by Anthea Smits, CEO
Two years ago we celebrated our tenth anniversary and began a journey of asking some bigger, better questions: Who are we, where have we been, how have we contributed, what do we care about, what does the world need from us next, and who do we see ourselves becoming?
We believe we’re now strategically positioned to start answering them.
Our new strategy is a clarion call to action. It represents a new chapter for TDi that builds on ten years of learning and unlearning in economic development. It’s also an invitation – to hope, to collaborate, to experiment, and to learn our way collectively to an economy worthy of the human spirit – and we invite you to partner with us as we commit to seeing change across three key impact areas.
Throughout TDi’s history, we’ve taken pride in being a learning organisation. As we reflected on our first decade, we identified several pivotal iterative moments of progress in our thinking and practice.
Today, we have confidence in the expertise we’ve cultivated over the years, and while we maintain our commitment to continued learning, we know enough to know that to see an economy truly worthy of the human spirit… it’s time to make a giant leap.
Our journey began with a desire to bridge two systems: the Non-profit & Social Enterprise sector, and the Business & Finance sector: “Do Good & Make Money”. The ambition was to create new funding pathways – beyond government and philanthropy – to address societal issues more effectively.
We initially believed that by encouraging the non-profit sector to behave differently, we could tap into a portion of the $109 trillion resting in global equity markets. However, we soon discovered that it was far more complicated, and today we understand that the theory has played out in very limited ways.
Parallel to this, we witnessed several Australian institutions undergoing Royal Commissions or inquiries, including the banking, superannuation, aged care, and disability sectors, all resulting in damning reports. Personally, the most distressing part of reading these reports was the abuse, exclusion & inequality told through the stories of lived experience.
On a side note, Papua New Guinean women have taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to statistics and stories like these. On paper, PNG women face some of the most extreme challenges in terms of poverty and domestic violence, among other factors. But this is not my experience or the story I see them living day-to-day.
My experience of PNG women is that they are fierce, capable, resilient, and cheeky. The statistics aren’t their story, they are our shame. Just like the statistics of abuse and exclusion are not the whole stories of those who’ve testified at the Royal Commissions and Inquiries – instead they’re our shame: they are the shame of those who held control, and of those who held power to change things but did not.
The sad irony is that institutions established to care for our most vulnerable have been found to be abusive, perpetuating existing inequality. In addition to all this, we have an economic system that hasn’t shared prosperity, and decades of wealth creation has primarily benefited a small minority of shareholders, contributing to growing inequality.
All this signals to me that we’ve barely touched the sides: there’s still a long way to go towards ‘an economy worthy of the human spirit’.
It also signals that it’s time for us to step up, and now we’re strategically positioned to do just that: We’ve had 12 years of learning and unlearning; we’re asking better questions in our work than ever before; we’ve understood and experimented with many levers; we’re highly relational and able to connect and convene; we’ve understood the significance of cultivating mindset and inner development alongside growing technical skills.
We dream of an economy that is worthy of the human spirit – an economy that is inclusive, embraces diversity, shares prosperity, and is regenerative.
Our new strategy speaks to all of that, but it is also an invitation – to hope, to collaborate, to experiment, and to learn our way collectively to an economy worthy of the human spirit. For me personally, and for the TDi team, it is a commitment to the next ten years of growth and change.
So, it’s time to begin a new chapter
We’ve realigned our strategy to concentrate on three core impact areas:
- Locally-led Regenerative Economies: Working towards more inclusive local economies, for sustained community prosperity.
- Localising Entrepreneurial Support: Addressing equity, power and privilege in our entrepreneurial ecosystems.
- Women’s Economic Equality: Creating genuinely different economic opportunities designed for women, by women.
We’ll be sharing more about each of these in the coming weeks, and you’ll start to see these impact areas emerging as a key focus in our projects and programs.
“Our new strategy is an invitation to hope, to collaborate, to experiment, and to learn our way collectively to an economy worthy of the human spirit”
— Anthea Smits, TDi CEO
Why this, why now, and what’s changed?
These impact areas have always been elements of our work and practice and are the things we care deeply about – but we know that creating change will require new levels of collaboration and partnership.
Without real and lasting change in these areas, our economy and business environment will continue to reinforce inequality and ecological harm. These areas also align with our experience, passions, and strengths, and we’ll continue to centre the integration of inner and outer development, through our InsideOut model, which is the backbone of our approach.
We are now purposefully honing our focus through this next chapter because we truly believe these are the elements of change needed to achieve the vision: These impact areas serve as our guiding principles as we seek partner with like-minded people who are approaching these embedded problems from different angles, and as we endeavour to create an economy that is truly worthy of the human spirit.
We will maintain our curiosity and exploratory approach while simultaneously making a sustained effort to drive progress in these three key impact areas over the long term. Throughout this journey, we will endeavour to remain adaptable, and commit to continue learning new ways of working, while we actively contribute to systemic change.