#25 Be. Leadership May 2015: A Civil Society– What is it and how does leadership enhance or diminish its value?

by Loren Corbett

Thanks to the lovely team at the Goethe Institute, we were able to hold our third session right in the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Walking through Cuba Mall on my way to meet up with everyone again, I was reunited with that feeling of excitement and anticipation that comes with being a Be. Leadership participant. I was also fortunately reunited with one of my fellow participants, so we could reassure each other that we were heading in the right direction, literally.  

Unfortunately our first speaker of the day had to excuse herself due to sickness at the last minute. I was disappointed that we did not get to hear their interpretation of a civil society, but I was also interested to see how Lesley and Philip would handle this curve ball. Would we finally see this composed pair, that have to date handled everything with such grace, face the group with blank stares and ask us what we wanted to do to fill in time? Of course not! With a couple of words quiet exchanged between them they announced, as though they had already planned it, that we were off to Te Papa.

I loved this learning experience 'outside of the classroom'. Some of us took time to learn about the last 75 years of Air New Zealand and others, including myself, ventured through the much talked about 'Gallipoli - the scale of our war' exhibition. Whilst we were tasked to think about the relevance of this exhibition and the relevance it has to a civil society, I can't say that was always in the front of my mind. I tried not to cry at the heartfelt stories, gag at the sight of incredibly realistic faces and moan too much about the inaccessibility of it all.

After lunch we enjoyed a conversation with Dr. Oliver Hartwich, who is the Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative. Dr Hartwich shared with us the role of Think Tanks, local government and public policy in a Civil Society, stories of working in Think Tanks in England, and how to deal with both criticism and praise.

As quickly as Dr. Harwich left, in came a hero within the disability community, Disability Commissioner, Paul Gibson.  Paul's delivery style was genuine and humbling, as he told us of the trials and successes that he has had in his role.

Both speakers came from vastly different backgrounds and delivered content on two different aspects of a civil society, yet they both had an incredible way of captivating the room with their messages.

Sunday was a day to reflect, pose for our photos and find out the makeup of the new syndicates.  We reflected from events as recent as yesterday's guest speaker sessions to as far back as the forming of our syndicate. The reflection of the syndicate for me was possibly the most valuable time I had this session. We laughed about our mistakes or ‘learning experiences’ celebrated our successes and reminisced about our journey to date.

As the new syndicates for the following three sessions were announced, there was no denying it that we were all a little sad about the breaking up of our syndicates, I think we just needed to remind ourselves that they weren't going far – to the opposite side of the room at most!

Thank you Wellington and more importantly the Goethe Institute for providing us with a space where we could collectively grow in our leadership journey. I look forward to the June session in Auckland where we can start the forming, storming, norming and performing process in our new syndicates all over again.