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Giving Back Doesn’t Mean Going Broke

So here is a pattern that I am seeing all too frequently and I don’t like it…

There is this crazy and entirely unsustainable mantra in community development that you are a bad person if you make money and that all true givers are broke. It stems from the religion based penance poverty mentality I think.

Alright, so it might not be SAID outloud, but there certainly is an underlying hippy based covenant, that rich people are bad and poor people are more noble and give back.

I call Bullshit.

If you want to see the REAL movers and shakers in the room, look at those whose businesses are turning over millions; those people who are able to fully fund projects and programs and change hundreds, if not thousands of lives. I give you Richard Branson, for instance.

Why shouldn’t people make lots of money doing what they do well and then share it in a way that makes them, and a bunch of other people happy? Or better still, empowers others to create wealth and opportunity.

I have spoken to several entrepreneurial spirits recently who want to establish socially responsible enterprises but are being torn in all directions about HOW they do that.

Do they set up a not for profit?

Do they set up a business?

Do they set up a company or a partnerhsip?

WTF do they do?

How do they get paid for the work they put in?

Most commonly though…’I don’t need to get rich doing this, I just need enough to live on’…what are we NUNs now? Why are we selling ourselves so short. Why are we giving away our IP, our hard earned cash and brilliant ideas?

These amazing individuals know WHAT they want to do and they know WHY they want to do it, it’s the HOW that is confusing and here is why….

The Not for profit sector in Australia has a not for profit mentality (particularly small ones) , that means that they are not out to make money, but provide a service; but the reality around service provision is that you need to make money, at some point. What happens is, many NFPs end up with their hands out to government because they aren’t able to charge a full fee for service (if any at all) or they end up calling on their local community to stump up costs, either inkind or in cash.

Which is fine…except when there are new NFP organisations being set up daily, all vying for the same small pot and living in the same reality around…not making a profit.

Now, I am a realist and am well aware that not everything can be turned into an enterprise and that there are just somethings you can’t charge money (or heaps of money at least) for.

BUT there is no reason why people can start thinking differently about how they set up their social enterprises.

Why should someone set up a not for profit organisation that has cumbersome management rules, the need for committees, regulation and management when they could perfectly legitimately set up an enterprise to do the same work and make a profit, that enables them to reinvest in other work…

I think we need to start re framing the way we see ourselves as entrepreneurs in this space.

If you are fed up with giving back and going broke and instead, want to make money and make a difference…then join me, I am putting together a LEAGUE of WARRIOR AGENTS OF CHANGE and would love to see you there!










Greenies In The Garden: The Resilience Green!

IMAG2006I am in love with my veggie patch at the moment and the funny thing is that it is the messiest, most unruly and least organised it has EVER been, in a decade or more…no I am serious, it is!!!

But that is what I love about it.

We have so many self sown broccoli that I never got around to transplanting that are merrily growing delicious and nutritious little broccoli. We have rows and rows of splendid Asian greens that I can barely keep up with and radishes the size of enormous potatoes! The nasturtium, as always, takes over and spreads its wings over everything bringing bees and other little critters in and even the kangaroos are getting their confidence up and coming into the patch to leave little dropping presents. It is unruly and crazy and totally wild and it is brilliant, because I haven’t done a thing in there in months and it is STILL feeding us and then some!

Our snow peas are abundant and our spinach and beetroot keep growing away ready for us when we are ready for them.

For me this is the RESILIENCE needed in our life right now. I have had a lot of time away from home what with holidays and my husbands’ unexpected hospital visits, so our garden really has to fend for itself and RESILIENCE means that rather than surviving, it actually THRIVES! What JOY that is!

What it means is that all the hard work done in years gone by is paying dividends now. And I am grateful for that.

For me this is the same approach I apply to all my life and, it is what I coach my business, health and community development clients in…how to develop resilience and how in turn to foster it in their clients.

If you put in the hard yards now…learning, practicing, building your wisdom and growing your foundations – the rewards will be enormous, paramount and most importantly, timely.

It is hard to predict when the shit will hit the fan. But what you want to know is that when it does, which it inevitably will, you are prepared and RESILIENT, so you don’t just bounce back you fly back!



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!






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.