An update from ARLF

When the world went into lock down in March, the ARLF was forced to consider how to deliver high impact leadership programs in a COVID environment where national and international border closures prevented participants coming together.

After it became clear that travel was to be impacted for many months to come, many of our competitors announced they would be moving to 100% on-line learning – a logical move given border closures and the need for social distancing. The ARLF decided to take another path.

Our team went into a period of planning as a response to the rapidly changing global and national environment. We reviewed and expanded our curriculum and evaluation framework to capture learnings from the pandemic, and as others in the leadership development space forged ahead online, we remained true to our belief that the outcomes and impact we seek from experiential learning could not be achieved through a totally virtual experience. 

As a result of our curriculum review, ARLF expanded our leadership practices from Awareness, Adaptation and Authenticity to include Affiliation, Advocacy and Action. We believe these practices are critical in building leadership behaviour that can drive positive change for the benefit of rural, regional and remote Australia. 

This intensive project work has led to the relaunch of programs last month with more than one method of delivery. What we have called our multi-modal approach was delivered for three leadership programs across four sessions including the ARLP, Leadership for our Regions, Milparanga and TRAIL – for Emerging Leaders. A multi-modal approach provides flexibility for participants to learn and interact through a regional hub delivery model while seeking the same learning outcomes as in a whole group face-to-face experience. 

Key components included: –

  • Learning that is facilitated by an ARLF Program Manager or alumni predominantly face-to-face but also via zoom
  • Face to face interaction by participants in a regional hub, across several hubs across regional Australia
  • Hub challenge activities that provide deep immersion into the local town or region’s issues
  • A networking platform which allows the whole group to communicate in real time pre, during and post program (Mighty Networks).
Whilst declaring success is premature, the early feedback from both participants and sponsors is highly positive. We do see this design approach as complementing our return to whole group face-to-face learning in 2021 and beyond.
 ARLP Course 26 (C26) Initiative Project

 C26 completed session four of five in October with a national governance and advocacy theme. During a ‘normal’ program period, C26 would have graduated in October bringing their 15-month ARLP experience to an end. Given COVID, this will extend to almost two years given that the final session will now be held in March 2021. Despite this challenge, the cohort have been able to invest extra time in their Initiative Project. New to the ARLP in 2019, an initiative is an act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something. Thus, was born: A Wellbeing Index for rural, regional and remote Australia. 

C26 identified this topic as a public policy priority for the Federal Government. Their argument for this is that while rural, regional and remote Australia can access objective economic data on the performance of individual communities, it is difficult to source accurate and comparable datasets for social measures such as family, community and security, given the subjective nature of the results. It is similarly difficult to measure such performance over time. 

The absence of holistic measures for community function and wellbeing make it difficult for leaders to identify and prioritise where investment and action is required to enable communities to thrive. C26 advocate that in order to encourage investment in rural, regional and remote communities, businesses and industries, an understanding of the overall wellbeing of the community and how it compares on a common scale is essential. 

This project had multiple learning opportunities including: –

  • Developing an initiative project that has real benefit for rural, regional and remote Australia
  • Testing of group processes and individual behaviours in an often difficult or contentious environment, and
  • Advocating to or lobbying for support from politicians in a real-world context.

For C26 the Initiative formed part of their national session with three leadership practices highlighted throughout the week including: – Advocacy (The Wellbeing Index is a national imperative) – Affiliation (the Initiative required reaching beyond the cohort to a broader national network) and – Action (this is an initiative that will make a difference and support communities to thrive).

The group arranged a conversation or policy pitch with three Federal Members of Parliament – Member for Indi, Dr Helen Haines; member for Eden Monaro, Kristy McBain and Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack. The members were generous with their time and constructive in their feedback to the cohort on both the initiative concept and the reality of the political process that would enable the idea to be realised. 

C26 have now expanded their network of influence to bring this initiative to life. They may reach out to our alumni stakeholders, in the coming weeks as they progress this project. 

This shows the ARLF is well placed to convene and facilitate leadership action initiatives like the Wellbeing index, to help tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the nation. 

We thank our valued sponsors who have funded this new component of the ARLP, in fact all our partners who remain invested in the future of rural, regional and remote Australia.

A final note of thanks to Annette McCarthy who departed the ARLF last week. We thank Annette for her contribution.

Regards, Matt