Keeping purpose at the core of the job
10 February 2020 at 8:31 am
With nearly 15 years in the welfare sector, Katie Hooper is taking over the Foyer Foundation to lead the organisation through its next chapter in tackling youth homelessness. She’s this week’s Changemaker.
After a decade as the CEO of Foster Care Association, Hooper knows that the best thing she can do as a leader in the youth welfare space is to listen to the people they are trying to help.
She says that celebrating, and being a strong voice for vulnerable people and communities was one of the ways she led the Foster Care Association from strength to strength.
Her aim now is to grow and mature the Foyer Foundation, which provides 16 to 25 year olds with stable accommodation while they study, work and develop the skills to achieve independence, without losing sight of the people they are taking care of.
In this week’s Changemaker, she discusses her plans for the Foyer Foundation, advice for leading a charity and what her jobs have taught her.
Was there a specific moment you realised you wanted to work in the community and welfare sector?
No, it’s something I always wanted to do. I volunteered with a children’s hospital and Canteen for Kids throughout high school and that really showed me that young people with support can be anything, and can be the best they can be.
You’ve just been appointed CEO of the Foyer Foundation, what are you most excited to achieve in the new role?
I’m most excited about the model of the foundation, because I really believe combining education and housing gives them the best start. What I’m going to do is hear from the current Foyers in Victoria about what we can do to support them in this terrific work and also be a hub for information and data so that we have a quality evidence-based response to youth homelessness.
How have your past experiences informed your current leadership style?
We couldn’t have been a voice to support foster carers without hearing what foster carers need. In this role, my community are the Foyer accommodation centres and the young people they support. We have to hear what they want us to be and help be their voice and create opportunities so that the young people’s successes can be showcased and celebrated and that the model can be celebrated.
What are the skills you value the most as a leader?
I think we underestimate the importance of management and project planning skills.
It’s about ensuring that we’re strategic in what we do because in every business, every person’s work, there’s a million things that you could be doing, but you need to think about what is going to bring the best outcome for the people you’re working for, which in my case is kids and families.
Being able to communicate effectively and knowing when to step back are also really important, because as most good leaders would say, “I’m not the expert”. It is about how we amplify the voices of the people we’re working with and really champion them.