A memo from the CEO

Change is part of life. We are variously more or less comfortable with it and indeed people’s level of awareness of their own response will vary. 

Through the work of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and in our different leadership development programs, we look at change from multiple angles and perspectives. From the individual getting ‘more comfortable being uncomfortable’ and understanding their own response to change, right through change at organisational, sectoral, regional and national levels.  

Getting comfortable with change 

The vast body of theory and work around change is typically focused on organisational change and more specifically change management – a planned methodology that enables leaders to successfully guide an organisation through change, while minimizing disruption and the risk of unexpected consequences. And yet organisational change is not the focus of the ARLF. Our focus is bringing groups of diverse people together in shared experiences either on the national stage or, increasingly at a regional level. 

While organisational change starts from the premise that change can be managed within the ‘container’ of the organisation itself (and where stages of change can be predicted, planned and managed), change at regional, sectoral and national levels is inherently more complex. The level of complexity bears a relationship to the type of change from simple to complex, to systemic.  

Our work is focused on bringing cohorts of people to develop better leadership practice individually and collectively. One part of that work is about understanding the drivers for and response to change – also working across jurisdictional, cultural and other boundaries to make progress towards a change and/or in the face of external changes we cannot control. 

 A key part of this approach is about participants gaining a depth of understanding about immunity to change – in other words where someone may consciously want to change and even outwardly agree to it. Some may equally have strong internal desire not to do so, of which they may be completely unaware. Equally, finding ways to recognise and then work together in processes of change is vital in terms of making progress. 

Participants from a recent Changemaker workshop held in Finley earlier in the year.

Empowering healthy attitudes for change 

As part of our work in regions across the country and under the Commonwealth-funded Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought initiative, we developed the ‘Changemaker’ workshop series. Changemaker is a 2-day workshop designed to with the following purpose; 

  • Everyone will be able to see themselves as a changemaker and a vital part of the local change ecosystem;  
  • Individuals will be able to identify their unique contribution to their community;
  • The community will explore local community problems or potentials through a creative, strengths-based approach;
  • Deeper connections and stronger networks will be developed between participants;
  • Participants may explore several place-based change initiatives as case studies to spark creative thinking;
  • Attendees will walk away with ideas for implementation and map for the process of making change happen, although implementation of these projects is not a goal or requirement. 

Changemaker is a not a leadership development program but draws in key elements of sound leadership practice to enable time-poor rural, regional and remote communities to make progress in terms of the change they want to see.  

The workshop helps these communities better comprehend a complex, adaptive challenge, we must pause, step back and investigate more fully. It also assists in making connections with new people, or with people we know but in new ways and critically, to develop ‘innovation probes’ to contribute one small change, as opposed to giant solutions for complex problems.   

To date we have developed and run 15 Changemaker workshops with another 75 already in the pipeline over the next 12 months. This work is a contributor to our broader purpose focused on better leadership practice, individually and collectively to realise a thriving rural, regional and remote Australia. It has been a delight to see so many of our network of alumni engaged in our regional work to date and there is certainly scope to do more in the future. 

Changermaker participants are asked to create a timeline of important events in their community, helping to visualise change trends in the past present and future.
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