As the first installment of its KnowledgeBank project, the peak body for philanthropy in Australia has founded a Wiki community that is open to the public. SIMON MUMME talks to Philanthropy Australia.
Philanthropy in Australia is being ‘Wikified’. Major donors, non-profits and experts are driving an online resource that can inform all of us about the ideas, people and practices involved in giving towards, and working in, the community sector.
Last December, Philanthropy Australia launched PhilanthropyWiki, an online information source designed to deepen public understanding of philanthropy, develop the skills of non-profits seeking funding, and encourage higher levels of giving and professionalism in the sector. “We hope to keep it as a permanent repository of thought in the field and the history of philanthropy in Australia,” Vanessa Meachen, Philanthropy Australia communications and knowledge manager, and a member of the administration team overseeing the resource, says.
“We want to make the sum total of philanthropic knowledge (in Australia) available to all people.” Members of Philanthropy Australia, which includes philanthropic organisations, individual philanthropists, nonprofits and social investors, contribute to and edit the pages of PhilanthropyWiki. Louise Arkles, who leads Philanthropy Australia’s knowledge centre, and a team of administrators moderate the resource. But its contents are open to all.
Users browse through the following major sections of the site:
• ‘Philanthropedia’, which contains profiles of people and organisations (primarily foundations), as well as statistics, surveys and historical information important to Australian philanthropy;
• ‘Structures and models’, which compiles information relevant to specific forms of philanthropy, such as methods of structuring corporate foundations;
• ‘Practices’, which addresses the various activities comprising philanthropy and grantmaking, such as investing for foundations and a brief on Easygrants, a web-based grants management software system;
• ‘Theories and debates’, which covers topics such as measuring social capital in Australia, and a speech on the nature of altruism by Raimond Gaita, author of Romulus: My Father; and
• ‘Program areas’, which provides information on specific topics, such as disaster grantmaking or challenges in indigenous philanthropy.
“We’d like to see a lot of our members use it for the evaluation of projects; to share information about what works and what doesn’t,” Meachen says.
The ‘wiki’ has connections with the investment industry: it was built with funding from the Macquarie Group Foundation, and it carries short biographies on Michael Traill and Chris Cuffe, former industry executives who now hold senior positions with Social Ventures Australia, in addition to Christopher Thorn, who heads Goldman Sachs JBWere philanthropic services, Julie White, who leads the Macquarie Group Foundation and, of course, Warren Buffett.
The instrument is one component of KnowledgeBank, an ongoing project aiming to link Philanthropy Australia’s online information resources. In time, it will interlink the organisation’s website and library, as well as PhilanthropyWiki, a ‘grantseeking’ directory listing more than 350 sources of non-government funding, a projects in-the-pipeline and philanthropic grants database, grantmakers database, a members’ communications vehicle and a search engine.
A number of these tools, such as the projects database, are under construction. Interestingly, the grants database will accumulate grantmaking data and track trends among donors. While all individual grants might not be traced, due to privacy restrictions, the aggregate sums going towards various sectors, such as education or indigenous health, will be available.
While such a resource exists in other countries, no instrument has been developed for the Australian sector, Maechen says.