Changemakers – Rebecca Vassarotti
Monday, 16th July 2012 at 11:10 am
Rebecca Vassarotti, Executive Director of the YWCA of Canberra, is profiled in Changemakers – a regular column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.
The YWCA of Canberra is a Not for Profit community organisation which has been providing services and representing women’s issues in the local community since its establishment in 1929. They are a values based organisation – through the leadership of women and girls, the YWCA of Canberra is building a better community for all. Their vision is women achieving their potential. As a feminist organisation, the YWCA of Canberra believes that everyone who is part of the community has the right to contribute to, and share equally in, the benefits of the community’s social, cultural and economic development.
What are you currently working on in the organisation?
There are a range of exciting initiatives happening within the YWCA of Canberra this year. Four priorities at the moment are:
Affordable Housing: We are currently investing resources to develop an affordable housing program for older women. As a homelessness services provider we have been alarmed about the issues facing older women in the housing market and wanted to be part of the solution. As such we are developing a group house to provide affordable housing options for women who would otherwise be facing homelessness.
Respectful Relationships: As part of a commitment to reduce violence against women, we have been working with young people to assist them to develop skills around negotiating safe and respectful relationships. We are currently developing a program that is targeting students in the last two years of primary school to build these skills.
Women’s Leadership: With a vision of Women Achieving Their Potential the YWCA of Canberra is currently viewing our women’s leadership and development programs and looking at ways we may be able provide more in depth programs. We are looking at what we can offer in both accredited and non accredited training.
Targeted Assistance to Disadvantaged Canberrans: We are very excited to be in the final stages of developing a food Co-Op that will be able to provide very inexpensive food to families in financial hardship. We are developing relationships to ensure that we can offer families accessing this service with a range of additional services to assist them to move out of financial hardship.
What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?
I was very motivated to work with an organisation where there was a strong alignment between my personal value set and the values of the organisation which is something I found when I arrived at the YWCA of Canberra. I have always been passionately committed to working with my local community and making sure what I do counts. I particularly love working for an organisation where I can make a contribution locally, nationally and globally. I am inspired every day by working with a group of people passionately committed to the same vision, and driven to make a difference. Working in the Not for Profit sector creates an environment where we can be creative and resourceful to build a more just and fair community, and where everyone shares the benefits of the great community that we live in.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
I originally worked in the Not for Profit sector on a sector wide project in the late 1990s. I then returned to local government but always knew that I would go back to the sector. I have been working in my current role for almost nine years. It continues to be exciting, inspiring and challenging.
What is the best thing about working in the Not for Profit sector?
Being able to personally affect change. Working in the Not for Profit sector means that it is up to you to make a difference and create the change you want to see in the world. We have great flexibility and capacity in the Not for Profit sector to demonstrate how things can work and how we can impact positively on the lives of people. I love being able to craft a vision and take it through to implementation. I love walking beside people as they undertake their leadership journey.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
Working with a group of passionate, talented and professional people committed to creating the very best organisation we can currently be. From the committed group of women who volunteer their time on the board, to the staff dedicated to providing high quality services, the service users who provide advice regarding how we can improve our service, to the broader YWCA network nationally and globally, we are all working together to create a better community through the leadership of women and girls.
I consider my greatest achievement to be……
Creating an environment where we can truly say that we are an organisation that lives our values.
Favourite saying …
“Be the change you want to be in the world” (Ghandi). Whenever things get tough and I get frustrated about poor systems, structures or inequity I remind myself that we have a responsibility to change it, not just whinge about it
I’m always being asked …
How I juggle my professional role and my family life (being the mum of two five year olds and a three year old). I answer that I have an amazing support team that sits behind me, particularly a wonderful supportive partner who is committed to being an equal partner in the home world. That being said, it is hard, and like women everywhere some days I do a better job than others.
I’m very bad at …
It sounds corny but saying no is hard. There is so much to do and just not enough hours. One of the wonderful things about having clear strategic directions and a strong vision is that it does help with prioritising.
If you could be or do anything else, what would it be?
I am doing exactly what I want to do.
My greatest challenge is …
Learning the discipline of saying no. There is so much need, and so much potential, that there is a temptation to spread ourselves too thin. Strategic planning processes are particularly important in focusing our attention to the things that matter, not the things that are most urgent. That being said, we should be ambitious and have high expectations, of ourselves, our team and our organisation.
School taught me …
To work hard, to work with others and to aspire to be a leader. School gave me a love of learning and to go outside my comfort zone.
What does a typical day for you involve?
If only there was a typical day!
What inspires you? Who inspires you?
As mentioned before, the people I work with every day inspire me.