One in four educators pursue a “passion project” on the side
Over two thirds of Australians (68 per cent) working in the Australian education sector are currently working on a project outside of their formal working hours in a paid position, using their talents to focus attention on societal issues or dilemmas they come across in their working life, according to newly released research from the AMP Foundation.
The AMP Foundation has released the research to mark the 2019 launch of its Tomorrow Fund, which gives away $1 million in grants each year to everyday Australians doing amazing things in their communities.
Previously successful applicants for the Tomorrow Fund have used their grants to support work in environmental pollution, youth suicide, helping children with dyslexia to read and medical research.
One such winner, Kate Arthur, has been volunteering for years to eradicate illiteracy in Australian children. She has been working for the 20 per cent of children who start school not ready to learn to read or write.
Ms Arthur believes that reading from infancy should be widely encouraged – not just isolated to communities where there is an obvious need.
Working with charity Paint the Town REaD and Melbourne University’s Parent-Infant Research Institute, Ms Arthur runs a communications program that educates those in the workplace – especially parents to be – of the importance of reading with children from birth.
A number of early childhood education and care professionals have undertaken alternate income streams to supplement their daily work, or to advance the standing of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, including creating resource packages and templates, making props and puppets to use during story time, and providing paid assistance to those undertaking education and care qualifications, as a tutor.
The Sector spoke with Gabrielle Flavin, founder of Sticks and Stones Education, an online toy store established in 2013. Gabrielle is an early childhood teacher, who set up her business to supplement her income, which has turned into a focus on supporting other educators to understand and document reflective practice and the cycle of planning through the creation of the Sticks and Stones Emporium in conjunction with Phoenix Support for Educators.
“I was babysitting every week, Friday and Saturday nights, without fail, on top of a busy work week with long commutes. In order to meet the cost of living in Sydney, I started my business” she said.
Thankfully, her business has been successful, and she is now at the point where she can work in a casual capacity, and run her business as well. However, she was keen to point out that as a small business owner, it can be a challenge to maintain visibility in a crowded ECEC market.
“If money was no object” Ms Flavin said “I’d be present and have a stall at all the major professional development events, and provide a platform for other small businesses – often run by hard working educators, who understand how the resources they sell can be used by other educators – to share their products”
She creates and sources “unique, left of centre, quirky products” believing that children deserve “beautiful, open ended resources, of high quality, to inspire creativity, play and learning”. The ethos behind her buying and creating philosophy, and stock selection, is simple “I only sell what I myself would use as an educator. I have to love it to sell it.”
It’s that love and connection to product which Ms Flavin said sets small businesses apart, and that is the kind of passion the AMP Foundation seeks to support.
AMP Foundation and Head of Sustainability Helen Liondos said with the right support, such as the Tomorrow Fund, more educators would be able to make their dreams a reality.
“The research shows education workers want to achieve amazing things in the community but money often prevents them from making a positive impact,” Ms Liondos said.
“Many people underestimate their capacity to get funding or simply aren’t aware of the funding options available to them.
At the AMP Foundation, we want to better support the talent and innovation that exists in our community and make it easier for Australians to receive funding for their passion projects.”
Those surveyed by the AMP Foundation said that money (being able to leave their main role, and the security of a regular pay cheque, or needing more money to invest in their project) was the main concern preventing educators from pursuing their project more fully, followed by a local of time generally, and commitments to their full time role.
Male educators are more likely to pursue projects, AMP found, with 85 per cent of men in education currently working on a side project, compared with 61 per cent of women.
Side projects associated with arts and culture were the most popular side amongst educators, with education and sports and leisure the next most popular.
In terms of using side projects to impact positively on society, and seek to give solutions to major inequities and concerns, if money were no object, educators would run side projects to support education, the environment, and health.
Ms Liondos said grants from the AMP Tomorrow Fund can be used to fund a range of things –whether it’s a vital piece of equipment, training or travel – to help make a positive impact on Australia. The flexibility of the funding, she said, “can foster agility and innovation.”
“We have been honoured to support so many remarkable Australians during the past five years. The breadth of talent and the level of commitment to doing good in our community never fails to amaze, and I look forward to meeting our new batch of AMP Tomorrow Makers.” Ms Liondos said.
Applications for the Tomorrow Fund, now in its sixth year, are now open. Individuals of all ages, interests and abilities, working towards goals with community benefit, are invited to apply for grants of up to $100,000 per person.
To be eligible, applicants must apply at ampstomorrowfund.com.au by 4pm (AEST) on 27 May 2019, explaining what their goal is, why it is important to Australia and what they have done to move closer to it.
Each year, AMP’s Tomorrow Fund awards grants of up to $100,000 for a wide range of activities, including training, travel costs, living expenses, research or small business funding. So far, 230 grants have been awarded.
For more news about the grants program and this year’s inspirational AMP Tomorrow Makers, as well as past recipients, follow Twitter (@ampfoundation)