Chairman’s Report: For the Year ended 30 June 2016
The year from July 2015 to June 2016 has been a time of significant change for the Invergowrie Foundation. The Council has used this time to constructively evaluate the purpose of the Foundation and to critic its performance. As a result, we are now about to embark down a very different path than the one we have been on since the Foundation was established in 1992.
The following is an update on the work the Foundation has undertaken over the last 12 months.
Over the last 2 years I have been speaking about how the philanthropic landscape is evolving and that the contemporary view of philanthropy was something that the Invergowrie Council was interested in exploring. In particular the Council was interested in looking at how the Foundation could have greater impact with its grants to fulfil its mission to advance the education of girls and women in Victoria.
Set against this backdrop the Council embarked on a process of engaging a consultant to assist in exploring and identifying the opportunities available to Invergowrie.
The key points that came out of the process were:
- We revisited the history of Invergowrie to remind us of how we started;
- We reviewed the primary objects as outlined in the Memorandum of Association for which the Association was established; and these are:
- To promote and advance public education generally within the State of Victoria, and
- To encourage public education and teaching, and to improve originate and organise methods and systems for supplying the same
- We reaffirmed our commitment to advancing the education of girls and women;
- We determined that we wanted to move away from our traditional grant-making approach of providing transactional grants and to reposition the Foundation by identifying an area of focus where the Foundation can make a greater contribution that can have an impact; and
- That we would look at ways to re-engage with the 30 founding member schools as we reposition the Foundation.
With these key points established the Council then looked to determine what the Foundation’s area of focus should be.
The area that emerged was for Invergowrie to focus on strengthening the opportunities for girls and women in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
In arriving at this focus Council took into consideration not only the lack of girls and women undertaking STEM subjects at school and STEM focused courses at University but we also considered the Foundation’s history – many of you may be aware that W E McPherson, who gifted the Invergowrie property to AHIGSV in 1933 was an Engineer and his company won the contract to supply all of the bolts to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
In addition, we looked at our grant-making history – who we have supported and to what value – and what the impact of any changes that we may make to our grant-making approach might have on them; and we agreed that any changes in our funding approach needed to benefit Victoria as a whole (and not focus predominately on Melbourne and its surrounds).
So with these parameters in place we embarked on testing whether our initial idea of focusing on STEM would be worthwhile and more specifically our ideas of:
- undertaking some Research to summarise what is happening in the STEM area;
- how to improve teaching outcomes;
- creating a STEM camp for girls.
The Council approved the Consultant’s brief and for the next 6 months Kim Bartlett and Pam Chessell, specifically, undertook a desktop review of the literature on STEM (this work was overseen by the consultants) and the Consultants undertook a series 25 interviews (some face to face and some by phone) with selected businesses, universities, schools, government departments and individuals across Victoria, Interstate and overseas.
During the course of the interviews, in particular, there was support for the direction that Invergowrie was considering to take. The former Lead Scientist for Victoria, Leonie Walsh, was particularly encouraging.
The following are some of the points coming from the desktop research and the interviews that were undertaken:
- Businesses competing in a global economy driven by data, digital technologies and innovation will need more employees trained in STEM
- Estimates are that 75% of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills
- Modelling by PwC finds that shifting just 1% of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4b to GDP (net present value over 20 years)
- Evidence shows that high performing countries are characterised by:
- A strong basic research approach that provides technical know-how and step-change ideas;
- A culture of risk – assessing it, managing it and taking it; openness to new ideas
- Career pathways from academia to industry and visa versa
- A reliable pipeline of STEM graduates whose skills are valued by employers
- A STEM-literate population that celebrates discovery and entrepreneurship
- Given that an estimated 75% of the fastest growing occupations, including those in the creative industries and humanities, will require STEM related skills and knowledge, there is an imperative for introducing these foundational skills into the primary and pre-primary curricula
- There will also be a growing need for the broad skills that STEM fosters. Critical thinking and problem-solving, analytic capabilities, curiosity and imagination have all been identified as critical “survival skills” in the workplace of the future.
- When gender balance is aligned with the real world, it is more likely that the research will, accordingly, be better aligned, and so be more productive and relevant to the real world applications of the work.
- Another potential argument is for social justice, fairness and human rights. If all people are equal, then all should be able to experience equal opportunity, including the circumstances that enable them to engage successfully in STEM education and careers
- Women are a significant under-utilized resource that have the potential to boost the labour force in this sector and provide a larger talent pool within which to search for the best and brightest.
- In addition to these points some of the societal challenges that we are facing include:
- Health, demographic change and wellbeing
- Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and the bio economy
- Secure, clean and efficient energy
- Resource efficiency
All of these challenges will require STEM associated skills to solve.
So the outcome of the Strategic Review based on the work undertaken over this 6-month period identified that an opportunity exists for the Foundation to make a significant mark in STEM Education through a staged strategy targeting three key platforms of focus:
- The Invergowrie Foundation STEM Report (STEM-interested sectors)
Commission a report which provides a “roadmap” of understanding of STEM Education in Australia from a cross-sector perspective, in particular, how girls and women are faring. The report will build the case for a new approach to philanthropic investment and cross-sector engagement in improving STEM education in Australia. It will be known as “The Invergowrie Foundation STEM Report”, published biennially and disseminated to key stakeholders through an engagement strategy to join them in a collaborative discussion on improving STEM Education.
- The Invergowrie Foundation Expert STEM Education Hub (Teaching and Pedagogy)
Central to the strategy, develop an “Expert STEM Education Hub”, and through collaborative partnerships, to build the evidence of STEM Education best practice at primary and secondary school levels of education and share that evidence across the system. The Hub will be informed by the two other platforms of the strategy, the Report and the Summit.
- The Invergowrie Annual STEM Summit (Students)
Provide secondary school girls undertaking STEM studies with an opportunity to connect with each other and STEM experts and professionals and become a significant and influential group through an annual summer camp experience.
The Council has approved these three recommendations with the proviso that subject to the findings of the Research if there are other areas identified where Invergowrie can have a greater impact than with the currently agreed recommendation 2 establishing an expert STEM Hub and recommendation 3 running an annual STEM Summit for girls then the Council will review its decision and consider the new options identified in the Research.
The next step will be to finalise the approach to undertake the research phase and to commence this work.
The current expectation is that the research will be finished (and hopefully launched) in the second quarter of next year.
At an operational level the current focus for the Foundation is to:
- Finalise the Foundation’s commitments to grant recipients who are still being supported through multi-year grants
- The 2016 award of The Invergowrie Foundation W E McPherson Fellowship for teaching staff of member schools to undertake post-graduate study or a suitably focused short course to develop their education skills will be announced at the 2016 Annual General Meeting.
- The Council has decided not to renew the lease for the Invergowrie office. The office will be relocating in November.
- Appoint an expert consultant to oversee the research component of the strategic review that was outlined above.
- Continue to manage the Invergowrie Investment portfolio with the assistance of our Investment Advisor.
The Foundation did not make any new grants in 2015/2016. It disbursed $115,478 in grants where funding commitments had been made in prior years. The total disbursements since the Foundation’s formation in 1992 is $8.962 million.
Sincere thanks are extended to Pam Chessell, who retired in August this year d as a Director of the Foundation. Pam has been involved with Invergowrie for over 20 years and we are indebted to her for the significant contribution she has made to the Foundation over this time.
I also thank the Finance Committee for their careful management of the Foundation’s investment portfolio in conjunction with our investment advisor Ms Sandi Tuddenham of Bell Potter Securities.
I would like acknowledge the work of Ms Kim Bartlett as the CEO of Invergowrie Foundation for the past eighteen months. Kim will finish up in the role as the Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation at the end of November and will be moving overseas to take up a new opportunity. In her time in the role, Kim has been an integral part of the strategic review that has been undertaken. We are very grateful for everything Kim has done and we wish her well in her new adventure.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the work of all of the members of the Council. It is a privilege and pleasure to be able to work with the inspirational women who comprise the Invergowrie Council. They are passionate, dedicated and willing to have robust discussions and are able to make the big decisions.
In 2017 the Invergowrie Foundation will mark 25 years since it commenced operating. I believe the work the Council has undertaken to shift the approach that it will use to distribute the funds that are generated each year, will ensure that we can operate in an ever-changing environment and continue to advance the education of girls and women in Victoria.