Changemakers Program helps develop community leaders

Published on 06 October 2021

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Council’s Community Changemakers Program has come to a close, providing 16 community members an opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, confidence and networks to go back and create positive change in their local communities.

The program had to adapt to the changing environment around COVID-19 restrictions and as such, was held exclusively online.

Despite this setback, the program still featured some major highlights, including a chat with Uncle Dave Wandin about his leadership journey, a session with Yarra Ranges Mayor Cr Fiona McAllister and the opportunity for participants to gain practice in public speaking by presenting their learnings and plans for community change to the rest of the group.

The program was delivered by Liminal by Design in partnership with Tangent Consulting and Hatrick and Co, and as one of the facilitators Margaret points out, the resilience and willingness to learn shown by the participants ensured the program’s success.

“Many participants were severely impacted by storms and were without electricity for a substantial period, while also navigating through numerous lockdowns and remote learning,” she said.

“The generosity, support and connection within the group, albeit entirely on Zoom, was really evident.

“As the course progressed, we noticed a sense of trust being built as well as a significant increase in the confidence of each participant, and an increase in community connection and support for one another.

“Throughout the course, participants were guided by the question, ‘What is the change you want to see?’ As facilitators we are now incredibly excited to see the participants ideas and changes come to life across areas such as environment, arts and culture, mental health and diversity.”

Three participants from the program reflected on what they learned below:

Andrea – Being guided by people who have worked with community groups for decades, and who are passionate about sharing their experiences and knowledge was such a privilege.

It was such a privilege to meet with people like Uncle Dave Wandin and to hear about what he has learned about being a leader in the community, including the responsibilities, privileges and challenges.

I’m currently in the process of creating a plan to attract more locals to our local environmental group (Montrose Upper Landcare Group). Once it appears that we will be able to recommence group activities in the community, it will be a great opportunity to put this into action and ‘test’ what I have learned through the program.

Even though we ended up doing all sessions via Zoom, I felt the connection with other community minded people. Once restrictions are lifted, I hope that we can meet face-to-face.

Ash – The main things I learned were the importance of adopting a step-by-step approach towards projects and goals, understanding why you were passionate about those goals, and the importance of story, communication and active listening in bringing others on board to achieve those goals.

The program will have a great impact within the Yarra Ranges and I think the things we explored together will be immensely beneficial and exciting for the community, but also for the development and growth of people individually.

I’m currently working on a few music and creative projects in the community, including a new music festival (coming soon, get pumped!). One of the great things about being part of Changemakers is that everyone in the program now knows about 30 new people in the community.

David - These words have stuck with me the entire course – “Start before you’re ready”. To someone like me who likes to plan everything to the smallest detail otherwise I don’t feel prepared, this sounded very strange. I have learned that when you get stuck in and give it a go your idea can evolve and change from the initial vison as you go along which can improve it, make it more relevant and help reach more people.

Being able to discuss your plan/idea directly with community members and learn from their experiences and thoughts was extremely beneficial. It is inspiring to hear from these speakers and work out how your plan can help within the community. I work in the community services – specifically with disability. My initial goal was to connect people of all abilities in some way. This course has changed the way I think and will implement this. It has impacted how I plan to attract people to my plan, use co-design, better define and understand diversity within my community, and the understand the nature of how all people can connect utilising common interests and keeping things fun.

This course has valuable information that will assist you to put plans into action! I would strongly encourage anyone who has a goal, drive or idea to make change within their community to apply for this course. My idea has changed, evolved and improved greatly as a direct result of attending this engaging and interactive course.