“From little things big things grow” New online collaborative “Vincentian Leadership Program” launched in Australia
Livia Carusi, Mission Integration Officer, St Vincent de Paul Society, Victoria describes the project.
The subject matter of leadership, in particular for faith-based organizations, has been an area of interest for me as long as I can remember. That is why it has been so important to me to lead the St. Vincent De Paul Society here in Victoria, Australia, in a collaborative effort with DePaul University in the U.S. to launch the new “Vincentian Mission and Values Centered Leadership Program” this year here in Victoria.
As a youngster, with a keen interest in social justice issues namely around the rights of tenants, affordable housing, and the rights of people experiencing homelessness – I can recall many occasions that I found myself involved in community groups working to raise awareness around these social issues, and in the same breath working towards a fairer and more just society. This community work also involved providing opportunities for those directly affected to lead and be actively involved.
Participating in community work certainly raised my awareness and furthered my beliefs and values around social justice as well as providing me with many opportunities to serve and work alongside many fascinating people thus giving witness to what I saw as inspirational leadership. Many of these experiences remain very close to my heart today and continue to serve as a source of courage and direction when I find myself thinking ‘this is a tough gig’.
One of my most inspiring leadership stories comes from a group that I worked alongside many years ago.
This community group consisted of older men and women who had experienced homelessness, some over long periods of time. The ‘members’ of this group where determined to have their voices heard, in particular around the treatment of people experiencing homelessness generally and also the treatment of people when receiving assistance from largely government funded organizations.
Our work together involved developing training packages for agencies about people’s rights, speaking engagements at all sorts of events, meeting with government officials, writing articles etc. We were fortunate enough to also receive a grant which provided the group with an opportunity to attend a National Conference around homelessness and also deliver an address at this Conference.
Courage, honesty, compassion, integrity, and advocacy, all key leadership values characterized the group. The paper they delivered and the standing ovation they received for their paper echoed such values. For me, it was a privilege to be witness to this great source of leadership and it was another lived experience that further fueled my appetite around the issue of leadership and the not for profit sector.
Fast forward many years, as a Vincentian, with a great love for the St Vincent de Paul Society story, in particular that of Blessed Rosalie Rendu (Daughter of Charity). I returned to the organization in the role of Mission Integration and subsequently found myself in a position to explore further this idea of leadership, values and faith-based organizations. Here I discovered first De Paul University and thought ‘wow, a University established and driven by the mission of Vincent de Paul himself.” Then came the discovery of Vincent on Leadership: Hay Project at DePaul. I applied and completed the Project’s online course in Values-Centered Leadership Level I.. I thoroughly enjoyed the course for many reasons. The course is practical, engaging, self-paced, highly relevant and appropriate to the work of my own organization, and it also assisted my own development as a leader.
Towards the end of the course when I was preparing my Personal Leadership Action Plan, the idea came to me ‘why not offer this course here in Victoria, possibly Australia’? It is fair to say that since the initial idea we here in the Society in Victoria have never looked back.
Over a period of time, with the support of key people within and connected to my organization, several of whom agreed to serve as an Advisory Board and also took the course, and along with the generous support and direction of Patricia Bombard, Director of Vincent on Leadership: The Hay Project, we established the ‘Vincentian Mission and Values Centered Leadership Program.’ The program is modeled on the Hay Project course and incorporates its 10 online modules with four day-long, workshops gatherings that include presentations on key Vincentian leaders.
The program was launched on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014. The launch was significant for several reasons. First, the offering of a leadership program within the Vincentian tradition and in partnership with a member of the Vincentian family based on the other side of the world, and secondly, the program was being launched in the year that the Society is marking 160 years of leadership and service in Australia. The launch itself took place at our founding place in Melbourne.
I titled this article ‘from little things big things grow’ because this is exactly what has occurred here. To the accidental finding of a leadership course in our Vincentian tradition, add the establishment of a wonderful relationship with DePaul, then add the support and interest of people within my organization around leadership, mission and values, and the idea has bloomed. The feedback so far from the course participants is very positive, thus providing us with the energy to start to plan for what might be and will be in 2015!