Social impact – if you could wave a magic wand what would you fix?

I work in the social impact space and I am appreciating participating in peer learning groups, being exposed to new stimuli and having opportunities to reflect and reset..

Inspirational speaker panel- How awesome are peer learning groups, being exposed to new stimuli and having opportunities to reflect and reset.. 

A fortnight ago I had a 30 min zoom call with some-one who asked me some great questions including what success looks like for me.

After a fortnight of:

I am confident I now have a lot more clarity on what the 5 pillars for success looks like for me underpinned by the 5th pillar

  1. A fit for purpose education system that prepares young people for the reality of work and supports them to thrive in life
  2. A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap
  3. Clear Pathways to get between  1 and 2
  4. Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags
  5. The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together

If success is a marathon not a sprint how far have, we travelled?

  1. Excitingly we have travelled a significant distance to achieve No 1 – A fit for purpose education system that prepares young people for the reality of work and supports them to thrive in life.

Great examples include:

The main roadblock to the finish line appears to be the focus on ATAR scores instead of the  The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration which will require a significant culture change in schools and an attitude change by conversative politicians.

  1. A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap. The good news here is we have crossed the starting line.  The Action4Agriculture team look forward to having their Action4Youth initiative funded to experiment and see what works, what has potential and what we can park
  2. Clear Pathways between 1 and 2. I am confident if funded Professor Felicity Blackstock can bring together a team of bright minds to make this vision a reality
  3. Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags. We know what we need to do, building a critical mass to make it happen is another thing. We must focus on the huge cost of inaction on this one
  4. The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together. This one is particularly close to my heart and I will continue to work with my tribe to celebrate the wins on this one – no matter how tiny

What are you optimistic about?

Advocacy – facts matter but it is how you use them that determines how much impact you have

Advocacy is a science – a lot of smart minds have spent a great deal of time researching what works and what doesn’t and how to tailor (frame) your message to the audience you want to reach. 

Here are two examples

One is best practice

Source: Coalition for Conservation

The other is an opportunity lost

Source

In April our Young Farming Champions will be participating in a workshop under the tutelage of the wonderful Gaye Steel former National Marketing Manager of McDonalds and Telstra.  Gaye will share with agriculture’s Next Gen advocates the dangers of reinforcing the negative ( agriculture’s area of expertise) and how to flip the conversation (like to the Coalition for Conservation have )

Agriculture advocacy – one face palming moment after another

I took some-one to lunch today to say thank you for the all the pro bono work they had done for me and our organisation.

I selected the restaurant because it knew it featured the produce of one of our supporting partners. A partner I am very proud to be aligned with. The menu featured a number of branded produce yet not once did the restaurant team members tell me and my dining partner why this produce was on the menu. The big question is why?

Agriculture – how do we make it an esoteric career choice no more????

I remember when I was returning to the farm and still doing a few shifts in pharmacy and I would meet new people and they asked me what was my day job I would alternate between saying I was a farmer and a pharmacist

I remember vividly the day some -one replied “That’s an esoteric career” when I said I was a farmer . ( BTW I had to look up the word esoteric later)

This inspired me to go on a journey and work with the Action4Agriculture Young Farming Champions to “normalise” careers in agriculture.

How are we doing that?

We start by telling people agriculture- farming, food and fibre is so much more than the farm

  • It starts before the farm with custodianship of the land and the sea.
  • It progresses to encompass the farm itself;
  • The stage between the farm gate and the point of sale, which includes value-adding; and shaping of, and by, buyers’ preferences.
  • Throughout the process, there is a significant supply chain component.
  • None of the players in any of these stages stands alone. They are all linked in a web of interdependencies, where harm to one weakens the whole (for example, poor labour hire practices injure the reputation of the whole sector); and, conversely, enhancement of one strengthens the whole (for example, a focus on continuous learning in one industry spills over into another).
  • Cooperation among the players in the various stages benefits the entire sector more than if one gains a temporary benefit by disadvantaging another.
  • Unlike the 20th century, the 21st century has seen a growing realisation in the various elements of the Australian agriculture (farming, food and fibre) sector that they all hang together, and that cooperation is more constructive than conflict.

