#18 Be. Leadership June 2014 - Leadership and Governance

by Robin Tinga

By some bizarre coincidence our Be. family, people and pets, were beset with ailments at the convening of the June huddle at CQ Hotel, on a dismal Wellington day. One of us ended up in hospital before we even started; someone else struggled with back pain through the first day and was in hospital the next! We had swollen toes, flu, sick dogs at home with anxious owners hanging out for news updates. We hope all are on the mend and our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Holding the June session and staying at the CQ saved taxiing people around. The conference room was 'cosy' as our new syndicates settled in to explore the month’s theme, 'Leadership and Governance'.

Wingnut syndicate's Richard introduced our first speaker, Green Party MP Mojo Mathers. Her topic was, 'Using your democratic right to have your say on government policy'. She gave an insight into the discrimination issues she battled to become an MP, ongoing battles she faces and issues affecting voters with disabilities generally. She also gave great advice on how to utilise MPs' to voice our opinion and access information. Mojo then took part in a lively Q and A session.

After a buffet lunch in CQ's restaurant we returned for reflection on our first speaker's presentation, considering what political opinion affects us most, how much it matters to us and our commitment to supporting it.

Our second scheduled speaker, Trish Green, Manager of the Social Change Team at MSD, had been called away to tend to Ministers' needs and instead we spent an hour and a half with one of her team, Jan Scown, the MSD Relationship Manager for Be. and Specialist Advisor for the Think Differently campaign. Jan told us her history as IHC Regional Advisor in Waikato and Director of the Office of Disability Issues, then gave us a run down on the Making a Difference fund and its focus this year.

Q and A with Jan was followed by reflection, then a continuation of our group getting to know one another in 'My Journey'. We then wandered down to Hotel Bristol for a rather loud dinner. Some with hearing aids demonstrated the advantage of hearing impairment, by removing said hearing aids!

Saturday morning saw us back at 10am to prepare for our third speaker of the weekend, Nick Leggett, Mayor of Porirua. First though, Alumni from previous years joined us to kick off the session (ably led by Jan on ukulele) with the now adopted 2014 sing-along of Bruno Mars' Count on Me. The Alumni then retired to the next room.

Lucy of Refresh syndicate introduced Nick Leggett as the youngest mayor in NZ and only the second youngest in NZ history. Nick's topic was 'Leading Change'. He gave us some statistics on Porirua, indicating it is a leading city in terms of income & home ownership per capita. We learned a little of his political history and desire to see the council reflect the predominantly young population. He shared a personal approach to his mayoralty, with great emphasis on social media for communication with the people of Porirua; visiting schools to engage kids in citizenship and participation; and handing village planning over to the community. His emphasis was definitely on engaging the younger population of the city in civic matters and he seemed a great role model for other city leaders.

Following Q&A with Nick, our fourth and final speaker, John Stansfield, presented his topic was 'Passion, Pause & Persistence: Reflections of a serial social change agent'. Jan of Refresh chaired for John, including a delightfully candid introduction as they had worked together in the past.

John is Head of Social Practice at Unitec in Auckland, a career activist married to a Green party MP and lives on Waiheke Island. John maps all his ideas and plans on a white board — and this presentation was no exception! He talked of being 'active and engaged' and believing your opinions matter, which he believes has resulted in Waiheke's high voter turnout. He led a 'Wananga on Waste' on Waiheke, resulting in a community run waste management company called Clean Stream, which included bio-fuel production. He spoke openly of the passion and heartache that followed when the Auckland Council shut the operation down, but also the triumph when Council realised its mistake and used John’s model for other waste programmes. He touched on his time as CEO of Problem Gambling Foundation and dropped a number of great one-liners, including; 'No good deed goes unpunished'! A very passionate and highly inspirational man!

The final group to tell their stories in the 'My Journey' finished up the day. The group dispersed to later reconvene with the alumni at the CQ bar for some easy jazz from a piano/sax combo, followed by dinner interspersed with some rousing speeches and conversation with Alumni members.

Sunday — our final day — saw the big debate, with the moot, "It is easy to participate in and influence the political, social and economic direction of New Zealand." We split into two teams and three members from each fronted while the others on their team supported in some inventive ways — cunning silent messages written on paper were cleverly used to support each other and put opponents off! Ultimately though, the adjudicators deemed the 'for' team the winners in a close contest. Big ups to Vanessa from the 'against' team for earning the mantle of best individual debater.

After reflection and discussion about the differences between the polarising influence of debating and the uniting effects of conversing, we moved into a workshop on reflection as learning. We talked about how we reflect and what we learn from our speakers. We also discussed how attitude and feelings could be projected onto others; that we should recognize the projection; and respond suitably from a sense of self-awareness. As syndicates we discussed how we related together. Some frank discussion followed, some sensitivity revealed.

A timely break for a cup of tea, then into the final session of the day and weekend, discussing our personal goals, Leadership Week and site visits. A final sing-a-long wrapped up the weekend.