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Our Investment for the Future

July 5, 2012 – 4:47 pmOne Comment

By David Werdiger
The balanced scorecard is one of the better-known strategic performance management tools commonly used to monitor large corporations or organizations. It recognizes that profit is not the only way to measure success, and that only by measuring multiple items across different perspectives can the true performance be understood.

The initial design of this methodology encouraged developing measures that gave answers to questions coming from four perspectives:

  • Financial: “How do we look to shareholders?”
  • Customer: “How do customers see us?”
  • Internal Business Processes: “What must we excel at?”
  • Learning and Growth: “How can we continue to improve and create value?”

We can use an adaptation of this to self-reflect on our Jewish community as a whole: how we are progressing, and where we are headed. In a large and diverse community like ours, it is clear that we are good at some things and not as good at others. While the Melbourne Jewish school education system is held in high regard, the drop-off in engagement after the Jewish school experience is a major challenge.

To have a sustainable Jewish community, we must invest in the future, and any such investment must be considered in terms of what return it provides for the risk taken. In the finance world, we often use a measure called return on investment (ROI) to assess the attractiveness of a particular investment.

The same principle can be used when considering an investment in the community. Should an organization put up a new building or subsidise services using existing infrastructure? These are very complex questions on an organizational level, let alone if we are able to take the perspective of the entire community (and one clear gap in Melbourne is community-level planning). One of the important investments a community must make is in its youth, and in developing the leaders of tomorrow.

It is this sort of thinking that led the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network to develop a program appropriately called ROI Community – a global network of over 800 Jewish innovators. ROI connects dynamic and creative Jews, giving them the tools, support and space to turn their ideas into innovative work that will impact Jewish life. ROI is investing in young adults to develop them as leaders and empower them to impact their Jewish communities and the world at large.

Last month, ROI held its annual Summit in Jerusalem for 150 young Jews from around the globe. As Zaki Djemal from the United States, a Summit participant, reflected: “ROI was an exceptional experience, unparalleled to anything else I’ve been involved with in the Jewish world … I was inspired by the wealth of human capital assembled, the diversity, the raw talent, the drive, and the commitment to the Jewish people and the world; and equally inspired by the atmosphere and sense of community facilitated, sparking collaboration and friendship, setting in motion something far greater and more meaningful than possible within the confines of each of our individual roles.”

Australian Jewish Funders (AJF) is partnering with the Schusterman Network to bring social entrepreneurs, thought leaders and community activists together for a day-long gathering in August for Australian young leaders and innovators, exploring existing and potential pathways of Jewish life, Israel-Diaspora relations and social activism. The gathering will held in Melbourne, in the presence of Sandy Cardin, President of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network, who will also attend several other events for AJF members, including our annual conference, during his visit.

Invitations are open to Australian ROI members, and they are encouraged to nominate potential participants who would benefit from participation in this event. If you think this event might be for you, ask yourself these two questions: (a) Are you making a positive difference to your Jewish and/or general community? (b) Do you stand to both “give and get” from meeting other innovative and passionate Jewish leaders and trail-blazers? If the answer to both questions is “yes”, then consider applying (register before July 19).  For those outside of Melbourne, accommodation will be provided and travel subsidies will be available. In an effort to achieve a balance, participants will be selected based on a range of criteria, including age (from 20 to 40 years old), geographic location, gender, community involvement and area of expertise. To get a better idea of the type of people ROI attracts, click here.

The interest in AJF Innovation’s first project Moishe House is growing, and several applications for the first Australian house are in the works. With the ROI gathering, we are continuing the momentum by partnering with another world leading Jewish philanthropic organization to bring the best programs Down Under.

But wait, there’s more! No, it’s not steak knives. We are working on further initiatives that will consolidate these programs and provide a platform for our next generation to develop and engage with their Jewishness in the ways that work for them. So stay tuned!

David Werdiger is a founding director of AJF, an organisation that promotes strategic and effective philanthropy through education and networking. For more information about our local initiatives around Jewish continuity, please contact AJF’s Executive Officer Tracie Olcha (tracie AT ajf.org.au)

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