Community sector organisations in Western Australia will benefit from a new Action Learning program that aims to improve the capabilities of the sector’s leaders.

The Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia, the Western Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS) and BHP Billiton have joined together to offer the Action Learning program for the first time in 2016.

The inaugural Action Learning program will be offered at no cost to selected leaders of community sector organisations in Western Australia as a result of generous funding by BHP Billiton through their Social Investment Program.

Over a period of about six months, the Action Learning program will address the domains of strategy, leadership, funding, and talent to equip community sector leader with the knowledge, skills, and capabilities relevant to achieve social change.

Professor Paul Flatau, Director of the UWA CSI at the UWA Business School, says: “Community service organisations in WA – small and large – are incredibly important to the economic and social fabric of the state and to the lives of Western Australians. Realising social change depends heavily on the knowledge, skills, and abilities of organisational leaders. Yet, many community sector organisations face substantial challenges in supporting the development of their staff. It is therefore with great pride that we partner with BHP Billiton and WACOSS to offer a unique Action Learning program that will further educate and empower those individuals and organisations that seek to create social change in Western Australia.”

The Action Learning program ‘Learning for Purpose’ was announced at the WACOSS AGM by its CEO Irina Cattalini.

The announcement follows the recent release of the UWA CSI research report on the The Social Return on Education and Training. This research found that Not-for-Profit organisations in Australia seek and benefit from ongoing learning opportunities, but face significant challenges to resource capability development.

Accordingly, participation in the Action Learning program will be offered at no cost to selected members of WA community sector organisations.

Richard O’Connell, Senior Manager Community BHP Billiton, says: “At BHP Billiton we are committed to making a difference to the community beyond our day-to-day business operations. We work alongside skilled community partners, such as the University of Western Australia, to design and deliver programs that will benefit the community and leave a legacy for future generations. BHP Billiton see education as the foundation for the success of our future generations and we are proud to support and invest in partnerships that encourage people to succeed in the future.”

Irina Cattalini, CEO WACOSS, says: “As the peak body for the social service sector in the state, WACOSS will select those organisations and leaders with both genuine need and commitment for enhancing their organisation’s social impact. To create a collective and contextual learning experience we will assemble a mixed cohort that represents organisations that are small and large, and from different sub-sectors of community service.”

The Action Learning program is based on the principle that the most effective learning takes place when participants access state-of-the-art thinking and tools that they immediately apply to solve their real-world problems. Interaction in the classroom will be as important as personalised goal-setting exercises, virtual meet-ups, and ongoing exercises to support the implementation of change.

Ramon Wenzel, Lead Researcher and Action Learning Program Designer for ‘Learning for Purpose’, says: “The action learning approach offers great upside potential to enhance the capacity of community sector organisations so they can better address the growing organisational, managerial, and societal challenges they face. Our role is not to make specific recommendations, but to facilitate a learning journey that enables and empowers community sector leaders to explore new solutions and plan for action. Participants will take on an issue that is of importance to them, and together build the productive power of the organisation so it can increase its social impact.”

The Action Learning program will require high commitment on the part of participants so that what they learn is indeed applied to facilitate social change. WACOSS will thus lead a competitive application and selection process that will open in November 2015 and close in January 2016. The Action Learning program will run twice in 2016: (1) February – July, and (2) July – December.