As part of the Australasian Management Challenge each year, teams are required to complete a pre-challenge task.
In 2017, this task was designed so that teams would need to work with their organisations and management to conduct community consultation on a real issue, and make recommendations.
Alexandrina was one of the teams in SA that worked on a consultation exercise that was so successful, it actually received council funding to become a real project.
We spoke with Colin Shackleford of the Alexandrina team - Alexandrina STEAM.
Hi Colin - thanks for speaking to us about your pre-challenge task.
How did you choose the subject for your pre-challenge task in 2017?
We looked at several real scenarios that required public consultation and short listed 3 projects based on their social impact and urgency. We then met with our Executive Management team and presented the three options for their consideration.
The Skate Park project was an issue of public safety and potentially poor PR for Council so it was the preferred option.
How did you get management involved?
By involving senior management in the project selection process we gained their support and buy-in. It helped that the project was already listed with the Community Wellbeing Manager so we had access to the right team for support.
How did you engage the community?
We arranged a pop-up event at the Skate Park with a free sausage sizzle to encourage people along to tell us their views on the facility. We also linked with another Community Wellbeing OPAL event at a local park and set up a booth to hand out surveys and record people’s views about the Skate Park.
Council uses the MySay online consultation tool so we set up the survey on that platform and also used Facebook to gather feedback. Overall we had more than 7000 responses in one form or another.
Although the pre-challenge task could have been just based on a hypothetical project or issue, what was the end outcome at Alexandrina?
The project was initially given to me as a problem that needed to be solved with the preferred outcome being the closure of the Skate Park. Instead, the overwhelming public response was to improve the facility and address the public safety issues as it was considered to be an excellent Skate Park.
Did you end up actually delivering the project in reality? How did that happen?
As a result of the public response, we formed a “Friends of the Goolwa Skate Park” group and created a project plan to address the facility and security issues.
We also applied for grant funding to add a toilet, improve the landscaping, add security cameras, install new signage and decorate the bowl with professional street art. We received $40,000 to create the street art and beautify the bowl. The remaining works will be subject to a Council budget request for next financial year.
What was your experience of the Management Challege in general? How did your team members benefit from the experience?
I found it to be quite a challenge in several ways. Firstly, it was difficult to commit the time required as an operational manager with a broad portfolio and I needed to make sure that I did not simply join the group as a “manager” and play that role. Also, I did not really understand what was required so it was a bit daunting to begin with.
I really enjoyed the experience of being part of a new team and sharing my abilities but also learning about each team member and gaining valuable insights from them about their area of work and life experience.
It certainly broadened my understanding of Council and our governance processes even after being in Local Government for nearly 20 years. I really found out how much I did not know and I think this was the same for the other team members.
We covered areas right outside of our comfort zones but we became a very strong, focused and supportive team. We had a broad age and experience range within our team and this gave us a unique dynamic which could have worked against us but instead proved to be vey beneficial.
Would you encourage other councils to participate in the Management Challenge and especially put in the time and effort to get real value from the pre-challenge task?
I would highly recommend the challenge to other Councils and in particular, ensure that the pre-challenge tasks are real scenarios that can benefit the Council and community beyond the Challenge activity.
You can view a short video outlining Alexandrina's pre-challenge task here.