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Pumping Young Blood into Aged Care

30 January 2014 at 10:02 am
Staff Reporter
A chance meeting between a Not for Profit Chief Executive Officer and a young entrepreneur has led to the creation of a program that aims to develop the social sector’s next crop of governance leaders.

Staff Reporter | 30 January 2014 at 10:02 am


Pumping Young Blood into Aged Care
30 January 2014 at 10:02 am

A chance meeting between a Not for Profit Chief Executive Officer and a young entrepreneur has led to the creation of a program that aims to develop the social sector’s next crop of governance leaders.

The Engaging Young Leaders on Community Boards Program is the brainchild of aged-care Not for Profit SouthCare Inc Chief Executive Officer Dr Nicky Howe and leadership mentor Alicia Curtis.

According to Dr Howe, the unlikely pair, a Not for Profit leader and an entrepreneur, met at a business breakfast.

“We swapped business cards and arranged to meet for coffee,” Dr Howe said.

“Before we met up I thought, ‘I’m not sure why we’re meeting’. I think for both of us it was  question of curiosity.”

However, over coffee they discovered a shared passion for aged care.

“In terms of the aged-care sector, we tried to tackle young people in the sector – and what emerged was instead of trying to engage with young people at a carer level, we should be trying to engage young people at the governing level,” Dr Howe said.

Taking Action

The duo hit the ground running and after their second attempt at a social innovation grant, which was successful, they were armed with the funds to start the program.

As part of the program Curtis wrote the report, Engaging Young Leaders on Aged Care Boards: The Business Case for Age Diversity on Boards.

“On face value, younger Directors may represent a lack of understanding pertaining to the governance roles and responsibilities of Board Directors,” Curtis wrote in the report.

“However, as the demand for aged care services increase, maintaining the status quo and not exploring innovative ways to build and sustain strong Not for Profit organisations presents as the greater risk.

“Given that 29 per cent of Board members are over the age of 60, Not for Profit organisations, especially in the aged care sector, have the potential to lose a third of their Board over the next five to 10 years.

“In such a competitive climate, where funding and resources are becoming scarce, succession planning for the Board is paramount in ensuring the transfer of their knowledge and experiences to younger Directors.”

According to Curtis’s business case report, Not for Profit’s strategic planning should include the recruitment of younger board members. She writes this could be of benefit for:

• Strategic leadership development;

• Developing more effective processes;

• Establishing the vision of the nonprofit organisation;

• Setting long-term goals;

• Identifying present and future needs.

“If we are serious about developing the sector we need to invest in ourselves,” Dr Howe said.

Ashley Dawson. 
Louise Forster.

Success Stories

The Engaging Young Leaders program has three components made up of the Young Leaders Program – a collaborating learning space for young leaders to connect with mentors; the Unconvention Series – an open space for debates and discussions; and an online toolkit. Potential participants are required to go through a selection process.

Dr Howe said 2013 program participants, Ashley Dawson and Louise Forster, were two of the many success stories from last year’s program.

“After applying for and being successfully accepted into the inaugural Young Leaders in Aged Care program, I wondered where the program would take me,” chartered accountant Ashley Dawson said, who, as a result of the program has now become a director to the SouthCare board.

“I have always had a passion for the aged care sector, which stemmed from working in the industry whilst completing my Commerce degree at university.

“Having spent the last eight years forging a career as an accountant in public practice, the program seemed a perfect fit for me to combine my interest in the sector with my desire to contribute in a board capacity.”

Dawson said the program was extremely diverse in terms of the content presented and covered the issues the industry was facing through to effective board governance principles and directors’ roles and responsibilities.

“We were also offered the opportunity to observe a board meeting, which cemented for me the importance of everything we had learnt throughout the intensive four month program,” she said.

“Upon successful graduation from the program, another fantastic opportunity presented itself, and allowed me to tender my Expression of Interest in the inaugural Southcare Board Mentorship Program, and I was again very fortunate to be selected to undertake this program.  

“The first of it’s kind, the board mentorship program allowed me to undertake a six-month non-voting role on the SouthCare board, alongside mentorship from one of the board’s directors and from the CEO.”

CommunityWest Training and Workforce Development Senior Consultant Louise Forster used her mentoring experience through the Young Leaders Program to gain a Board Director Traineeship with aged-care provider SwanCare.

“I attended my first Board meeting with SwanCare on 31 July 2013 and have enjoyed being part of the discussions, decisions, strategic planning process and other events for the last seven months,” Forster said.

“I also join the Board of Directors of MercyCare this year, with my first meeting on 6 February … It has been an incredible 12 months, as I started the Young Leaders program in January 2013 and have gone on to secure a traineeship at a large aged-care provider then formally joining the Board of MercyCare, a large not-for-profit provider, delivering a range of services to people of WA in need of support.”

Moving Forward

Going into its second year, Dr Howe wants the program to go beyond aged-care Not for Profits and into other areas of the sector.

“We want the program to not only be in metro areas but regional and rural areas,” she said.

“We want to secure enough [funding] to know it runs every year. We want young professionals that are creative and vibrant.

“The ultimate for us is for the program to sit where it’s quite normal to have diversity on boards.

“We really want boards that represent all of Australia; we have multi-nationalities, multi-faiths. We want a true representation of the community.”

For more information on the Engaging Young Leaders on Community Board 2014 program, click here.

Staff Reporter  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

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