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Challenge = people?

I have spent the better part of the past 2 weeks on the phone speaking with INCREDIBLE people in the Northern Territory, preparing for our Medibank funded Healthy Places Traditional Wisdom Mentor Training in Alice Springs and Darwin later in the year.

What it has reminded me is that community development is a TOUGH gig!

I have been running my own business now for more than 14 years and let me tell you, that is no piece of cake, walk in the park, picnic or whatever other cliche can be added nicely here…but working across multiple stakeholder groups, across multiple industries, across multiple organisation types, across a vast geographic area that has multiple language groups and a very traditional system of doing business that mixes with a very bureaucratic system of doing business and layer upon layer of disadvantage and issue,..and not being from the state..now that, that is tough!

At times I have found myself being pulled in a variety of directions, in my head of course.

Have you considered the language issue? Have you considered the remote locations? Have you considered the cost of transporting people and accommodating them while they do the training? Have you considered the different learning styles? Have you considered that might already be happening here?….

YES, yes, of course I have considered all those things, carefully and with due respect, but the real question is, can my very meagerly funded project meet all those needs? As much as I would like it to..the answer is NO, no it can’t.

One thing I have learned in business and am very rapidly starting to apply in community development is that you can’t be all things to all people…there just is, honestly, no one size fits all model and its seriously crazy to think there is.

What our project can offer is capacity building to INDIVIDUAL community and social service providers who are struggling to deliver the healthy lifestyle message and are looking for some additional tools/resources and support to do that, so they, in turn, can empower their clients and community members…

I am not about to start working with dietitians and telling them to suck eggs, they know this stuff, neither am I going to start working with fully qualified permaculture teachers or horticulturalists..same applies. What we are offering is SIMPLE programs that provide great support for people to connect vulnerable members of the community with a SIMPLE healthy lifestyle message…get into the kitchen, know what you are eating and put a few herbs in pots, but most importantly, value and love yourself enough to do that.

For too long I have watched as community development strategies have failed because it has to be a ‘whole of community’ approach.

What is a community? In my opinion, it’s just a bunch of individuals trying their guts out to survive or be their best given the resources they have been given.

How the heck do we think we are going to ‘develop’ a community if we don’t empower the individuals within that community? How are we going to reach those people if we try to slap a ‘one size fits all’ model to it OR expect that EVERYONE is going to love what we are offering?

If we remove the ego in it all and remind ourselves that this is about PEOPLE and that for some it works and others it doesn’t (just as in sales, some will buy, some won’t), there is room for all of us who are just wanting to make a difference!

Rebel

xx

 

 

 

Local FOOD!

My husband and I are LOVING our little jaunt up the west coast of Australia sampling the fine produce on offer, but I have to say that the food available for easy consumption is pretty dismal and in most places, you have to really hunt out the local produce.

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We were pretty disappointed when we pulled off the highway to go to the World’s Best Beer Garden (pretty big claim, but it got us!) to find YEP one of the most spectacular views we have every seen looking out over the ocean, witnessing lobster pot hauling…then to be served deep fried fisherman’s basket from packets pulled from the freezer, not fresh from the ocean. This kind of laziness really boils my blood. I am prepared to pay for quality and would have been more than prepared to pay a premium for produce pulled from the ocean we were watching…most people would be, its part of the experience, isn’t it? I found the same frustration in NZ last year, we searched the entire north island for a decent fish and chips and never found it (apart from the ones we caught and cooked), all out of the packet frozen stuff…so annoying!

I was the total opposite of disappointed when we arrived, pretty weary, at Morell’s in Carnarvon where we were presented with an incredible array of the freshet of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits as well as pure fruit ice creams and dried fruit

leathers…unbelievably good and so worth the distance driven to get there! Now that is what I am talking about!

But I don’t always want to cook and I do still want my food experiences to reflect the places I am staying and I think that is where my frustration lies, in the fact that so many food outlets are letting themselves and their local growers down by not sharing their products with the travelling public.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it and tell people about it!
There are plenty of foodies like me out there that want that experience!

Spinach and Leadership

I was picking spinach from my garden the other day and it reminded me of my Pa, Roderick Black. Weird maybe, but it did and it did because he used to grow it for our family and we had it at just about every meal. We ate Pa’s love almost daily in our house.

What I then started thinking about was the leadership Pa displayed, as a grandfather and as an agripolitical leader and of course I was reflecting on the influence he had on my life and on the lives of my brother and sister.

In my youth I remember fearing him a little. Just in the sense that he was stern in his manner and was short with his words, but he was also incredibly generous and wise. We used to think Pa was Bob Hawke when we were very small, because they kind of looked a little similar, at least they both had grey hair and were old and Pa was away a lot, on very important business, so naturally we thought he would be on TV!

In fact Pa was the chairman of Rural Press Ltd (now part of Fairfax Media) and spent a lot of time in Sydney and other parts of Australia, on business.

It was weird that my thoughts drifted  from spinach, to Pa, to leadership, but I guess what I was reflecting on, was that there are leaders and then there are leaders.

Pa believed in what he did. He was a passionate advocate for agriculture, until the day he died. He stuck his neck out, on more than one occasion, for what he thought was right and was criticized for it as much as praised.

But he was humble, humble enough to grow a veggie patch for his son, daughter in law and three grandchildren, so he could share in their lives, in a way that he was comfortable with.

Leadership begins at home and Pa showed me that. He was dogmatic and set in his ways, but he also challenged us to question and to see the sides of an argument and fight for what we believed. He taught us never to get too big for our boots and that every contribution matters – whether that be by growing veggies, or running a media empire.

I miss my Pa,but I know he would be proud of the leadership I show every day in my business, with my clients and in my community.

He lives on, in memory and in deed.

 

 

 

Socially (ir)Responsible Enterprise

I have spent the last 13 years working in community development in Outback Australia and there is one thing I have noticed…things aren’t getting better, despite best intentions and millions of dollars and some good ideas.

The reason I believe is that the model for community development is flawed, fundamentally, because we have government and large not for profit organisations involved in service delivery which results in huge inefficiencies, ever increasing bureaucracies and services not actually reaching the people who need it most.

Why? Because they are operated by employees, who have never had to go out and fight tooth and nail for their income and who, without malice or deviousness, can just while away hours doing their ‘job’ OR are trapped by a bureaucracy and a poorly managed system that hamstrings them so badly that they simply can’t do their job properly.

As an entrepreneur who has regularly worked with these organisations and government departments, I see this first hand and it infuriates me. As a business owner, if I operated as inefficiently, unprofessionally and without real deference to the outcomes, I would be broke, starving and probably back in a job…

What makes me even madder about this is that there are brilliant employees who do an amazing job and are constantly undermined by the system they work in and these other people who, quite frankly, obviously don’t give a damn and are just there to collect their pay.

If entrepreneurs and business people were left to develop and deliver social and community development it would be a completely different story and THAT is why I work with entrepreneurs to grow their businesses so they can give back in this way.

It is why I NEVER encourage anyone to set up a not for profit organisation, rather grow a socially responsible business and it is also why we are establishing our Hungry Spirit Enterprise in Lightning Ridge, so we can create a safe space where young and enthusiastic individuals can get a start in their own business and go forth and make a difference.

If we focused on growing entrepreneurs and handed more community development opportunities to our local businesses, in our rural communities, we would be a million times better off!