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Accelerator program aims to drive innovation in non-profit sector

Australian Progress and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) have launched Progress Labs, a new accelerator program designed to support leaders and social movements that engage Australians in positive action.

Modelled on successful tech-world programs like Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator and Australia’s Startmate, the program provides office space, strategic advice, investment support and mentorship in both Sydney and Melbourne.

But rather than focus on producing companies with billion dollar valuations, the accelerator supports bold advocacy efforts around Australia’s social safety net, education, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, and mental health.

At a Launch & Pitch Night held last week, on 21st February 2018 at 107 Redfern St Redfern​, and hosted by broadcaster Tracey Spicer, the first seven movements supported by the program shared their plans with a room of philanthropists and non-profit leaders.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO, ACOSS ​said: “Progress Labs is backing innovation in the non-profit landscape through supporting the authentic leadership and voices of people who are most impacted by government and business decision making.”

Nick Moraitis, Executive Director, Australian Progress​ said: “Australians are deeply disengaged fro​m our political system but are passionate about so many issues. We need a new generation of organisations to help engage people in new ways.”

Donkey Wheel (a philanthropic organisation) and the Vasudhara Foundation have between them donated half a million dollars towards the Labs initial operating costs.

Col Duthie, Chair of Donkey Wheel​ said: “Philanthropy is increasingly looking for opportunities to support systemic change, and that means getting behind social movements. ACOSS and Australian Progress have a unique capacity and reputation in this space, and we’re very pleased to be in at the ground level”.

Nick Crocker, head of the Startmate incubator and partner at Australian venture capital firm Blackbird​ has joined the board of Australian Progress, to help inform the Labs design, and said: “Having been in tech accelerators as a founder, and having invested in them, there is huge potential to take this model into the world of civic engagement”.

The first seven projects supported through Progress Labs are:

● Tim Lo Surdo from ​Democracy in Colour​, Australia’s first national racial justice advocacy organisation led by people of colour, recently launched.

● Jason Ball and James Lolicato from ​Pride Cup​, building a movement of advocates tackling homophobia in grassroots sport across rural and regional Australia.

● Meagan Lawson and Corey Irlam from the Council on the Ageing, who are planning a new digital and grassroots movement of Australian seniors, called ​1 in 3 Voters​.

● Karrina Nolan from ​Original Power​, a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led organisation designed to increase the effectiveness of campaigns for self-determined solutions.

● Joel Dignam from ​Better Renting​, a campaigning movement designed to change the way we think about renting.

● Owen Bennett and Jeremy Poxon from the ​Australian Unemployed Workers Union​, combining 1:1 assistance for unemployed people with advocacy to amplify their voices.

● Vanessa Gonzalez and Mat Howard from ​Rainbow Families NSW​, an organisation providing LGBTQI families with access to relevant community programs, social connection, and advocacy support.
Applications for the second round of Progress Labs (which commences in July 2018) will open during April.

Visit the website for details.

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