Conceptualising venture philanthropy in Australia

Stream: Funding and organising service delivery
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.10 pm


This paper is the first scholarly exploration of venture philanthropy in Australia. With roots in private sector venture capital, venture philanthropy has generated both contention and hope as a funding mechanism for social purpose organisations. Although it spread to the country at the turn of the century, a comprehensive picture of venture philanthropy in Australia is lacking, thus limiting our understanding of its potential, as well as its challenges. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with research and practice experts, this paper addresses this gap. It asks: how is venture philanthropy understood and applied in Australia?

Venture philanthropy is one of various social finance mechanisms that have developed internationally over the last decades. However, as governments call for broad private capital to support public purposes to compensate for reductions in their social spending, strategies blending financial and societal returns have dominated practice and research. Besides being sparse, venture philanthropy scholarship has been primarily descriptive combined with advocacy and/or criticisms. More recently, empirical assessments of the model have been conducted, none of them however in the Australian context.

By investigating venture philanthropy in a previously unexplored milieu, this paper advances our understanding of the practice. This research also provides the stepping stone towards assessing the practice and its effects; while promises of better results and greater financial efficiency have justified importing business practices to the social sector, whether these gains have been realised is largely unknown. Lastly, this research makes a practical contribution by providing potential local adopters with information regarding its implementation.


Axelle Marjolin (Presenter), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney
Axelle Marjolin is Scientia PhD Scholar at the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW. Her thesis aims to look at the effects of practices typically associated with the business sector on non-profit organisations in Australia. Specifically, her doctoral research investigates the experience of non-profit organisations with venture philanthropy, a social finance mechanism with roots in private sector venture capital. Axelle is also a casual Research Officer at the Centre for Social Impact, UNSW. Her areas of research interest include the intersection of business and social change, and social innovations.