Apricot CEO and founder, Derek Linsell, was appointed by the Australian Football League (AFL) as CEO of the AFL Foundation, the organization’s charitable arm, in 2005.

Corporate social responsibility

Derek recognized the strength and power of the AFL and its potential to have a positive influence in the community. Under Derek’s leadership the AFL Foundation embarked on many initiatives which leveraged the influence of the AFL to build a more inclusive Australian community that acknowledges and celebrates difference, identity and culture.

Apricot’s corporate social responsibility consulting emphasizes the importance of aligning the right causes with organizations so that corporate social responsibility initiatives tap into the heart of the organization. Derek recognized that each section of the AFL would have a different focus, so he consulted with each section separately to engage them with a social issue in the wider community that was of particular importance to them. Each section identified an issue to focus upon in a holistic way in order to effect real change.

A focus on homelessness

The AFL Players Association partnered with the AFL Foundation to work on the issue of homelessness. Several players began working with The Salvation Army in Melbourne to feed the homeless every Wednesday night. Through this work the players met young people experiencing homelessness and it became evident that there was insufficient assistance available for young homeless people.

A youth homelessness initiative

AFL players took up the issue and met with the then Victorian state government housing minister resulting in funding for an initiative to combat homelessness.

Derek’s background in community development enabled him to lead efforts to establish the initiative, including international consultation which resulted in his recommendation that the Foyer model of transitional housing for youth be adopted. With this model young people are housed for longer periods of time than is typically the case and are offered living skills and enrollment in education or training.

The Ladder Project Foundation

The Ladder Project Foundation, known as Ladder was founded by the AFL Foundation (whose role has now been taken over by the AFL) and the AFL Players’ Association in 2007 to address youth homelessness by empowering young people aged 16-25 to break the cycle of homelessness. Ladder’s programs assist young people to move into independent living, and also provide them with pathways to education, employment and training. The organization continues to expand throughout Australia, with operations currently in the states of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

Ladder is supported by the AFL industry’s profile, networks and players, with players past and present involved as staff, youth mentors, advocates and volunteers. Every AFL player gives $25 from every senior match to Ladder, resulting in $150,000 per year. Since 2008 AFL players have contributed $1 million to Ladder. The player contribution is matched each year by the AFL.