As one of the Impact 25, I joined over 50 of Australia’s leading figures in the Not for Profit sector at the Community Council for Australia’s (CCA) roundtable event in Canberra last week.

Leaders in the charity world, from Tim Costello to Kon Karapanagiotidis, met to discuss what a better future might look like for Australia as the next federal election looms.

While the room was filled with such amazing minds, there was a clear need to find urgency, direction and clarity. What kind of Australia are we really building? What kind of communities do we want to be a part of? How do we actually bring about change? And how do we measure this change?

The event was a significant opportunity for the NFP sector to unite. Australia’s not-for-profit sector has over one million employees, and turns over $107 billion each year. As one of the fastest growing sectors in Australia’s economy over the past decade, the sector is absolutely critical to Australia’s future.

Despite this, it’s a sector ruled by fear. Fear of the uncertain nature of funding, of not knowing where our resources will come from. Fear the relentless change to donors needs and expectations.

It’s also a sector divided: with a multitude of messages and agendas from one organisation or campaign to the next. Without unity, momentum and commitment, it is challenging to take collective action.

Instead of being ruled by fear, we need to use it as our driving force, and start looking for new solutions in unlikely places.

It’s make or break time. If we neglect this opportunity, it could have serious consequences – not just on the organisations in this sector, but the good work they do in our communities and overseas.

My business, ntegrity, was one of the very few non-NFPs at the event. And it’s because we’re an example of a new way of working: a business that works within the NFP sector but also has a social conscience. We’re a business with heart that seeks to make the world better. Some may call us a ‘social enterprise’ but I think we are a ‘millennial business’. We strive for purpose and meaning over profit – something which millennials entering the workplace are looking for more than ever before.

There are many businesses like us. There will be many more in the future. And most are looking to partner with NFPs – whether it’s giving time, money or shared resources.

I believe that to really affect change, the NFP sector has to have conversations with business and with each other; conversations that facilitate collaboration and innovation – rather than competition.

The government should not be the primary target. A society with less crime, violence, addiction and pain is everyone’s business. We can create social change by lobbying for things that matter to different groups. We need to partner with all sorts of organisations: commercial businesses, community groups, peak bodies. Yes, the government does have a role to play, but they’re not the only key.

If we have a unified message, the rest will follow: collectively, NFPs have access to the majority of Australians through digital channels, specifically email and social media. They have the power to mobilise Australians with a meaningful, action-driven message that cuts through the noise and results in real action. But that’s the easy part – working together is where it gets difficult.

If we are divided, we are powerless. Together, we’ll get better outcomes. Together, we’ll be a voice to be reckoned with.

It’s up to us to keep the spark alive. This sector should not be underestimated. It’s an economic powerhouse with access into the hearts and minds of all Australians. If the sector can unite their message, we will be a voice to be reckoned with.

Tell us what you think. How would you describe the Australia you want to be a part of? Let us know by tweeting with the hashtag #AusWeWant.

Read this article at ProBono Australia.

Photo: Ian Huges Photos