Source 

Then we go on a journey to show and tell and highlight:

We talk about where the growth jobs in agriculture will be in the future

And we advocate to ensure that everyone feels physically, emotionally and identity safe in their workplaces

And we share this with the world in our monthly Muster 

 

A career in agriculture is not for the faint hearted – Do we spend enough time building human capital and resilience ? 

I am forever curious and I spent yesterday reading the National Agricultural Workforce Strategy 

A career in agriculture is not for the faint hearted – Do we spend enough time building human capital and resilience . Graphics source 

The strategy confirms that Australian agriculture is a complex and sophisticated system. Its performance relies heavily on the quality of its people. It highlights the need to:

  • modernise agriculture’s image
  • attract and keep workers
  • embrace innovation
  • build skills for modern agriculture
  • treat workers ethically.

I love the way the report talks about agriculture being so much more than the farm and to recognise this the committee chose to use the term “Agrifood”

It is a spectrum comprising a number of stages. Starting before the farm with custodianship of the land and the sea, it progresses to encompass the farm itself; the stage between the farm gate and the point of sale, which includes value-adding; and shaping of, and by, buyers’ preferences. Ultimately it is the end consumer’s preferences that dictate the workings of each stage. Throughout the process, there is a significant supply chain component.

It goes on to say

None of the players in any of these stages stands alone. They are all linked in a web of interdependencies, where harm to one weakens the whole (for example, poor labour hire practices injure the reputation of the whole sector); and, conversely, enhancement of one strengthens the whole (for example, a focus on continuous learning in one industry spills over into another). Cooperation among the players in the various stages benefits the entire sector more than if one gains a temporary benefit by disadvantaging another. Unlike the 20th century, the 21st century has seen a growing realisation in the various elements of the Australian AgriFood sector that they all hang together, and that cooperation is more constructive than conflict.

The committee noted with concern

 the converging problems of agricultural workforce shortages, reduced employment opportunities for young people and poor perceptions of agricultural jobs and careers.

 

As we face increasingly complex major global and domestic challenges, Australia’s social and economic future is reliant on a fit-for-purpose education system and easy to navigate training pathways that equip young people with the skills they need to transition through school, to higher education and/or the workplace and thrive

The committee then made this beautiful statement

If the sector places capability development of its people at its core, if a general recognition prevails that this is a highly diverse sector encompassing a number of stages, if the ultimate arbiter is acknowledged to be the expectations of citizens and the tastes of consumers, if industry leaders rise to the challenge, and if they unite to plan actively to recruit and educate the new workforce, Australian AgriFood will not just survive in the 21st century. It will thrive.

I came to agriculture from a 25 year career in retail and I have always been frustrated by the lack of desire or lack of availability in the agriculture sector to upskill from a human capital perspective.

For example  I spent 3 years at uni learning pharmacology – my degree did not prepare me for the world of retail but the University of New England and Financial Management Research Centre (FMRC)  filled that gap 30 years ago. I don’t know of anything similar in agriculture except the Rabobank Business Management offering . I havent done the Rabobank course so I don’t know if it covers team management and motivations.

I was so impressed by the FMRC course I still have the manual 30 years later

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Is agriculture having enough conversations with our team members? Are we doing regular surveys like this one from McKinsey? What do we know about our team members?

There is some very important work being done by Professor Peter McIlveen and Dr Nicole McDonald looking at the Vocational psychology of agriculture. (e.g., the skill, knowledge, openness to change, and motivation of farmers). Their research couldn’t come at a more important time

This research by McKinsey shows why we shouldn’t guess and why the research is so important. 

Source 

When being too intense, too driven, too outcomes focused is not good for your health .

