You Can Make a Difference

You can make a difference, even within a government organisation, that may seem a little complex at first glance.

On this topic, Make a Change is talking with two interesting state-government leaders, whose ‘make-a-change’ work practice enables them to take a risk, and do things differently for a different outcome.

We continue to believe it is possible to be a changemaker in businesses, communities, governments and schools……and invite you to partner with us in new initiatives…..!

Marg Allan is the Regional Director for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). She begins our discussion with some stats, which demonstrates the size of the communities she works within:

• Cover 26% of Victoria’s land area
• Home to 300,000 people
• Ten municipalities
• Deliver outcomes in environment, water, land planning and recently; energy and climate change

It’s a major responsibility that she describes as “exciting” and “great possibility to make significant change.”

With just  eight weeks clocked since Marg has taken on this role, bringing her broad experience of working in a local government to this new challenge:

“My strength is working within local community,” she explains. “At DELWP we are focused on making decisions that are ‘place-based.’ This means listening, talking and responding to community.”

Placing community at the centre of decision-making, Marg believes, completely re-frames the state government. “When you understand real context, you’ll get  the right outcomes.”

So how do you find ways to have meaningful conversations with a big bureaucracy?

“It’s about relationships,” says Marg. “Our regional team is made up of people who understand what it is to live in the regions. It’s each person looking for opportunities to connect  people together.”

She goes on to say, “I try to empower others to lead; to create community outcomes.”

With a similar sentiment, Adam concurs with Marg: “If you think change or innovation is important, then you have to do it,” smiles Adam Fennessy. Adam leads DELWP. “Leaders can’t just talk about making something happen, they need to find a way to get comfortable with the ambiguity of change and innovation.”

ThinkShake’ is an online crowd-idea-generator, a creative online platform that DELWP recently used to engage their staff in creating change. Staff members from all levels of the organisation could share ideas about how to make the organisation better, and vote on others ideas.

“If you want to create change or encourage innovation, the solutions are often found within your own community.” Fifty ideas was their benchmark for successful engagement. “We received 230 ideas from across all parts of the organisation,” shares Adam.

Some ideas were simply functional and everyday; from improving the staff directory using photos so people can easily recognise each other, to rooftop gardens, and an internal job exchange. “It wasn’t enough just to acknowledge the most voted for ideas, we wanted to grow and encourage all levels of DELWP to be empowered and create a flow of ideas.” Adam goes on to acknowledge that ‘this can mean making mistakes and sometimes getting things wrong’.

Stage-two of ‘ThinkShake,’ was developing ideas with a team of people and a mentor. “It was so important to get these ideas off the ground without committees and frameworks that take months to make a decision.” Hey, that sounds like a Let’s Nut It Out Program!