How can we enable change?

How can we enable change in the communities we serve?

Gemma Slack
Momentum Waikato Community Foundation
12 December 2017

If we genuinely want to see change in the communities we serve, we need to do things differently. For years, we have funded charitable organisations to deliver on meeting critical needs. But why do we still see so many challenges? Our communities need disruptive thinking from change-makers of all kinds to create the architecture for change, systems for change, for intergenerational change. How do we, as Community Foundations and philanthropic funders, create space for change-makers to innovate our current systems to drive new and radical solutions, that will seriously benefit those children born in 2067? And then how does a long-term focus impact the demands we place on those we fund?

In 2015, the newly established Momentum Waikato Community Foundation provided me with an opportunity to focus my final university research on the sector. The opportunity peaked a curiosity to understand how everything I had learnt in the Bachelor of Management Studies could be applied in the not-for-profit sector.

I completed the research while studying on exchange in Maastricht, Netherlands, and with the support of Momentum Waikato, was able to attend UKCF Conference in 2015 to further my understanding of the sector. These experiences filtered into my final research which explored the history, development and current state of philanthropy and Community Foundations, strategic community investment, and the tools that Community Foundations can use to empower their communities.

As I began this research, I could see a connection between ‘strategy’ used in the for-profit sector, with ‘philanthropy’ used in the not-for-profit sector, in terms of achieving outcomes and goals. Using a philanthropic lens in the context of Community Foundations meant exploring how can we identify the needs and aspirations of our community to drive disruptive solutions for intergenerational change.

We know the solutions to our local problems lie in the communities we serve, but we know if we keep doing the same thing, but expect a different outcome, it’s insanity. So how can Community Foundations convene, connect and endow to enable the change we want to see? This is the passion behind my work with Momentum Waikato over the past three years, delivering the inaugural Waikato Vital Signs, and researching global movements like social enterprise, to better understand how we might inspire generosity to invest for impact.

I see exciting times for Community Foundations around the country as they look at different, more strategic ways to lead the change for communities and systemic impact. I encourage us all to be bold, courageous and inclusive as we explore new ways to enable change, serving our donors and communities to achieve the outcomes we urgently need.


Gemma Slack is responsible for Strategic Initiatives for Momentum Waikato, was awarded 30 under 30 by Hamilton City Council this year, is the Chair of Seed Waikato, is part of the Youth Advisory Group for Philanthropy New Zealand, and has her own social enterprise, Betley.

Read Gemma’s research paper on community foundations and strategic community investment at the link: Philanthropy Community Foundations and Strategic Community Investment (2017) – Gemma Slack