Scholar Profile - Matthew Clarke PDF Print E-mail
Matthew Clarke


Professor and Head of the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Deakin University and Save the Children Australia)

Awarded a Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Non-Profit Leadership, 2017

What sort of work does your organisation do?

The Centre for Humanitarian Leadership is a joint initiative between Deakin University and Save the Children Australia. It is committed to developing a new generation in humanitarian leadership through education, innovation and research for the humanitarian sector. On the basis of these activities, we believe the CHL is changing the way the world responds to humanitarian crises. Partnership and collaboration with Australian-based and international non-governmental organisations being core to the success of CHL. Our courses in humanitarian leadership are taught in both the Cloud and internationally in both English and French.

Describe a typical day's work.

The CHL is entering its third year of operations and is therefore consolidating its financial and programming activities. As a result, I am heavily involved in contractual negotiations with external funding bodies. With recent increases in funding for research, I am also working currently to establish the research agenda for the CHL. This involves drawing on networks developed whilst a Fulbright Fellow in the US to plan and host a research symposium in Australia. Many participants in this symposium will be individuals that I worked alongside whilst in the US. As we continue to expand our operations, I am also involved in the development of positions descriptions and subsequent recruitment of new staff – both academic and professional - to manage the increased activities being undertaken within the CHL. Finally, I continue my own research with a particular interest in the role of religion in humanitarian events.

Please describe the project / research you undertook in the US as part of your Fulbright scholarship.

My Fulbright program was split over two sites: Boston and Washington DC. Both these locations allowed me the opportunity to work alongside an array of institutions and individuals who have expertise that directly touches upon the work being undertaken within the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership. Whilst in Boston, I spent time at the Feinstein Centre for International Affairs (at Tufts University) and the Harvard Humanitarian Academy. Both academic institutions provided opportunities to better understand how the CHL at Deakin might evolve over time.

Whilst at both institutions, I was able to discuss the need for the CHL to develop its own research agenda and seek advice as to how this might occur. Members from both institutions were very keen to assist and provide expert advice and support. It was also evident from visiting these two centres and observing their teaching that the teaching programs at the CHL are world class. This means that when seeking international collaborations and partnerships in this sphere that we can do so with confidence and knowledge that we are actually adding value.

In Washington DC, I was hosted by the Humanitarian Business Group within Save the Children US. Given Deakin’s very strong relationship with Save the Children Australia, it made sense to extend this existing institutional relationship by spending time with US colleagues. In addition to meeting a rage of humanitarian workers and leaders at Save US, I was also able to make contacts with colleagues in an array of other aid agencies, including Mercy Corp, World Vision, Relief International as well as USAID and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Across these meetings, I better understood the humanitarian sector in the US and possible opportunities for cross-country work.

What were you able achieve as a result / how did (or will) your organisation or community benefit?

The primary purpose of the Fulbright Scholarship was to better understand how the humanitarian sector operated within the US and to assess opportunities for collaborations or partnerships. It did become evident to me that the work we are doing within CHL is world class and that in many instances - especially around MOOCS and professional development of humanitarian workers - that we have much to teach our US counterparts. As a result, I intend to develop the relationships already built in order to be able to further share information around these issues in a two-way exchange. In this first instance, this will involve convening a working group to inform and advise on the research agenda for the CHL.

I was also able to interview around 20 humanitarian workers around their own educational journeys. This is immediately germane to the core task of Deakin University - providing education to humanitarian workers. These interviews formed the basis of a journal article that has been submitted to a journal. It demonstrates that paradox between the ongoing focus and preferencing of experience at the same time the sector is experiencing credential creep. The paper identifies the basis for postgraduate courses to make them more relevant to this sector.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

My first experience of the NFP sector was answering the phones for the World Vision 40 Hour Famine! I had just graduated with a Master’s degree in Development Studies and was keen to gain employment in an international aid agency - whatever the job! This casual appointment gave me a foot in the door and soon after I was employed in a full-time customer support role before being accepted as a Trainee Program Officer within the same agency’s international programs section 18 months later. So it took a while to find the job I had been dreaming off. Certainly though, the work I had undertaken in the donor service section gave me wonderful insights into the supporter base and the operations of child sponsorship.

Following a number of years travelling frequently from Australia to South East Asia (mostly to Thailand and Myanmar), monitoring and evaluating many Australian-funded HIV and AIDS prevention projects, I decided to continue my studies. I completed my PhD at Victoria University and soon after began teaching into the Masters of International Development at RMIT before relocating to do a similar job at Deakin University where I remain today and am involved in the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

There is significant and sufficient evidence that the NFP sector is a vital component of Australian society. It provides welfare services to a large proportion of the Australian community and ensures that deprivation in many parts of our society are minimised. From education to health to legal advice to social service, Australia’s NFP sector is widespread and accessible. Not only does it fill the gap between private and public provision of service, it more often than not also holds these two sectors to account by assessing their actions against appropriate standards and benchmarks. Difficulty in securing reliable and sufficient funding presents the greatest danger to the NFP sector being able to maximise its impact. Funding decisions are often short-term or driven by political expediencies resulting in the NFP sector being unable to properly plan or scale-up their activities. Formal recognition of the role the NFP sector holds in Australia is well overdue.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

This year I have set myself the creative task of writing a romantic-comedy screenplay! It is certainly cheaper than going to the movies!!

Click here to read about other ASF scholars.

Click here to read more about the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Non Profit Leadership.

"Undertaking the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Non-Profit Leadership allowed me to understand how the humanitarian sector in the US compares to Australia and forge professional networks with similar institutions. More importantly, it gave me the confidence to realise that what we are doing in our Centre is world class and that we have much to share with our US counterparts.

I would encourage people to consider this wonderful opportunity to gain an international perspective on their own sector and their own career. I am very grateful to the Australian Scholarship Foundation for their support of this Fulbright scholarship for without such support this opportunity would not exist."


Matthew started his not-for-profit career answering phones for World Vision. He pursued his work in the Development Humanitarian and Action field and, 25 years later, he is now the Head of the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (CHL), a joint initiative between Deakin University and Save the Children Australia.

In 2017, Matthew was awarded a Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Non-Profit Leadership (funded by the Origin Foundation and supported by the Australian Scholarships Foundation).


Annual revenue / size:

Medium - $250,000 - $5m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

International Development

Education & Research

Operating in: