The Sidney Myer Fund and The Myer Foundation, with the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and the Paul Ramsay Foundation are collaborating to support SILA: Social Impact Leadership Australia. Together they have committed $9 million over five years to SILA, which will be delivered by the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW.

The program was created from a collective desire to support not-for-profit and for-purpose leaders to enhance their capacity, positively influence their organisations, and create a strategic network of like-minded leaders across the country.

Leonard Vary, CEO of The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund, said that the idea stemmed from the recognition of a damaging and persistent lack of investment in the leadership of the for-purpose sector in Australia.

“We’re inspired by the success of programs in the United States, supported by foundations which see the value of investment in building the capacity of for-purpose leaders.” Mr Vary said.

“Beyond mere professional development, SILA is a powerful way to influence whole organisations, while ensuring the next tier of leaders is ready to take the reins and lead for social impact.”

Jo Taylor, Chief Capability Officer of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, said the investment in SILA is a reflection of the Foundation’s long-term commitment to breaking cycles of disadvantage.

“The exacerbation of disadvantage we have seen in the wake of a cluster of once-in-a-generation disasters – the bushfire, drought and COVID-19 pandemic – have strengthened our collective resolve to build more effective offramps from the cycles that trap people in poverty.

“To break complex cycles of disadvantage, we have to enhance the capability of the for-purpose sector which plays an increasingly central role in developing new approaches and delivering support to those who need it most,” said Ms Taylor.

One third of participants for the program will be drawn from rural and regional areas, a focus that Jenny Wheatley, CEO of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation said was “exciting and important”.

“It is critical that we develop a truly national program. By broadening our reach in this way, we are ensuring we will be available to a diverse group of leaders and organisations from across Australia.” Ms Wheatley added.

The program will be delivered by the Centre for Social Impact, a leader in social impact education. CEO Professor Kristy Muir described the program as “visionary” and applauded the collaboration.

“We know that people are an organisation’s most important asset, and we know that there is persistent underinvestment in the professional development of for-purpose leaders.” Professor Muir said.

“This program helps change that. We’re incredibly honoured that CSI has been selected to create and deliver this ground-breaking program and can’t wait to work with the first cohort of leaders.”

The cutting-edge program design is based on international best practice and covers leadership of the self, the organisation, and the system. SILA includes a series of immersive learning experiences, a tailored sabbatical, one-on-one coaching, and dedicated organisational capacity-building support. The curriculum is delivered during three retreats by a faculty of leading academics and practitioners.

In its first year SILA was open to applicants in NSW and ACT, reaching other states in later years. Go to silaprogram.org.au for more information.