Reflections on the First Year of Operation of the Paul Ramsay Foundation

17 Aug 2016

The end of the financial year has provided us all with an opportunity to reflect on what has been an extraordinary year for the Foundation.

It was with great excitement back in December when we were able to announce the funding of the LifeSpan – the Systems Approach to Suicide Prevention developed by Black Dog Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP). It was extremely encouraging to see the attention that Suicide prevention strategies have received both in the recent Federal Election, and in recent additional trials announced by the Victorian Government.

It would be wonderful to be able to claim that we knew the Foundation’s investment would ultimately end up getting all the additional attention and investment that it absolutely deserves. It would be great to think that our investment played some small role in bringing this vital issue to the fore. On reflection, I don’t think that back in December we truly appreciated the wider impact that our investments can achieve. One key challenge for the future is about how we identify and harness this potential and build relationships with partners that will allow investments to fully evolve.

When we started actively searching for investment opportunities about 12 months ago, our key mantra was that we wanted to be open, honest about what we didn’t know, and to learn from every meeting. My feeling is that this openness has greatly helped drive our internal development, and I very much hope that this will continue throughout 2016/7 and underline our commitment to both internal and sector development.

Looking back, there are various common themes that run through every organisation we have funded. They are all characterised by strong leaders who have an obvious passion for their work and a track record of success. Furthermore, each of these organisations have been able to strongly articulate a vision for change and remained open to the development and refinement of ideas along the journey to funding. In some cases this process has taken many months from inception of the relationship, but in all cases, the journey is as important as the destination.

As we continue the journey, we will spend the next 12 months for the foundation consolidating our strategy and approach. We have aspirations of slowly shifting the way we are funding, moving from investing in programmatic funding and placing more emphasis on trying to achieve systemic change. Where we fund programs the attention will increasingly be on answering “what happens next and how?” and because of this we will continue to place a large emphasis on measurement and evaluation. This is apparent in our recent investments in the Beacon Foundation and Clontarf Foundation, both of which will incorporate a significant investment in an independent evaluation to run beside the projects. Alongside this we will be looking at investing resources in helping organisations develop their own ability to develop sustainable business models and diversified sources of funding.

Internally, the shift in the organisation has been dramatic over the last 12 months. We were lucky enough to hire Jo Taylor in February who has brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the team. Personally, I have also benefitted immensely from a huge number of people throughout the sector that have been so generous with their time and experience. As we continue on this journey of establishing the Foundation we are immensely grateful for all those who have given us support and look forward to doing justice to Paul’s amazing bequest.

Author Simon Freeman CEO