Above, LtoR: CEO of MercyCare, Chris Hall, CEO of Southcare, Dr Nicky Howe, with Emma McCormack and David Pereira, participants of the Young Leaders Program
By Keryn Curtis
A group of WA aged services providers have teamed up with a young social entrepreneur to launch an innovative new initiative designed to bring more younger people into leadership roles in the aged services sector.
The free program, called Young Leaders in Aged Care, is being led by 29 year old Alicia Curtis, an award winning consultant, author, mentor and speaker specialising in youth leadership, in collaboration with Southcare, MercyCare and Baptistcare.
The project aims to see more young leaders aged 18 – 35 on the boards and committees of aged care organisations and it has attracted mostly strong support, including from Aged and Community Services WA (ACSWA).
The two main elements are a four month leadership program designed to get a number of young professionals and entrepreneurs board-ready for an aged care organisation; and a series of six open, cross-industry half day workshops called ‘unconventions’ which address key topics and questions for employees, employers and boards.
All the information and resources developed through the leadership program and the series of unconventions will feed into a third element of the program – an online toolkit, including edited videos of the unconventions, which will be freely available to interested organisations all over Australia.
Alicia Curtis has been developing and implementing youth leadership programs for a wide range of different sectors and special interest groups for over ten years. She says the aged care youth leadership project grew out of a meeting with Southcare chief executive, Dr Nicky Howe in 2011.
“I met Dr Nicky Howe at a networking event following the release of the latest version of my emerging leaders report, about what keeps younger people in organisations.
“She talked about the difficulty in engaging and retaining younger carers. We talked about leadership roles in the sector – how many young people were in leadership roles at an organisation level and also a board level,” says Ms Curtis.
The two agreed to meet for a coffee and ‘have a conversation’ and the project grew from there.
Above: Social entrepreneur and youth leadership consultant, Alicia Curtis.
Influencing change from the top
“We put in a project proposal for a social innovation grant from the state government. The idea was to engage young leaders in governance in aged care as a way of getting some diversity of perspectives and some new insights right at the top and getting that effect trickling down,” said Ms Curtis.
Dr Howe says that engaging young people on a board can deliver an injection of fresh perspectives and challenge some of the negative values and behaviours that can develop around boards, such a ‘group think’.
“Younger people on boards and board committees can help an organisation develop strategies to attract other younger people into the organisation and retain them.
“We want people to get beyond stereotypes and start having a conversation.”
Dr Howe said the first unconvention held in Perth last week was interesting because it brought together a panel of aged care board representatives and CEOs with a panel of young board members from a range of sectors.
“When the CEOs and board members physically meet and see and hear them [the young board members], the stereotypes they might have had are broken down. We had three [young] panel members speak to the group about their experience of being on boards and they were articulate, reflective, insightful and also humble.
“They said, we don’t think we know it all; we understand about developing relationships and being mentored. They actually named the things that everyone was concerned about,” said Howe, “and it was a great way of gently countering stereotypical views.”
Ms Curtis, Dr Howe and the other stakeholders would ideally like to see from the program, a commitment from aged care organisations to go through a process in the short term to commit to having a young person on a board or board committee to help some of the interested young people to get exposure to these roles.
They hope, in developing the online tool kit and resource centre, that other individuals and organisations will pick up on the program and take it not just across Western Australia, but across all the states.
“We believe young leaders have many great talents to share with this industry,” Ms Curtis said.
All details of the program can be found at http://youngleadersinagedcare.ning.com/
Click on the link to see Dr Nicky Howe’s blog that addresses many of these issues.