Melissa Macpherson

Executive Director and Co-Founder, People for Purpose2011 Sydney Fellowship

Melissa Macpherson

I felt so supported during the course and it is this example of support that showed me just how important it is that people feel supported to change, and to make change.


What are you about?

I am about equity, respect, and community. I have a 2 year old and I am passionate about being the best role model I can be for her. I am determined to lead by example for her so that she knows the power of community, the importance of respect for each other and the planet on which we live and a healthy knowledge of ‘enough’.  Often, I am afraid for the future of the planet and I dont think we think enough about the long term consequences of our actions. And then I hear of great ideas or have interesting conversations with people who want to change the status quo and I share in a renewed sense of optimism. This is what I am passionate about – listening to these changemakers and helping them where I can.  I am passionate about helping people achieve significance and contribution and empowering people to think and act differently.

I love nature and getting out and enjoying it. My favourite thing in the whole world to do is ski. I love alpine environments and connecting with nature – skiing for me is physical meditation.

What have you been up to since CSL?

I have been busy! The first year after CSL, I reflected. I spent nearly the first six months feeling overwhelmed with what I had learnt. I felt such a big obligation to act and yet I was still unsure as to what that would look like. I then fell pregnant and after having my baby, and revisiting all that I had learnt and reflecting on my own journey to that point, I worked out exactly what I was going to do. It was like for the first time in my life, I was not going against the grain. It was so obvious to me what my next step would be.

After twelve years in the financial services sector in investment banking, I was keen to move into the non-profit sector (or as we call it, the for-purpose sector) to contribute in a more meaningful way. After enjoying many years of skilled volunteering, including as a counsellor at Lifeline, I decided to play more of a role in finding, supporting and creating solutions to the many inequities I witnessed. The idea to make the change was simple, but transitioning across sectors was not straightforward. Many people struggled to see how my experience could translate and promised myself that if I was ever to make the transition successfully, I would change this reality for others.

With a business partner, we established a social purpose enterprise – People for Purpose – to provide better pathways and access into this space for professionals with great experience and enthusiasm to improve social outcomes and contribute to more equitable and sustainable solutions. For people who want to stay in their corporate jobs and influence outcomes from the boardroom table, as well as for those who want to career transition.

I can’t count the ways that CSL has helped me on this journey. I felt so supported during the course and it is this example of support that showed me just how important it is that people feel supported to change, and to make change. and this is the basis for People for Purpose. So the whole experience has been invaluable. People for Purpose are dedicated to opening up networks and broadening opportunities for those looking to contribute to the for-purpose sector and we understand the sector can be quite closed at times and we exist to provide an accessible platform that can connect passionate and talented people and promote diversity, openess and high-performing cultures. So much of this was born through my CSL experience and the platform that has been developed.

What’s next for you?

Bigger in terms of reaching more people. Better in terms of outcomes. People for Purpose support people on their pathways to significance. These pathways are varied and so are our solutions. I will be doing this for as long as I can – because I love what I do. I gain a great deal of satisfaction from my job and I feel I am making a difference to many people’s lives.

What’s your longer term vision?

My longer term vision is a world where governments and corporates act more responsibly with a long term view because we as voters, consumers and investors demand that of them. My vision is a thriving for-purpose sector where organisations are able to access and develop outstanding leaders and executives, maximising their potential for social impact. I envisage a for-purpose sector that engages a workforce as diverse as the communities it serves because the real potential for social impact starts with a variety of experiences and backgrounds where the status quo is challenged and new perspectives and solutions are considered. I envisage a sector that fosters positive, productive and innovative cultures and visionary adaptive leadership.

I envisage a sector where for-purpose organisations are seen as an employer of choice for the best and brightest; from school leavers to highly experienced executives because of their integrity, passion and capacity for transforming the great problems of the world into inspired solutions. Where our heroes are not singers, actors or athletes who are genetically blessed, but rather scientists, philanthropists, social workers, inventors and leaders who dedicate their lives to social and environmental sustainability and making this world a better place for now and for the future.

Find out more about Melissa’s work, or perhaps engage her services for your next career move:


More alumni from 2011 Sydney Fellowship

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