Five qualities that we will be looking for in this year’s ‘Expressions of Interest’ applications – transformational change, outstanding leadership and management, measuring impact, business-like operations and good governance – were well illustrated by the successful 2014 applicants.

As we open our 2015 Expressions of Interest process we will again be looking for initiatives that are a catalyst for transformational change in New Zealand. The mission of Zero Invasive Predators (“ZIP”), one of the four NEXT Foundation grants announced late last year, is indicative of such an ambitious, shared national goal – to remove on a permanent basis rats, stoats and possums from large areas of mainland New Zealand. ZIP’s barrier approach to keeping large land areas predator-free could have significant value for many conservation projects across the country.

Subsequently completing one of the most significant private-public- philanthropic partnerships in New Zealand’s conservation history, by bringing together five major dairy organisations – Fonterra, Open Country, Synlait, Tatua and Westland Milk – with Sam and Gareth Morgan, NEXT Foundation and DOC, was therefore a notable milestone for ZIP, and an excellent example of the catalytic effect strategic philanthropy can have. At the launch of the Dairy Partnership earlier this year, Al Bramley, CEO ZIP summed it up, “together we will be able to innovate and pilot ZIP’s work to the next order of magnitude.”

Outstanding project leadership and management/execution capacity are characteristics we also want in initiatives we support. We invest in long term partnerships that are invariably built around great leaders.

Ian Narev, Chair of SpringBoard Trust and highly respected business CEO, is exemplary of the leadership we are looking for in our partnerships. SpringBoard Trust’s programme involves business leaders mentoring primary school principals on strategic leadership in what is another excellent private-public-philanthropic partnership example. Ian mentors a group of Principals each year himself, and as Chairman leads the Board in ensuring the organisation has excellent management to execute its operations and growth plan.

Dame Anne Salmond, recipient of a grant last year for her initiative Te Awaroa, A Thousand Rivers, is another great example of a visionary New Zealand leader. Her belief in this country’s ability to overcome tough issues, and her tireless efforts to foster collaboration, are big factors in her leadership success.

“We are a small country with a big appetite for taking on formidable challenges,” said Dame Anne at the announcement of Te Awaroa and NEXT Foundation’s partnership. “Our challenge is to bring everyone together to make sure that our rivers – the life blood of the land – are thriving. It won’t be easy. By taking care of our rivers, we are taking care of this beautiful land for our children and grandchildren, and safeguarding its future prosperity. What could be better than that?”

The SpringBoard Trust partnership also shines a light on the importance we see of measuring the impact of initiatives. NEXT funded SpringBoard to undertake robust and rigorous research and evaluation on the impact of its programmes on learning outcomes. Springboard has commissioned New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) to do this work.

We want the organisations we support to be run in a business-like way. We put an emphasis on clear objectives and strategy, and effective management of operations. Frances Valintine and The Mind Lab by Unitec demonstrate these qualities well. The Mind Lab is expanding operations from Auckland to Gisborne, Wellington and Christchurch in this year, and Frances is growing The Mind Lab team rapidly. That requires the organisation giving clarity of purpose, role and deliverables to all members of its team and then ensuring they meet them.

Good governance is an important part of being run in a business-like way. That doesn’t mean a large Board with representatives from across the globe for our sort of organisation. It normally means 3-4 people with extensive experience relevant to the organisation, in a Board or trustee structure, almost always with a very capable Chairperson leading them. Experienced people one step removed from the day to day executive activity working as a team to provide oversight has enormous value we believe.

We are delighted with the first four partnerships we formed in 2014, and we hope this description of some of their qualities helps you shape your Expression of Interest. We look forward to receiving it.

Bill Kermode, CEO NEXT Foundation