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The Panellist's Perspective

Posted by: Emma on 24 Jan 2017
in Blog

Billy Gorter is Executive Director of This Life Cambodia, winner of a 2015 Impact Award in the Asia-Pacific region. Billy founded This Life Cambodia in 2007 after a community expressed concern with the lack of a platform to identify and prioritise their own development needs. The organisation is based on the founding principles of listening to, engaging with and advocating alongside communities, and giving voice to community-led and defined development. Billy is a passionate activist and advocate for change and has more than 15 years of experience working within NGOs tackling conservation, social, human rights and educational issues in Australia and Cambodia. He frequently speaks at universities, research forums and assemblies for social debate. Billy is passionately committed to addressing the rights of children and educational development, engaging many along the way to actively challenge accepted norms.

In December 2015, I was delighted and honoured to accept the Stars Impact Award on behalf of the team at This Life Cambodia and all those we work alongside in the communities we serve. Winning a Stars Impact Award brought This Life Cambodia into a community of organisations around the world who are delivering high impact, cutting edge programs for children, while also achieving high standards in organisational governance.

For us, the award is recognition of our commitment to community-led programming. Working side by side with community members, listening to their insights and acting on their input, we have developed a range of programs that provide direct services to children and families while also supporting and enabling communities to take action independently.

It was a great honour to be asked to join the 2016 Stars Impact Award panel of experts for the Asia-Pacific region. I would be the first winner to form part of the awards panel for this region, and the experience would give me a greater understanding of how the process works, from the other side of the table so to speak.  I will confess though I hadn’t quite anticipated what came next!

Months before the panel was due to sit we received the assessor’s reports as well as the organisations' applications. It was immediately obvious I was up for a solid week of reading, and then another solid week of highlighting, reflecting, and pondering!  

We were presented with 14 strong organisations, all addressing critical issues throughout the region, yet somehow had to select only eight. By coincidence there appeared to be was a theme to this years’ successful applicants - organisations that keep families together and support children within their families and communities.

In evaluating all of these worthy organisations these are some of the questions I asked myself:

  • Was there solid evidence of delivering impact?
  • What was the level of community participation in program design/implementation?  Did that include children as well as adults?
  • Were there robust and actionable M&E processes in place?
  • Was there a high degree of inclusiveness and collaboration with intended beneficiaries and other stakeholders?  

Coming out of the experience I had a greater appreciation of the amount of work that goes into assessing organisations. It was very eye opening being on the other side of the process! I may have even said out loud that I’m not sure how panellists sleep at night. I truly felt I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I was so impressed with how much preparation all of the panellists clearly undertook prior to our meeting in person.  Having access to the consultants who conducted the field reviews made the process for selection infinitely easier in terms of getting our questions answered. A personal highlight for me was the opportunity to network with people who work in philanthropy in decision-making roles - donor advisors, foundations and consultants – it was a fantastic opportunity to gain insight into how funding decisions are influenced and made.

Although the process was extremely rewarding, I’m happy to be crossing back to the other side of the table and continuing the journey with This Life Cambodia.