The Grow Story

A local response to local need

2014: GROW developed from a G21 Addressing Disadvantage Taskforce report in 2014, coinciding with Give Where You Live Foundation’s vision to address disadvantage. This led to a Report which identified that innovative, collaborative and evidence-based approaches are needed to tackle entrenched regional social and economic disadvantage. GWYLF and G21 – Geelong Region Alliance signed a Memorandum of Understanding to function as the ‘backbone’ of GROW.

2015: The first phase of GROW involved the consultative development of a Strategic Plan (launched in May) and GROW Patrons and Champions were appointed. GWYLF committed $2 million over 10 years to support implementation of the GROW Strategic Plan across the whole G21 Region. Alcoa Foundation also contributed $300,000 as a legacy grant. Twenty major local organisations signed up to the GROW Compact in November, committing to implementing the GROW principles in their businesses.

2016: In March, the Victorian State Government funded GROW $1 million (over five years) under the Regional Jobs Fund. Regional Development Australia BSW funded GROW Regional Procurement Economic Modelling Report. An additional 18 local organisations signed the GROW Compact, and GROW launched the Social Procurement Toolkit to support all these organisations to deliver local and social procurement. In September, GROW leveraged significant funds from Victorian State Government for Jobs Victoria Programs in GROW target communities ($620k for Colac, $755k for Whittington).

2017: GROW held the inaugural GROW Report Card Event in May – for more information, see the Report Card. The Regional Dashboard and Target Communities Dashboard were launched by RDV regional director, Unni Menon. Twenty new GROW Compact Signatories were awarded certificates at this event.

2018: This was another big year for GROW, including $750k from Victorian State Government extending to 2022, also funding GROW in four new regions (Gippsland, Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton). We undertook research to hear from job seekers and compiled Data Snapshots of the region. We also reached the milestone of 100 GROW Compact Signatories in G21 Region. Collectively, over 2 years, GROW signatories have created 154 new jobs and pathways for our target communities, see the Report Card here.

2019: We published our Startup Phase Review, which indicated major progress in shifting awareness and behaviours around local procurement and employment, as well as increased collaboration. It also set us some directions for the next phase, around improved communication and reporting, as well as support for employers. At our Report Card Event, we reported that 72 of our 110 Signatories had action plans, including over 1,200 individual actions. 112 jobs and 20 employment pathways were offered by Signatories to job seekers from GROW target communities (Corio, Norlane, Whittington and Colac) contributing to a total of 247 jobs and 39 pathways over 3 years.

2020: Despite the impact of COVID-19, it was another big year. We finally launched the GROW portal for the five regions, to support online tracking of action plans, procurement spend and employment outcomes. We celebrated five years of GROW with an online event and five films from signatories here. Over this time, GROW signatories had created 500 jobs!


Based on significant international evidence that the best way to reduce areas of persistent disadvantage in a community is to reduce unemployment rates, the GROW (G21 Region Opportunities for Work) Strategic Plan was developed by a team of national experts, led by Dr Ingrid Burkett. This Plan was funded jointly by Regional Development Victoria, G21 – Geelong Region Alliance, Give Where You Live Foundation and the City of Greater Geelong, Colac Otway Shire, Surfcoast Shire, Golden Plains Shire and the Borough of Queenscliffe.

Specialist reports developed as part of the Strategic Plan:

Addressing Disadvantage in the G21 Region 2013 (Dr Ingrid Burkett’s initial research)

G21 GROW Regional Procurement Economic Modelling Report Part A 2016

G21 GROW Regional Procurement Economic Modelling Report Part B 2016