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Be. Leadership October 2017: Diversity – Taking off the rose-tinted glasses and getting critical

By Tricia Hall

On Friday 13th and Saturday 14th October we met for our penultimate session of the year at the ILS building in Royal Oak. Auckland put on two gorgeous spring days for us, and we appreciated the graceful hosting of Peter, who works at ILS as well as being part of our Be. Leadership group this year. We noted the unfortunate absence of a couple of members of the group and our thoughts were with those unable to be with us.

The topic of our discussions was Diversity – Taking off the Rose-coloured Glasses and getting critical. We were asked to continue to challenge the assumptions we often unconsciously make about ourselves and others through the stories we hear and tell. The power of stories is much more than the surface can lead us to believe. On the topic of Diversity we discussed how too often gender is as far as it gets, and wondered about how we might move beyond this without the limitations of costs, difficulties and complications closing down the conversation before it gets a chance to begin. We had three amazing speakers packed into the two days to help us think about these topics and start some conversations around them. These were Kim Workman and Ronelle Baker on Friday and the talented Quijing Wong on Saturday.

Our first speaker, Kim Workman, spoke to us about his experiences of working in the criminal justice and prison systems and his observations of the issues that continue to occur within it. He gave us powerful insight into the incidences of disabilities and racial prejudices within that system. One of his challenges to us as leaders was around speaking out on issues, and on knowing what the consequences might be should we choose to do so. He talked about how it can be possible for collaboration across agencies who may have differing ideas and ways of working but ultimately common goals.

Immediately after this we had our second guest speaker, Ronelle Baker, Chief Executive of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Ronelle spoke a lot about governance and the importance of the role that those who have lived experience of disability have in leadership. I particularly noted the conversation Ronelle had with us about difficult decisions that we may need to make as leaders and the importance of holding the bigger picture and long-term goals when making these hard choices.

On Friday afternoon we had a chance for a reflection session to go a bit deeper into the issues raised by the speakers and to both agree and disagree with each other’s responses to conversations from earlier in the day. Tamara Fa’anana presented a workshop on grant applications, and Neville Pulman from the Be. Welcome Programme gave us an overview of the work happening in that side of Be. Accessible.

We finished the day with an early dinner of pizza together before we departed.

Saturday's Speaker was Quijing Wong, filmmaker and Chief Executive of Borderless Productions. She talked about being drawn to working in social change and the power stories have as a way of creating connections and breaking down difference. We heard about the Auckland Humanity Project and Q gave us a few tips around applying marketing strategies in creating and maintaining momentum.

In the afternoon on Saturday we had a session on Courageous Conversations – challenging ourselves to have those difficult conversations and how they are different for each of us. We shared a few more of the My Future segments with each other, such a gift to pause and think of the hopes and challenges each of us has in our lives and to share these in the group. All too soon the session came to an end and we were headed home with heads filled with thoughts of new learnings and the realisation that we are nearing the end of our journey with Be Leadership.