Meet the trainer: Lisa Jennings

Lisa Jennings

What courses and webinars do you teach for Our Community?

I run training across the whole spectrum of governance and NFP management and leadership. We run an accredited Diploma of Governance, both online and face to face, and deliver governance training contracts for a number of government departments, as well as tailor-made training sessions for different NFP and community organisations.

What's been your own involvement in the community sector?

I've facilitated programs that address social equity issues, I've delivered VET music courses and health and wellbeing programs in regional and remote Aboriginal communities, and taught arts education programs in some of the most disadvantaged schools in Australia, working particularly with "at risk" students to help them succeed in education. I've also assisted artists to use the tools of business to better meet the needs of their communities, taught business subjects and headed up departments at various higher education providers, as well as providing mentoring as an arts education partnerships and projects manager.

Closer to home, I volunteer for sporting and music organisations where my two teenage boys are involved, and sit on the boards of a couple of arts education organisations.

We're not asking you to blow your own trumpet (well, clarinet), but we hear you played in a symphony orchestra for many years. Can you compare that experience to working for a not-for-profit?

When an orchestra is in full flight, it is a dictatorship - with the conductor the supreme leader. Even in rehearsals, there is generally not much room for discussion. Musicians generally play what is written on the page by the composer, at the tempo, volume and style dictated by the conductor, which can be moderated by the addition of a soloist out the front. The result is that the musicians present as if "thinking as one", and after many years playing together a group can develop its own distinct sound. Professional orchestras are very expensive to run, and all need government and philanthropic funding to survive, so in a sense all are not-for profits.

What have you noticed about community directors since you've started working with members of the Institute of Community Directors Australia?

I love working with them, particularly seeing their commitment to doing good through supporting communities. The sector is full of lots of very interesting and friendly people.

What's your teaching style?

I'm not a big fan of traditional teaching models where the teacher stands at the front of the class dispensing content to a passive audience. I prefer a bit of chaos, where participants contribute to their own learning in a non-hierarchical, non-threatening atmosphere that gives everyone the confidence to experiment, fail, and learn from those experiments. In this environment, the room buzzes, and people have the confidence to talk and disagree, as well as to reassess and challenge assumptions, and get those "Eureka" moments. For me, this is authentic, meaningful and "hands on" learning. It's also the best way to build genuinely creative solutions to the challenges faced by individuals and communities.

What's the most significant lesson you've learned outside the classroom recently?

Parenting teenagers is a constant learning opportunity. I was reminded recently - once again - that saying "do this because I say so" doesn't cut it in the long run. You must keep the communication lines open, explain, listen, sometimes admit you are wrong, and play by the rules you have all agreed on ... which can be exhausting!

What's something memorable you've heard in a recent training session?

"After yesterday's session on keeping records safe, I went out last night and bought a fire-proof safe." That was from a cemetery trust training participant.

If you couldn't be a trainer, what would you like to be?

Training is my fifth career to date, and I really enjoy it. If I couldn't do this for some reason, I'd probably get into research on how to best lead community arts practice, or start a cycling cooperative helping women get on their bikes, or get involved in the environmentally and socially sustainable housing development movement … So many interesting things out there and so little time!

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