This week I participated in an extraordinary workshop for 200 CEOs of “for purpose” organisations across the country

Our first session was with Dr Jemma King ( if you every get a chance to be part of a workshop with Dr King – grab it with both hands )

She shared with us a recent survey on close to 100 CEO’s who self assessed their level of stress

As you can see from the graphic 85% of CEO’s previously survey were in the amber zone for an average of 12 months and if I remember correctly Dr King said one should not be in the amber zone for more than 6 to 8 weeks. She said if the CEOs were feeling like this, its highly likely their team were too

We were then put in break out rooms and given the hypothetical if we were these CEOs how would we ensure self care for ourselves and pastoral care for our team members.

The mood in the breakout room was quite gloomy as we reflected on the impact of 2 years of pandemic, never ending adverse climatic events and now war.

So I suggested we use a positivity hack I learnt from the wonderful Cynthia Mahoney

I suggested we all share something that bought us joy this week

They suggested I go first and comparing their answers to mine was a HUGE wakeup call for me.

Mine was work related, the rest of the breakout room was a mix of nature, family and pets

One can be too intense, too driven, too outcomes focused. I want to thank my break out room team mates for giving me more clarity

Now  what tiny habits do I need to start before it becomes the norm for me to identify nature, family or pet moments that bring me joy and I ultimately enter the creative calm zone?

 

Are winning awards a blessing or a missed opportunity – what could a fit for purpose award system look like?

I am forever grateful to the people who raised awareness of the work our organisation Action4Agriculture (formerly Picture You in Agriculture) is doing.

I am grateful for the people who nominated me for awards.

I am grateful I was awarded agriculture’s most prestigious accolade.

I will be very blunt it’s what the award giver does when some-one wins the award that tells you whether the award was about them or the greater good.

My experience is too few people/organisations who lift people up and give them a platform for their cause have thought about what their role is in the “collaborating and co-design” process for the “greater good” looks like

We cant do it alone and we cant do it in silos. Organisations who genuinely care about the greater good embrace their award winners and say how can we collaborate and co-design a better world together

As one of those award winners I am finding award giving organisations who genuinely walk their talk short on the ground.

We can create a better world for everyone or we can better our world.

That’s our choice.

The last twenty years has taught me there are so many people doing extraordinary things that could be brought together to multiply their impact.

What has your experience being ?

What could a fit for purpose award system look like?

The text below is from a recent newsletter identifying the the top climate non profits. Is the fact there are so many non profits in this space part of the problem.?

Have we lost the capacity to connect, collaborate and co-design?

Are humans the problem?

There are SO many important causes to support (e.g. human rights, human health, ending poverty, ending wars, education, racial/social/economic justice, ending world hunger, animal welfare, and many more). They’re all 100% worth supporting.

But we are at risk of losing all of the gains we’ve made over the decades in these areas if we don’t address the overarching planetary emergency.

Because the planetary emergency is not only undermining all of these issues simultaneously – it’s threatening to take out the very building blocks of our society and economy.

Society relies on a healthy, stable biosphere for food, water, clean air, shelter, livelihoods, and much more…and our biosphere – this place we call home – is under attack.

Agriculture creating a culture where people feel physically, emotionally and identity safe

This is the fifth article in a series that looks at the Action4Youth workforce Attract-Train-Retain workforce strategy and road map  model created by the Action4Agriculture team in partnership with Professor Felicity Blackstock. 

The model acknowledges careers’ awareness starts in primary school and leverages the relationships that Action4Agriculture’s school programs have developed with schools over the past 15 years

It was rewarding to see the announcement yesterday that the cotton industry is increasing its investment in understanding people and how they think, feel and behave.  

One of the key elements of the Action4Youth model is the pastoral care package.  If agriculture is going to Attract, Train and RETAIN people, they must feel physically, emotionally and identity safe in their workplaces

The graphics shown above have been created for a program aimed at attracting young people who are disengaged from school to the foundation careers on farm/in the oceans for the dairy, fishing and wool industries

It can be adapted, replicated and scaled (or shrunk) for all industries.

Interestingly enough that is where it is getting the most traction. There are no shortage of industries with dollars to invest in best practice workforce engagement strategies that don’t have what agriculture has.

The question is are we making the most of what we have?

Agriculture is not alone in having a huge labour shortage.

