Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education

Learning for Purpose: Researching & Realising Capability Development in the Not-for-Profit Sector


The ability of Not-for-Profit organisations to respond to changing environments and realise their vision — to have social impact — depends on the knowledge, skills, and abilities of their people.

‘Learning for Purpose’ is an applied research program that addresses capacity building and workforce development in the Not-for-Profit sector. All partners seek to inform practice, policy, and theory about maximising Not-for-Profit organisations’ capability so they can better realise their mission and social change.

Our mission is to systematically understand, evaluate, and improve the means through which individuals and organisations gain and sustain the talent and key competencies for realising social change. We set out to build an evidence base, stimulate debate, and promote good quality practice relating to the full spectrum of work learning.

Work learning describes the multiple formal and informal learning activities that employees and volunteers may engage in to enhance their knowledge and skills so they can meet current and future demands at work and have social impact.


  1. Chart the needs, opportunities, preferences, and barriers for developing key competencies among the Australian NFP sector.
  2. Measure the impact of professional development, training, and education programs specifically geared towards the NFP domain.
  3. Estimate the relative importance of the full spectrum of formal and informal work learning activities in developing NFP key competencies.
  4. Understand organisational and managerial factors that facilitate work learning to be most effective in developing NFP key competencies.
  5. Inform policy, practice, and theory as well as increase funding and time devoted to developing key competencies in the NFP sector.


The Centre for Social Impact aims to produce knowledge and networks that help facilitate ‘real-world’ situations and decisions as they relate to developing talent and key competencies. We work with Not-for-Profit organisations and learning providers to address actual problems that impact on their capacity to enable social change through enhanced work learning.

The project provides access to expertise, case studies and evaluation tools that can be utilised by workplaces and leaders. The applied research involves examining professional development, skills training, workshops, conferences, mentorships, and learning at work in areas of leadership, governance, campaigning, funding, evidencing outcomes, managing volunteers and more.

Specific research studies currently conducted include:
  • The Social Return on Education and Training (SRET): using a longitudinal panel we developed and implemented an evaluation framework to understand the impact of training and development activities that seek to build key competencies in the Australian NFP sector.
  • Not-for-Profit Leader Survey: to better understand the drivers and barriers for developing key competencies and organisational performance we survey leaders in the Australian Not-for-Profit sector about their experiences relating to skill priorities, funding, and organisational culture.
  • Money matters – does it?: anecdotal evidence would suggest that many Not-for-Profit organisations cannot afford staff training. This study explores the tangible and perceived value of distributed scholarships for the professional development of staff in Not-for-Profit organisations.

Action Learning Program

The Learning for Purpose Action Learning Program for Community Service Sector Organisations in Western Australia is designed to nurture collective leadership capacity for highly motivated champions who seek to make a difference in their organisations and the communities they serve - it's an exciting opportunity for social change. And it is free!

Learn more

About Us

The Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia Business School is leading the applied research program ‘Learning for Purpose’.

In 2012, the research team began to systematically examine the social return on education and training for individuals and organisations in the Australian Not-for-Profit sector. This work was funded by the Origin Foundation and realised in close collaboration with the Australian Scholarships Foundation.

In 2015, the research team began to identify the most effective and efficient means by which to develop Not-for-Profit key competencies on a national scale through formal and informal work learning. This work is funded through the Australian Research Council (LP140100245) and EY, and realised in collaboration with the Australian Scholarships Foundation, the University of New South Wales and Swinburne University.

‘Learning for Purpose’ welcomes proposals, collaborations, and resources that further help address issues of capacity building and capability development for the Not-for-Profit workforce.

Contact Information

Dr. Ramon Wenzel is a Research Assistant Professor at the Business School of The University of Western Australia. At the Centre for Social Impact he leads the applied research program on ‘Learning for Purpose’ to inform capacity building and workforce development for the Not-for-Profit sector. In his research Ramon draws on human psychology and organisational management to understand and improve the multiple forms of formal and informal work learning. This involves the evaluation and redesign of professional development programs, the transfer of training to the job, and identifying barriers and enablers for gaining and sustaining the key competencies required for social change.

To find out more about the research and discuss collaboration, please contact: Ramon Wenzel, email: ramon.wenzel@uwa.edu.au or tel: +61 8 6488 5675


Centre for Social Impact

Centre for Social Impact UWA

Business School
M098, The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway, Crawley WA 6009
Tel +61 8 6488 5691
Email csi-business@uwa.edu.au
Physical address: 39 Fairway, Crawley WA 6009
(former Oceans Institute on Edward St)