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Opinion: What makes for a great NFP and corporate partnership

As the not-for-profit sector in Australia continues to mature and the business world increasingly looks at ways to give back to communities, corporate partnerships are becoming more and more common.

But what makes a quality partnership? It’s a question that we gave a lot of thought to when the opportunity arose three years ago for the Social Ventures Australia Bright Spots Schools Connection (the Connection) to partner with Samsung.

Mission aligned

The Connection is a network of high-performing school leaders throughout Australia, who are delivering exceptional results in school communities experiencing disadvantage. Students in these communities are five times more likely to have worse education outcomes than their peers. The same is true when it comes to highly specialised STEM skills like those in maths and sciences. A lack of access to STEM expertise, influences and technology, results in declining levels of information and communication technology literacy. With the importance of STEM skills for future careers widely accepted, this gap in education is at risk of becoming a source of even greater inequality.

Necessary expertise and a willing relationship

As one of the world’s leading technology companies Samsung Australia is acutely aware of the importance of STEM education to future careers. It also has the expertise and technology that schools in these communities’ struggle to access. Over the past three years, through this partnership with Samsung, the Connection has been able to establish the STEM Learning Hub, which has been able to offer 15 schools directly and a further 27 schools within the Connection broader network,  The Hub has professional development and STEM training for school leaders and teachers, Samsung technology to aid grow and develop STEM teaching, regional meetings with experts and school leaders facing similar barriers exploring creative solutions together.

What really makes the partnership work is the mutual respect and shared moral purpose. Samsung might be the experts on technology, but they defer to the Connection team as the experts on education. At the end of the day, it’s about the student outcomes for their own benefit and together we’re seeing the benefits of a strong and grounded collaboration in the feedback from the schools.

Great results

Wallarano Primary School has been part of the STEM Learning Hub since inception, principal Gail Doney commented that Samsung’s partnership has helped teachers understand the technologies that they need and how they can enrich the learning experience not only for students, but also for teachers. One of the initiatives run out of Wallarano following their involvement in the Connection is creation of the ‘Digital Sandpit’ a weekly session where students and teachers can experiment with Samsung tech.

“What has been most rewarding for us is that children themselves are telling us that they are more engaged,” Doney says.

88% of students indicated in a school survey that the Digital Sandpit was their favourite activity.

This feedback is not siloed and is echoed among other schools who participate in the Connection, which brings back to us to the importance of not securing any partner but securing the right partner.

When values and expertise are aligned, it becomes easy to create fantastic opportunities for program participants. Recently Samsung and SVA were able to select 24 children, from three of the schools involved in the program for a learning experience at Vivid Sydney. For many of the South Australian students, from Mount Burr Primary School, Nangwarry Primary School and Glencoe Primary School, it was their first time on a plane.

The experience was a great example of helping Australians break down barriers and enable meaningful experiences through technology, and working together with SVA to achieve the STEM Learning Hub’s overarching goal: to build an Australia where getting access to first class STEM teaching and skills, and the opportunities afforded by them, isn’t contingent on where you grow up.

Sue Cridge is Director of the Social Ventures Australia Bright Spots Schools Connection.

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