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  • purposelypodcast

Leading a private family foundation focused on social justice

Welcome Robyn Scott to Purposely, where she shares her organisation's mission and her career and life journey focused on purpose.


Robyn Scott serves as the Executive Director of J R McKenzie Trust, a grant-making foundation with roots traced back to the visionary retailer John McKenzie. Originally from Australia, John embarked on a transformative journey to New Zealand in 1909, captivated by its allure and the promise it held. Convinced of the symbiotic relationship between business success and community prosperity, he swiftly established his inaugural store in Dunedin. This entrepreneurial spirit birthed not only commerce but also a philosophy grounded in giving back. In 1940, the J R McKenzie Trust emerged as a testament to this ethos, extending its support to disabled servicemen, the Plunket Society, and disadvantaged children.


Fast forward to the present day, the Trust stands as a beacon of philanthropy, channeling approximately $4 million annually towards fostering social justice and cultivating an equitable and inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand. The financial backbone of the Trust derives from dividends generated by Rangatira Investments, a pioneering venture established by John McKenzie, which played a pivotal role in shaping private investment in New Zealand. Evolving with the times, the Trust has embraced a progressive approach, transitioning from a transactional grant-funding model to a collaborative, trust-based approach. This evolution reflects a commitment to adaptability and enduring impact in an ever-changing society.


Robyn's illustrious career spanning over two decades encompasses diverse roles in government, charity, and philanthropy. Her leadership journey commenced as the CEO of Fertility New Zealand, motivated by personal challenges with infertility. Over her six-year tenure, Robyn spearheaded campaigns advocating for enhanced public funding for fertility treatment and broader access to support services.


Robyn went on to lead New Zealand's peak philanthropic body for almost a decade playing a key role in establishing philanthropy as an established and impactful movement in Aotearoa.  Philanthropy New Zealand was established in 1990 by the late Sir Roy McKenzie as a way of marking the 50th Anniversary of the J R McKenzie Trust, the foundation Robyn now leads. 


The current team of the Trust are dedicated to upholding the philanthropic legacy of one of New Zealand's most generous families, diligently oversees the day-to-day operations of the J R McKenzie Trust. Governed by a Board of 13 volunteers, including McKenzie family members, Rotarians, and appointed individuals, the Trust's operations are guided by a commitment to service and impact. Under Robyn's leadership, a team of five professionals provides expertise in advising and reviewing grant requests, ensuring alignment with the Trust's funding priorities. These priorities encompass initiatives aimed at empowering children, youth, and families, as well as supporting Maori, Pacific communities, and those marginalized by societal exclusion.

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