what are the opportunities for philanthropy? As a sector we could add value by advocating for and facilitating centralised leadership on fresh water management and sustainable, longer term funding avenues. We could also support monitoring and evaluation of key demonstration projects, and ensure communication/dissemination of outcomes is embedded in project plans we fund.
More directly, there is an opportunity for funders to invest in environmental communications to ensure the established science, experience and knowledge is readily available to those who can and will use it.
In the meantime, the Foundation will keep water on the agenda.