23 July 2012 By Hannah Carrodus
Thai delegation participants and speakers
On the 11th of July Leadership Victoria (LV) ran a highly successful day using the theme of 'Community Leadership' for workers in different sectors of the Thai government. The 16 participants were in Melbourne completing a leadership development program run by the University of Melbourne.
LV coordinated and ran one day of the two week program, which was held in the JJ Clark room in the Old Treasury Building.
The day started with a presentation from LV's Leader-in-Residence Chris Kotur discussing the importance of community leadership. Our focus was quite different from other aspects of the program which centred around organisation leadership practices in Australia. Our first speakers were Sue Roff, Executive Director of Arts Project Australia and Ric Benjamin, CEO of Foodbank Australia. Sue and Ric are both exceptional leaders of organisations with a range of stakeholders and are particularly qualified to discuss community leadership.
Sue spoke of the work of Arts Project Australia, an inner city studio and gallery that aims to nurture and promote artists with an intellectual disability. Their focus is in promoting excellence amongst their artists and the images accompanying Sue’s presentation showed this is indeed the case. Ric spoke about the complexities of food relief and the importance of food in opening channels of communication for those in need.
Participants were then taken on an experiential field trip to Credo Café, a community café run by Urban Seed. Urban Seed runs street, food, hospitality, recreation and youth development programs that assist people experiencing poverty, and Café Credo provides meals to 30 to 60 people per day.
The Thai delegates were given a tour of the café by Samara Pitt, Urban Seed's Operations Manager, who also explained a bit about her organisation's history, which was established by the Collins Street Baptist church in 1993. .
Participants were told that Urban Seed has always upheld a very collaborative leadership model, an aspect the participants seemed particularly interested in.
Samara answered questions about how Urban Seed manages tricky organisational challenges, such establishing the organisation's direction, in a system in which many opinions are voiced. Participants discussed how food relief is managed in Thailand with the Temples being the centre of this type of activity.
The afternoon session involved discussions about Thai and Australian business practices and talks about how leaders can keep their workers engaged. The group specifically discussed the important role of mentoring in the workplace, topics that were talked about by the LV Alumni government workers who addressed the group.
LV Almni who spoke to the group included: Helen Federoff (WCLP '11), Project Manager Governance Reform Land and Fire, Department of Sustainability and the Environment, Erica Grundell (WCLP '11) , Project Manager, Policy and Strategy Department of Health, Michael O'Leary (WCLP '10) , Director, Finance Department of Premier and Cabinet and David Nugent (WCLP '11), Director Fire and Emergency Services Parks Victoria.
This part of the afternoon was especially interactive; with the group sharing many laughs in response to the personal anecdotes that emerged.
It seems that Australians and Thais share a similar sense of humour and fun – with the afternoon having a light-hearted, enjoyable vibe for all involved.
The Australian and Thai government workers also discussed corporate social responsibility: another key theme of the day.
LV received much positive feedback about participants' experiences, with comments including:
"We were like a sleeping volcano – you have fired us up!"
"The capacity of a leader is to build another leader" and "leaders are everywhere, you just have to find them."
Overall, it was a terrific day, proving that leaders across continents have much to learn from one another.