Tuesday, 1 March 2016


Values Driven Business

  • What does it look like?
  • What does it mean in my organisation?
  • When does it count?

A good conference is one that gets you thinking long after you’ve left the building. The unstated theme of the LGPro#16 Annual Conference in Melbourne was rate capping – how to manage this? I listened to three people passionate about their mission – two on the podium and one in the audience – who were prepared to grapple creatively with LESS.

It was Dr Helen Szoke, CEO at Oxfam, who stated the importance of values in business. That Oxfam is a charity makes no difference. The issue of making tough decisions is common to both public and private sectors. Both need to determine what they stand for; what’s important; what their mission is. The question for Oxfam is: how do you respond to need beyond your capacity?  Dr Szoke referenced this to Oxfam’s values: human dignity; consultation; and empowerment. Ask people how you can best help. Use the resources that all parties can bring. Empower people in their own solutions.

I heard a similar story from the staff at One Tree Community Services. With a limited grant to assist indigenous people in a remote community, they facilitated local solutions using local resources to meet a local problem. Teaching people how to troubleshoot problems together and offering advice and support long after the grant is gone is one way to meet their mission of helping communities develop.

The startling creativity of unlocking community participation was evident in the results of the 7-Day Makeover program with David Engwicht, Director of Creative Communities. The beautiful public space created at Bay Bell-Paihia, New Zealand is shown below but there are many case studies on their website at www.creative-communities.com to admire.
Small local areas with minimal budgets have been able to brainstorm exciting and surprising new public spaces with donated labour, seed funding from Councils, repurposed junk and the sponsorship of local businesses. Again, bringing people together to focus on the need at hand, the resources available and unfettered collaboration within a tight time frame has resulted in extraordinary spaces that communities love and ‘own’.

Is there a take-away for business in all this? I think so! We hear of best practice in management to encourage leadership from all levels of our organisations. We hear about best practice to give permission and encourage innovation in our teams. But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Managers have to be willing to restate the mission, be clear on the Values, and let others lead. Managers must be prepared to consider new outcomes that they would not have foreseen, little yet planned, to unlock potential. We encounter challenges all the time. Some risk must be taken. The public sector is generally risk averse and yet here communities have been allowed to lead. If they can do it, surely we in business can, too.