Michelle Watson on the Leadership for Social Change Program

I’m a 2nd year PhD candidate and I also volunteer for the Onkaparinga Food Security Collaborative (OFSC); it’s through my work with the OFSC that I found out about the Onkaparinga Leadership for Social Change program and this year, the program’s focus was on food insecurity and active citizenship. The topic of food insecurity is of great interest to me as it is connected with my PhD research on emergency food relief and where food insecure adults go to get food when they can’t access these services.

For the past 5 months, I’ve been lucky enough to have spent time with some amazing people as part of the Leadership for Social Change program run by the City of Onkaparinga. We were due to start our face-to-face workshops in early April however COVID threw a spanner in the works and zoom sessions became the norm. Luckily, we were able to come together as a group for our last few sessions, the closing retreat, and our graduation ceremony.

It was definitely nothing like I expected, in a good way, and I have learnt so much on diverse topics such as adaptive leadership, active citizenship, communicating for change, and social entrepreneurship. The most standout for me was the presentation by Dr Sharon Zivkovic on the concept of wicked problems, so much so, that I wrote a couple of pages of my thesis based on what was covered. Wicked problems are often social in nature, complex, and are multi-casual – and food insecurity is one such example. I had heard the term before but it wasn’t applied directly to food insecurity, and what Sharon explored on mapping problems and using solution ecosystems really resonated with me. I intend to use the concepts of wicked problems and complexity solutions in my thesis as a way of understanding the social construction of food insecurity and the provision of emergency food relief.

I have also met some wonderful people along the way and appreciate their time, expertise, and friendship. This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I thank the City of Onkaparinga for the opportunity. If you get the chance, I definitely recommend participating in their Leadership programs which are run every year.

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