Winter 2018

Update on congress projects

Since the St Vincent de Paul Society’s National Congress was held in October 2017, Vincentians have been busy devising strategies to pilot for action. The strategies came out of discussions held at the congress and range from a young leaders program to an ideas innovation hub and more. A full list of the strategies and updates on their progress are available on the congress website ( The following summary outlines the progress and exciting developments made in three separate projects in recent months.

Creating young leaders

Purpose: Develop a nationally recognised youth leadership program that gives young Society members a chance to be accredited in certain skills/areas.

Project sponsors: National Council Vice President, Youth & Young Adults Representative Cathryn Moore and National Treasurer Frank Brassil.

Project statement: The Emerging Young Vincentian Leaders Program aims to equip young Vincentian leaders from around Australia with the skills and confidence to undertake a broad range of leadership roles in and across Regional, Central Council, State/Territory and National Councils of the Society. In doing so, the program also seeks to build the confidence of the broader Society to appoint young members to leadership roles on councils beyond youth representative positions.

Program participants will be offered development opportunities to build and enhance Vincentian values-based leadership, not-for-profit governance and change management skills. They will also be mentored by experienced Vincentian leaders.

Participants will be expected to deliver an appropriate priority project decided in conjunction with the National Council and relevant advisory committees, such as the National Mission and Membership Advisory Committee.

If successful, the program will help the Society move courageously closer to the ideal of ‘One Society’, and improve organisational sustainability, while ensuring mission integrity.

Project objectives:

  • 10 to 15 participants representing each state and territory, to be nominated by State and Territory Councils and considered for inclusion by an assessment panel.
  • The program will be piloted from July 2018 to December 2019.
  • Through a mix of face-to-face and online/teleconferenced networking, the program seeks to specifically develop participants:
  • skills in financial literacy and corporate governance, including the ability to analyse board papers and prepare effective reports and meeting documents
  • understanding of relevant regulatory requirements, such as those administered by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
  • networks of Vincentian relationships, supported by current and former Vincentian leaders at State and National Council levels
  • Vincentian (values-based) leadership skills
  • understanding of governance bodies throughout the Society in Australia and internationally
  • appreciation of the processes of cultural change in organisations.

The program will be evaluated against baseline data about diversity and skills sets at State/Territory and National Councils.

Ideas Innovation Lab

Purpose: Design a platform to promote creative ideas for us to share that will also build collaborative methods across distances and profile ways of working that have traction.

Project sponsors: President, Territory Council of Canberra-Goulburn Warwick Fulton and St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland Manager, Partnerships & Evaluation Nathan Middlebrook.

Project statement: A team will design a platform that will be open to all Vincentians in Australia—members, volunteers and employees—to:

  • create a space to incubate great ideas
  • foster creative thinking, problem solving and collaboration between Vincentians
  • engage and empower voices within the Society at all levels
  • showcase the great work of Vincentians
  • create a sense of ownership, show that individuals matter, improve communication and provide positive feedback
  • share our strategic vision (national and state/territory-based) so that ideas to enhance this can be presented
  • highlight an issue that needs to be resolved and seek input from stakeholders to find a solution.

Members, volunteers and employees will be encouraged to:

  1. put forward ideas that they think will improve the way we do things in the St Vincent de Paul Society or might benefit other Vincentians in their work for the Society
  2. view material on the platform to draw on the ideas put forward, comment on the ideas and build on those ideas
  3. vote on ideas using a simple methodology (such as a ‘like’ button) for collating peer review.

Ideas placed on the platform will have an initial evaluation by a small team who will:

  1. determine if the idea is relevant to the St Vincent de Paul Society
  2. check whether it is a new idea or a development of an existing idea, in which case they will link it to that idea
  3. check whether the idea has national or state/territory relevance, or relevance to a particular group of Vincentians e.g., employees
  4. seek comments from Vincentians or, if relevant, a group of Vincentians as to whether they like the idea or not, and why
  5. provide feedback to the creator of the idea if the idea is not supported
  6. set up a working group for ideas that are supported, to develop a project proposal for consideration by the relevant council (national, state/territory, special work or company) that will be called upon to fund the project

The working group will undertake to:

  1. provide feedback to the creator of the idea and others who have been involved for projects that are not approved
  2. complete approved projects.

At all stages Vincentians are to be kept informed of progress through the Ideas Innovation Lab. The nature of the platform is yet to be determined by the design team. It is expected that professional advice will be sought.

Project objectives: The Ideas Innovation Lab has a primary purpose to encourage and foster creative ideas from Vincentians and to make them available to all Vincentians. In doing so it will engage and empower Vincentians at all levels within the Society to put forward their ideas with the knowledge that everyone is able to contribute to the betterment of the Society and that no one has a monopoly on good ideas.

