Get your social enterprise off to a rock solid start by defining your vision and values

We often think of business values as fluffy words that sit on a wall to assure clients you’re a nice organisation. I discovered that values are, in fact, the solid foundations to building a business when I was invited to work with a group of emerging Geraldton entrepreneurs.

For the last three years I have supported Pollinators’ innovative incubation program Catalyst by running business skills workshops, such as Leading for Good: getting things done in all areas of life.  This year I helped participants articulate their business ‘why’.  The workshop covered:

  • The vision for the future that drives them
  • Why that vision is important for them personally and for their beneficiaries
  • How to write clear, tangible and meaningful business values to guide decision-making
  • Specific activities their enterprise will do to contribute towards that future i.e. how they will make money

The entrepreneurs from Geraldton, Kalbarri and other towns in WA’s midwest found clarifying their vision and values made their business mission (what they actually do) easier to define.

Interestingly, subtle differences in values led to different business models. For example, the owner of a music studio who values financial security might run business mentoring for musicians. If creativity ranks higher in her values, she might focus more on beginners have-a-go sessions.

When you’re about to start a business, get your vision, mission and values down on paper so you know if you have a business idea you’re willing to jump into.  Building a business takes time and energy; you might as well begin with a solid base.

To book a vision and values workshop email

Engineering lecturers learn to collaborate for teaching excellence

Staff at Challenger Institute of Technology in Beaconsfield WA recognised that funding changes for Australian education would require them to be better able to meet student expectations for high quality education.   I was invited to work with their engineering lecturers to help them deliver more creative, industry-relevant classes, and to enhance the way they communicate with their students.

Engineering teaching excellence Challenger TAFE

Education is more than teaching technical skills

I devised a half-day workshop to achieve these goals, based on my own experience as an engineer and educator.

The workshop called Education in engineering: making it relevant included:

  • An overview of creative teaching methods
  • Templates for designing industry-relevant lessons
  • Methods for offering constructive feedback to students
  • Practical experience of facilitative techniques, such as World Café and learning through play

We discussed positive impacts lecturers could have within a student’s career in the engineering industry, and how they could continue develop themselves as educators in a constantly changing environment.

The lecturers recognised that their teaching provides not just technical skills, but the capacity to work safely and confidently in the professional world.

Surprise learning about collaboration and their colleagues

While the workshop contained examples of creative teaching techniques, the real focus was on each lecturer coming up with their own ideas and sharing them. When asked about the most valuable learnings in lesson planning and student feedback they said:

“Hearing the opinions of colleagues about various aspects of delivery”


“Learning new tools for delivery and assessment”

And how this would change their work in the future:

“I will communicate with other team members (staff) regarding how my content relates to all units.”
“I will recognised that I understand what I’m talking about, but students may not.”

Engineering lecturers impress, with their dedicated approach to developing themselves as educators

My closeout report included recommendations of ways to continuously developing the teaching skills of those in the engineering team who were enthusiastic to learn, based on the interests and capacities I had seen in the group.

Checking in with the Challenger TAFE client three months later, they said said that there had been a turnaround in the team following the workshops. All the recommendations for collaborative learning had been implemented.

There has been a turnaround in the engineering team since your workshop. They have recognised that structured professional development is not the only way to learn and have implemented informal ways to share information about developing as educators. They have developed new communications channels and set up a mentor-buddy system. I think your session helped them see that they have the skills to do this themselves.

(Michelle Dodd, Manager Learning and Development, Challenger Institute of Technology)

Continuous innovation in education delivery

When educators understand the purpose of their work and feel empowered to build their own skills, they can continue to develop and meet the challenges of a changing environment sector.

While this course was devised specifically for engineers, the tools and techniques are applicable to range of educators and sectors. Contact me to discuss the options for your team.


How to be inspiring: 6 things I learnt as a TEDx Perth speaker coach

Lots of people think public speaking comes naturally to TED speakers. But the best of them put in a lot of hard work to get to deliver the great presentation you see on the day.

I was lucky to work as a TEDx Perth speaker coach for some amazing women and men. Two received standing ovations: Carina Hoang for her 2013 talk, “Being a refugee is not a choice” and Shani Graham “Take a street and build a community”.

Speaker coaches help presenters craft their story, connect with their audience and deliver a well-tuned and inspiring talk.

Here are some tips I learned over four seasons as a TEDx Perth speaker coach about how you can also be an inspiring speaker.

Continue reading “How to be inspiring: 6 things I learnt as a TEDx Perth speaker coach”

Co-creating sustainable health systems

Things are a-changing in health care

With an ageing population and budget contracts, we are seeing a demand for a more co-ordinated approach to primary health care, that gives consumers access to a range of different services in an integrated way; that allows them more responsibility for their own wellbeing; and where health professionals are able to work together for the good of their patients.

The newly formed Primary Care WA took an innovative approach to dealing with this change by asking key leaders from the health sector to collectively determine how to create healthy primary care systems within Western Australia.

They asked Dr Chris Kueh and myself to facilitate a planning session, based on the principles of design thinking.  Continue reading “Co-creating sustainable health systems”

The circus comes to Engineers Without Borders

Imagineering was the title of the 2011 Engineers Without Borders Conference, rounding off the Year of Humanitarian Engineering with a celebration of innovative engineering aid in developing countries.  There was also space for sharing best practice and reflecting how we can do more.

I opened my presentation with a handstand.    It was spontaneous and yet not without motive – we were in the carbohydrate slump slot forty-five minutes after lunch and shifting the energy was critical if I wanted to keep my audience with me.  So I got them moving, I did a handstand and we knew we were going to do things differently.  This presentation was about seeing problems through new eyes so as to find creative solutions with a more positive social impact.

Continue reading “The circus comes to Engineers Without Borders”