Paul Higgins: SVP Melbourne’s Co-Lead Partner for 100 Story Building

When I came to hear about Social Venture Partners (SVP) I had been consulting and presenting keynotes to the not for profit sector for a couple of years where I banged on about the sector and philanthropy in particular not doing enough innovation and risk taking. The first real exposure I had was listening to Lance Fors present at the Leadership Victoria joint forum about 18 months ago. I discussed my issues and questions with Lance and it seemed like SVP was a great fit for me. The intersection of my thinking and the model of engaged philanthropy as it is practiced at SVP led me to saying to myself that it was time to do something rather than just talking about it. The added bonus on joining up was that the partners are a great group of passionate, smart, and engaged people and I believe that to an extent you become who you associate with. Therefore beyond my desire to make an impact I think being part of SVP is a great chance for personal development.

Having joined I asked to be part of the investment committee as I tend to be right in or right out of  things. I thought it would utilise my skills and be a great way to be at the heart of what was happening. The experience of being on the committee was exactly that and we all learnt as we went along, as this is the first time that all of us went through this sort of process together. On top of that I became involved in one of the two member shortlist assessment teams and was assigned/volunteered to be on the team that looked at 100 Story Building, the organisation we finally invested in. One of the principles of that process was to be a dispassionate assessor of the organisation and not an advocate for them but along with I think all the others once we got involved we became assessor and advocate.

Once 100 Story Building became our initial investment I was asked to continue along as a lead investor in combination with Susan Keyes-Pearce. Luckily 100 Story Building was willing to put up with me and that has been a great experience so far. The board sub-committee we are working with are warm and open about the process while still being frank, and just as importantly they are fun to be with. Lachlann Carter the CEO, and the rest of his (now growing – with our investment) team are passionate people with a deep understanding of the learning and education process for kids. I believe that we are adding significant value in both monetary and capacity terms but also believe I will learn as much from them as they will from me.

The main thing I would say to others possibly thinking of joining up is that as well as aligning with my values of trying to make an impact the journey has been a highly enjoyable one. Who wouldn’t want to do that – enjoy yourself while making a difference?

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