By circulating information about good ideas and seeking comment from Vincentians, the Ideas Innovation Lab will showcase the great work of Vincentians, improve communication among Vincentians all over Australia, create a sense of ownership and show that individuals do matter regardless of their position within the Society.

Process: In the Queensland state office there is already a process for employees to put forward ideas for evaluation. It might make sense to undertake initial design of the Ideas Innovation Lab in Queensland, drawing on the experience of the state office.

A small team of perhaps four persons should be able to undertake the initial work to develop the Ideas Innovation Lab and present a detailed proposal and costing for consideration of National Council by August 2018.

At an early stage, professional advice and costings will be needed for the platform on which the Ideas Innovation Lab is to be placed. It is envisaged that the platform would be some form of cloud-based information technology system. This could be a system already developed or purpose-built for the Society.

Someone will need to run and monitor the Ideas Innovation Lab on a regular basis. In the development phase this could be a member of the development team, but in the longer term it would require a dedicated position as manager of the Lab. That position could be located anywhere there is a good internet connection.

The project is estimated to take two years to implement.

In the initial project phase the team would require access to a range of information technology platforms and a small amount of time of an information technology person (0.5 full-time equivalent) to design the platform in conjunction with the team. This would continue during the development phase. A lot depends on whether there is an existing IT platform that is readily adaptable to support the Ideas Innovation Lab.

In addition, from the development phase the project would require someone to run the Ideas Innovation Lab as a pilot project (1.2 FTE). In full implementation the Ideas Innovation Lab may require several persons full time (depending on the success of the project) as it has potential to significantly improve the way we operate within the Society in Australia, with good communication and empowering our people being some of the benefits. It will also require a person in each state or territory who will be responsible for the development of state/territory-based ideas and projects. Budgets will need to be set at state/territory level for any implementation of projects.

Without knowing what information technology is available, at this stage we are unable to provide any meaningful cost estimates for the project. We recommend that a team of six, consisting of the project sponsors and four additional volunteers from the members, volunteers and employees, make up the project team.

A declaration for the future (our story)

Purpose: Create a manifesto of core values, beliefs and attitudes that aligns the Society around a refreshed perspective of why people engage with it.

Project sponsors: National Council Vice President, Housing and Homelessness Bailly Pat Garcia, Chair National Marketing Committee Brian Spencer, and National Manager Strategic Marketing Anneloes de Graeff.

Project statement: Recently, the National Council participated in a series of workshops to identify the key elements of our identity. It was recognised that the Society has a vision, an identity and a personality.

National Congress recognises that the Society needs to establish a clear narrative (or story) that is principally comprised of:

  • our purpose (why we are here)
  • our values (what we believe in)
  • our promise (how we want our companions, our church and our community to see us)
  • our vision (what we want to be).

We recognise that it will be difficult to include in a single statement our purpose, values, vision and promise. It will also be difficult for so many parts of our Society to agree on a single articulation of these important elements of our Society. But we are an experiential society. The development of the Society’s ‘story’ will allow our members and our companions to experience information as opposed to simply comprehending it.

This should not come as a surprise given that, as Christians, we are familiar with storytelling as a means of communication. The word of God is a series of stories designed to convey a message in an easily comprehensible vehicle.

Our story will articulate what we stand for, where we have come from, where we are right now and where we are going in the future. Our story is what unites our members with our volunteers, our supporters and our companions. It is what sets us apart from other organisations that seek to help those in need.

Understanding our story will help us to grow together and realise our individual and collective goals.

We can establish our story by answering questions such as:

  • How does our history guide our future?
  • What is our work? What lies at its centre?
  • How does our faith guide our work?
  • How does our community and those we serve view us?
  • What is it that we are good at (that is, what are our strengths)?
  • What opportunities do we offer our supporters to address?
  • How can we hold onto our traditions and beliefs while also innovating for the future?
  • What will we never do?

Our collective story will serve as a source of inspiration for our companions as well as for our current and prospective members, volunteers, supporters and employees. It will strengthen bonds within the Society and of how and why we conduct Vincentian work while presenting a bold call to action that crosses age, gender, culture and faith. It will help members evaluate the gap between the principles and their current reality and help prepare the Society for the 21st century.

Project objectives:

  • Detailed project brief and plan
  • Establish Terms of Reference and Governance
  • Project team established representing all areas of the Society (Mission & Membership, Youth, Centres, Special Works, Marketing & Media, Fundraising, Policy & Advocacy)
  • Communications specialist engaged to help guide the process and provide strategic advice
  • Development of value proposition areas for feedback by project team
  • Development of clear stances in each area for feedback by project team
  • Research stage: focus groups (internal and external) and phone/internet surveying
  • Early stakeholder buy-in and audience insight
  • Value proposition to be fully stretched and tested in Christmas Appeal 2018
  • Guidelines for use developed
  • Wider stakeholder engagement
  • Full roll-out completed by July 2019.
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