The Challenge of Change

Hilary Star Foged

The Not for Profit Conference, organised by GROW in February, was such a wonderful opportunity to meet others with similar strengths and challenges in the wide variety of community based organisations around Aotearoa, and where skills, information and inspiration are brought together in a powerhouse of speakers and participants for two amazing days.  It was my pleasure to be there on the first day.

A warm hearted Mihi Whakatau welcomed us to the conference where 120 or more sector leaders shared ideas and inspired new developments in the sector.  Here are a few of my highlights:

Aly McNicol  from LEAD, provided an overview of the themes of the conference, Changemakers and Achieving Change, especially highlighting that change is an ongoing reality now:  “We need a different mindset that says we need to get ready for continuous change.  How do we build our people to be ready for this?”

The belief that we can go back to a time that is more stable is not helpful. We need both resilience and well-being to engage with change.



CEO of SPCA Andrea Midgen described how the SPCA moved to becoming one national body from more than 40 centres individually run in local areas.  This is a very new change and there were many questions from the participants wanting to understand more fully how the challenges of change were and are continuing to be addressed.

The workshop led by Vasa (Cynthia) Fia Collins on Cultural Intelligence created a lot of interest and discussion, bringing personal stories forward from participants as well as hearing more about the aspects of cultural intelligence and how “true diversity inclusion is difficult to achieve” and involves “being comfortable with being uncomfortable”.  I found this workshop provided me with some new perspectives and experiences as we were led through insightful questions discussed with our neighbour and in groups.

Fia quoted Margo Monteith, from the University of Kentucky, whose research shows that children by 5 years have entrenched stereotypes about blacks, women etc.  They don’t have a choice about their conception of others as they are acquired before they have the experiences to form their own beliefs. All the implicit ideas of what we are seeing are presented to us within milliseconds.  We are hardwired for fast and efficient judgement, and our brain feels threatened whenever we meet difference.  Our filters are biased.

The key point Fia wanted us to take away was “At the end of the day it is about relationship. There is no substitute for relationship”.   We need to get to know each other in our core selves. With this she challenged us with how to make our learning real and meaningful, not just during ‘language week’.

Annah Stretton from RAW Reclaim Another Woman, was an inspiring and skilled speaker giving us incredible stories about the growth and work of this new organisation, founded in 2014.  Providing 24/7 wraparound support to mainly Maori women, both prior to them leaving prison and once they have exited from prison.

For Annah this put a balance into her life having built such a strong brand in clothing for women, and now providing leadership and support to this organisation. The residential programme based in the Waikato, includes education through scholarships at WinTec and Waikato University, employment opportunities, and lifestyle skills.  This is a long-term goal for RAW, as they recognise how change takes time.  

Annah shared how change for the women is hard:  they are making massive changes, and there are undercurrents that are still present in their lives.    

I find change challenging too and it can be hard to fully participate in it enthusiastically, when I haven’t been part of the decision regarding the change, which is a common experience for many of us.  But as I have realised more and more, change can also bring new possibilities and experiences.  Change can inspire me even when going through the transition time which so often is an experience of uncertainty and unknown outcomes.  Rather than change being something to resist or to fear,  it takes courage and openness to experience change as a dynamic opportunity to learn and grow. 

Are you facing change in your organisation or leadership? This is a fantastic growth opportunity! The LEAD team are available to help you get the skills, knowledge and confidence to work with change and complexity. How we can help.