What courses do you teach for Our Community?
Anything and everything: the accredited Diploma of Governance, community development leadership, grant writing, project planning, sponsorship, financial management, crowdfunding, social enterprise development and fundraising, to name a few subjects.
The tag-line of the Institute of Community Directors Australia is "Knowledge. Connections. Credentials". Tell us about yours.
As a consultant I've had a lot of practical experience that translates well to teaching and training.
I was fortunate when I started in business that as a community volunteer I had a good reputation for getting things done. Now that I've been in the sector for 20 years, those connections, once local, are global.
The highest qualification I have is an MBA. It's called a "generic" MBA because my chosen subjects of governance, entrepreneurship, innovation and marketing didn't fit the traditional mould. That didn't worry me; I studied what added the most value to my work and personal interests, and I still received the three letters I needed.
What's your teaching style?
I tell everyone I'm not a trainer, I'm a facilitator, and that's definitely the style I prefer. The key is having people draw from their own experience, share that experience and learn through others.
Of course I share my case studies too, and I address the elephants in the room, and the challenging questions or objections. The key, though, is helping bring everyone to that point of self-actualisation. Otherwise, all you're doing is lecturing, not educating.
My sessions are full of laughs - even the ones on topics I've been told are "dry", like financials and governance (I lurve these ones!).
I'm told that I'm fun and motivating, and I think most people go away from my sessions feeling that way.
Someone with chronic fatigue syndrome warned me on the first day of his Diploma training that he would probably fall asleep a few times a day, but he didn't get weary till the third straight day of training. His wife was in shock!
You live in Dubbo. Why?
It's the old "I married a farmer" situation.
My husband, Glen, is from a fourth-generation farming family from the region. I'm more of a brain-work girl then a hands-on girl, so the farming life really wasn't for me. I'm so much of a brown-thumb that I've killed a native hibiscus I thought was a weed - my husband sacked me from weeding.
I did perhaps influence Glen's change of career - he has a digital marketing business now and loves it, and we live in town.
About 98% of my work happens outside my region. Some of the work I do as a consultant involves troubleshooting problems created by processes or people, and it's nice to come home and just be regular Natalie, a community member. It's nice not to be involved in local politics and have that affect my personal life and business.
What's nice about Dubbo is the relaxed lifestyle. Everything is only a few minutes away, including the airport, and I can always get my fix of fresh Italian cannoli and Mr Wong duck pancakes when I travel for work.
What's your personal involvement in the community sector?
I've done a lot of community volunteering over the years and sat on quite a few boards. I encourage everyone I train to connect with me if they have questions or need some quick advice. I call it my "use not abuse" policy. I recently had a call from someone from a grant writing course I did in Gladstone four years ago.
For a while I scaled back my personal volunteering commitments while I built a social enterprise called iClick2Learn, which provides e-learning services for the sector.
But this year I launched a formal pro-bono mentoring program in memory of my first community mentor, the late Gale Eckford.
I'll be on the look-out for another board position in the next few months.
You've been a judge for the New South Wales tourism awards for many years. Is that as glamorous as it sounds?
A: Like any pro-bono assessment job, whether it involves grants, tenders or awards, it's a lot of work. The site visits are fun. I've been up in a hot-air balloon and gone behind the scenes at Dubbo Zoo to see baby animals that are yet to make their public debut, so that's been great.
But I do it because I love what the awards stand for, which is economic development for communities. The more visitors a destination brings in, the more money there is to go around to community groups, and the more support there is for our sector.
You're toying with the idea of doing a PhD. What would you like to investigate?
Oh, that's a hard one - there's so much. What really interests me now, though, is commercialisation mindsets in the boardroom, and how we can and should support intrapreneurs within our organisations. We'll see what happens there.
Your job takes you all over Australia. You must come across some really interesting not-for-profit organisations. What have been some of the biggest surprises?
I don't think there's much that can surprise me, really. I've been blessed to do a lot of different types of facilitated education and consulting with a variety of groups in different situations, from yarning circles to formal boardrooms. One thing that is consistent, though, is the passion people have to improve their communities. This is why I continue to travel and work as much as I do: because they care.
What's the most memorable thing anyone's ever said in one of your training sessions?
I strive to have a long-term impact on people in terms of their skills, mindset or beliefs. One thing that's stayed with me is a comment made by an older man doing the Diploma course. He said that discovering more about our traditional owners had had a big impact on him, and he now understands and respects their culture much more. He said he wished he'd been exposed to this information 50 years ago. This change can resonate through every group he's involved in.