“How might the social, political, and economic landscape of Queensland unfold and affect the lives of its citizens over the next 20 years?”
Reos Partners opened its Melbourne, Australia office in early 2010. The Melbourne Partners bring experience from the corporate, government, and non-government sectors, particularly in the development of social policy changes and innovation, including the challenging area of child protection and reform of the family violence response system.
There is a growing recognition that social reform and sustainable social outcomes are accelerated when leaders of government and non-government organisations have the ability to understand and lead thinking and innovation that spans all sectors. In March, the opportunity arose to engage a group of such leaders—senior and chief executives from across the community services sector in the state of Queensland. Reos Partners Melbourne, together with Adam Kahane from the Cambridge office, worked with Queensland consulting firm Archersfield Consulting to provide a challenging and enriching programme that would form the beginning of what for these leaders will be a 12-month leadership development process. It was the first time that many of these participants had come together to ponder the future of Queensland from the perspective of social policy and service delivery.
The participants included executives from the Departments of Education, Health, and Community Services together with leaders from a number of significant non-government community services organisations. Working with peers and building relationships across sectors was uncommon for this group, and some existing relationships were difficult. Nevertheless, participants embraced the challenges, knowing that they were embarking on a journey that would develop their leadership capacity and support their roles as leaders of the future social, political, and economic landscape of the state.
The Reos team recognised the importance of creating a powerful “call to action” to pragmatically engage and stretch participants so that they could begin to see themselves as parts of the systems in which they work. Reos worked with the client to develop the overall leadership programme and to design and facilitate the first workshop for the group. The goal of this opening event was to enable the group to “see together” the current reality in Queensland and their individual and collective roles in leading the community into the future.
To meet all of these challenges, the facilitation team planned a three-day scenario-thinking workshop. Scenarios are essentially stories about what may happen in the world around us. They can create a powerful and compelling call to action that inspires and motivates those involved. For the Queensland participants, scenarios have also provided an exciting commencement of their year-long leadership journey.
The scenario workshop revolved around the convening question, “How might the social, political, and economic landscape of Queensland unfold and affect the lives of its citizens over the next 20 years?” Through a structured process, the leaders deeply explored the current social, political, and financial reality of Queensland, and then engaged in “seeing together” the future implications for the next two decades. By deeply immersing the leaders in the learning process, the workshop drew out the strategic leadership implications and established a common focus for how this group of multi-stakeholder leaders will grow and learn together over the next twelve months.
Over the course of the three days, the participants collectively explored the complexities of their state’s social systems and produced four outline scenarios that reflected the exigencies of the convening question. The facilitators established a safe place for the participants to learn and work together, to challenge their preconceptions, and to form connections and foster meaningful relationships. Consequently, the emerging scenarios and the process of co-creating them helped these leaders to build a united and common foundation upon which to further engage and stretch themselves, and for shifting the social systems within which they work and operate.
The workshop also introduced the leaders to new capacities for tackling complex situations through the visceral experience of the movements of the U-process (co-sensing, co-presencing, co-realizing). The participants became acutely aware of their new abilities to broaden their experiences and perspectives when, halfway through the workshop, they shared their insights up to that point. Collectively, they were disappointed with what they had achieved so far. This revelation was a seminal moment. Together they recognised that they needed to raise their collective view of what could be possible and to be courageous and demonstrate some thought leadership. Within a couple of hours, the enthusiasm in the room increased, and four rich and colourful scenarios emerged, along with a desire to engage other stakeholders to provide a richer dialogue.
The experience for leaders of seeing, working, and co-creating together provided the opportunity for them to reflect on and build relationships with understanding, trust, and shared perspectives. It helped to create a shared awareness of what is possible for them, individually and collectively, and for the social systems within which they work. In addition to providing a sophisticated set of insights into the common and differentiated challenges these leaders face, the workshop created a solid foundation on which to build their ongoing leadership journey and for continuing to work across the system, together.