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Civil Society Leadership Development Program

This is a nine month program for people in civil society around Australia who want to develop and exercise social leadership, that is, leadership in strengthening society and in finding solutions to social challenges.

The Program runs from February to October.

Participants must nominate two social challenges they will work on over the course of the nine month period. The Program aims to provide resources and support to participants in developing and exercising leadership in finding solutions to these challenges, through both policy change and social innovation.

A strict selection criteria applies.

Is this for you?

This is a leadership development program for people in civil society - in their capacity as community members, residents, parents, carers, consumers, users of public services, and volunteers.

It is NOT a management training course for employees or managers of not-for-profits. It is a program for the development of leadership in strengthening our life in community, for people who take their community, family and social relationships seriously.*

*Participants may or may not have a paid job in areas related to their social interests - that does not matter. The focus is on the strengthening of society and the search for effective social solutions, not on the conduct or performance of a person's professional role.

Eligible participants must meet five criteria:

1. face challenges in their personal, family, community or social circumstances for which social solutions are required (participants must nominate two such challenges);

2. are working with peers and colleagues in a voluntary capacity in seeking these solutions;

3. have an interest in acquiring new ideas, approaches, insights and skills, and learning from others;

4. want to exercise leadership in assisting others in developing solutions; and

5. want to influence the public discussion about society and meeting social challenges.

Participants will be drawn from various parts of Australia. In group learning and interaction, there will be a deliberate effort to break down state or territory-based ways of thinking and doing by drawing on interstate and international perspectives.

Participants are required to nominate two key challenges that they are facing at the start of the program, and with other participants will undertake a shared search for solutions to these challenges as they move through the year.*

*Areas in which participants may be facing social challenges and seeking social solutions may include, but are not restricted to: health, ageing, disability, mental health, education, schooling, training and employment; self-employment, child and adolescent formation, child care, parenting, young adulthood, loneliness, social isolation, supported living, personal and community safety; indigenous well-being; addiction, cultural identity, social cohesion, rural community, natural disaster risk, mobility and transport.

What will it do?

The program will consist of five components:

1. Two residential weekends for vision, learning and skill development (April and August) held at Jinks Creek Winery, one hour east of Melbourne;

2. Online learning with a focus on Australian and international experiences, case studies and models;

3. Shared group input into two social challenges nominated by each participant over the course of the 9 months;

4. Unlimited telephone and online support in seeking solutions for the nominated challenges; and

5.Occasional forums, dinners and meetings.

The online learning component will comprise material on key concepts and frameworks in social thought and innovation; case studies of individuals and groups tackling social challenges and finding solutions; and working solutions which might serve as models for others. Opportunities for group discussion of these materials will be provided through the nine months.

The Program Director is Vern Hughes.

Vern has been a writer, practitioner and networker in community, church, social enterprise and co-operative movements for 30 years. He is a former CEO of South Kingsville Health Services Cooperative (Australia's only consumer-owned primary health centre); Director of Hotham Mission in the Uniting Church; Founder of the Social Entrepreneurs Network (Australia and New Zealand); Executive Secretary of the Campaign for International Cooperation and Disarmament; and Director of the Cooperative Federation of Victoria.

How much does it cost?

There is a Registration Fee and incidental Event Fees.

The Registration Fee of $220 includes:

- resource materials and access to the online learning program;
- online networking connections; and
- unlimited telephone support over the course of the twelve months.

The Event Fees includes:

- accommodation, meals and incidental costs for each of the residential weekends; and
- meals and incidental costs for occasional forums, dinners and meetings.

Transport costs to and from the residential weekends, tours and other events, are the participants' own expense.

Participation in the residential weekends and events is optional, since some participants, especially in remote locations, may not be able to attend these events but will still participate in other aspects of the Program. Participants are strongly encouraged, however, to attend at least one of the April or August residential weekends.

Prospective participants are encouraged to seek a Sponsor to meet the cost of participation in the program, and/or the various event fees, if they are unable or unwilling to self-fund.

How do I register?

An online registration form is available here.

Applicant should note the four criteria for selection in the program, and should outline in the online form how they meet these criteria and how they expect to benefit from the program. The names of two referees are also required.

Further information:

Vern Hughes
0425 722 890


  Civil Society Australia 2015