24 April 2018
Seeking to change the world, one person at a time, is not without its complications and risks.
The Salvation Army’s four mission department heads, Major Jenny Begent (head of social mission), Captain Stuart Glover (head of community engagement), Dr Elli McGavin (head of policy, research and social justice) and Captain Steven Smith (head of mission resources), seek an overarching vision for Australia ‘that is bigger than the sum of its parts.’
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As Captain Steven Smith notes, ‘we are a pretty big organisation and we do a lot of stuff, with more risk, probably, than we recognise. Navigating that national momentum and national opportunity is challenging, but the opportunity is worth it.
‘Embracing risk is just the new norm; so, it is not an excuse for not advancing. It is something we have to learn how to do; to find our courage and our heart amidst the challenges.’
‘One of the risks is not taking everyone with you on a journey like this,’ adds Dr Elli McGavin. ‘We see things happening on a daily basis, but it can be much more difficult for somebody else, sitting somewhere else, to engage with it and be brought along with the changes. That is one of the risks.
‘I also think that Australia One, this process, has more people excited about it than anything I have ever seen. It is an idea that’s time has well and truly come. We see the value of it and it is an easy sell to people. Engaging everyone in that process is one of the things I want to be sure to do.’
For Captain Stuart Glover, the risk lies in ‘forgetting people, from a service delivery point of view. We want to make sure the people who engage with our services are at the centre of what we do, and not just a process we are doing to them. That applies in a social program, or in any other engagement that we may have.
‘While there is a need for national consistency, we need to ensure that we celebrate the diversity of local communities. So the risk in a national approach is that we can quash that kind of diversity. We need consistent national standards, that still allow for creative ways of doing mission… so we don’t “control things” too much.’
‘For the first time ever, we have a vision that belongs nationally, which means we are able to ensure that whatever we do actually fits within it,’ Major Jenny Begent adds. ‘So whatever plans we make, at a community level or middle management level, look similar. They may not be the same, but they are all marked by this over-arching vision. The risk is not being able to engage people in getting on board.’
All four mission department heads see the risk of staff, Salvos and clients being disengaged or disheartened. The risk is alleviated by working with people, getting them on board, rather than leaving them behind.
When it comes to evaluating the Salvos’ mission and mapping success, Major Begent asks herself one question: ‘If The Salvation Army wasn’t there, in that community, would it be missed?’
It’s how you measure success and see the impact of a Salvation Army service, centre or corps, she explains.
‘If you took us out of a community, would anyone care? Maybe if there was a bushfire they might; you want them to care and value the Salvo presence in their community. I’ve always kept that in mind, especially when I have been in governance roles.
‘Do we keep things going or don’t we… if we moved out, would we be missed? I think there are some key areas where we would be missed by Australians. If you took us out of homelessness services, or Emergency Relief services, there would be a significant national deficit.
‘If you took us out of a small regional setting, would there be a deficit? One would hope so. It’s the way in which we have a big vision of who we can be; we also have to have a small, normal vision about the impact we have at a very low level. It’s not just about a social impact; it is about our holistic impact.’
Captain Glover says success means you can see ‘communities flourishing ... the reverse, negative indicator of Jenny’s scenario is if we moved out of a community and there was no change to the way the community operates.’
Flourishing. The captain is talking about health, of individuals and families and communities.
People growing personally and spiritually.
Material, spiritual, emotional, psychological, and societal health being the norm, alongside an absence of malnutrition and ignorance.
Children and adults in education, employment, training, revelling in healthy relationships, pastimes and pursuits; experiencing an absence of violence, sexual abuse, discrimination, hatred, prejudice, and deprivation.
The pursuit of kindness, the realising of dreams, the sharing of lives, and the kindling of hope.
‘I use the word “hope” explicitly,’ says Captain Glover. ‘If you are in a space where you feel hopeless, or helpless, the services aren’t going to help you get out of that pit. There has got to be a capacity to help people transform their lives; to find a sense of joy and a positive outlook for the future.’
‘I want to know that we have moved into communities and done that better,’ Captain Steven Smith says, ‘and in places where we already are present, that we have improved in what we are doing.
‘We need an overarching vision for Australia that is bigger than the sum of its parts.’