With Australia’s  birthrate at its lowest ever level of 1.6 (more people choosing career over having children) and reduced accessed to overseas workers we are going to have to be very committed to building and investing in relationship building with the next gen workforce. We have to be equally committed to agriculture being the image we want the world to see.

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Agriculture in self reflection. What does self awareness look like? What is the image we want the world to see.

One of the golden rules in the Young Farming Champions program is to avoid re-enforcing the negative and using deficit language ( which agriculture by the way has turned into an artform)

But if we are going to address the pain points in the Action4Agriculture Action4YouthExplore, Connect and Support young people to thrive in careers in agriculture Attract-Train-Retain Workforce Strategy and Roadmap we must be prepared to put our dirty linen out for washing

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And like all forward thinking sectors there are times when self-awareness and self-reflection are key to being the change required to be the image you want the world to see.

The graphics below are from the  YouthInsight Study done in WA in2017

Scott Graham from Barker College has identified others

 

Action4Agriculture’s work in schools has shown it IS possible to change of teachers and students images and perceptions

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Its possible to raise awareness of the diversity of careers

But we cant do it alone and Scott Graham and Barker College cant do it alone.

Creating resources and putting them on a website and hoping teachers see them is an equally ad hoc transaction that it not a best return on investment of expectations for anyone.

None of us can do it alone and we cant do it in silos.

How do we build a culture of co-operation in the agriculture sector  because we are not alone in needing to attract the best and brightest

Job vacancies rose 18.5 per cent to hit a record of 396,100 in the three months to November 30 as employers embarked on a hiring spree at the end of the delta lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported

Of all the sectors looking for workers agriculture is the only one that gets its own subject in the school curriculum. How cool is that. 

Job vacancies rose 18.5 per cent to hit a record of 396,100 in the three months to November 30 as employers embarked on a hiring spree at the end of the delta lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported.

How is agriculture ensuring we are front of mind when young people make career choices?

How are we helping young people explore and connect with our sector.?

How are we supporting them to thrive when they get there?

At Action4Agriculture we have created an Action4Youth Workforce Strategy and Roadmap. It looks like this.

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Forever grateful to Professor Felicity Blackstock for helping us create our Action4Youth model

We have also identified there are numerous pain points on the journey that need addressing by the agriculture sector and the education system

There are a number of exciting people and organisations working in this space

One of those is  Scott Graham the current winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Secondary School Science Teachers

Scott is head of agriculture at Barker College. He is undertaking a PhD under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley et al

Last Monday I was one of 21 people who had the opportunity to listen to Scott’s HDR endorsement

This was a new opportunity for me and what I learnt gave me a lot to ruminate on

It reminded me to celebrate the advantages we have in the world of agriculture

There is a huge labour shortage out there “Employers wanted 400,000 workers before omicron hit”

And of all the sectors looking for workers agriculture is the only one that gets its own subject in the school curriculum. How cool is that. 

What Scott’s PhD is looking at is how do to we encourage more urban students to select agriculture as a subject with the ultimate aim they choose agricultural career pathways. Scott is ideally placed to research and report on this as he and Barker College have done a phenomenal job of the former and are keeping a close eye on the later

Barker College appears to be well and truly bucking the trend

Scott has identified the issues. Here is a few of them

At Action4Agriculture  we are complementing the work Scott is doing by tailoring our school programs to teachers and students NOT teaching/studying agriculture.  We are using similar principles to Scott and Barker College

Our programs are student-centred, individualised, contextual and culturally sensitive.

They involve key influencers, are accessible to all, can be targeted at specific groups when required and all evaluated for their effectiveness.

Students are mentored by our Young Farming Champions young people working in agriculture who are debunking stereotypes

  • Agriculture is not all Akubra’s and moleskins or mud and flies
  • 80% of jobs are off farm, 40% are in cities

Our Young Farming Champions represent the diversity of people in the agriculture sector. Students can see they are young people like them – they can be confident that they will fit in- that agriculture is a place where you feel identity safe.

What a great time to be on this journey with Scott with his research complementing our two year project with UNSW uni students working with BCG 

#action4youth #AGSTEMcareers