Social Change Leadership: Never dance alone

By Dr Zali Yager, 2021 Westpac Social Change Fellow, academic and social entrepreneur

Social entrepreneurship can be lonely. Many of us work alone, or in small teams. Many of us don’t have others with whom we can discuss the real and complex nature of our businesses.

I work on my own, in my spare room, surrounded by trees and near the beach in a regional town in NSW. There are no meet-ups, no networks, and no exchanges of ideas. COVID has meant that annual conferences and work travel have been replaced with Zoom meetings and online events - a convenient, but poor substitute. It’s easy to feel small, and think small.

This context made the opportunity to come together for the Westpac Social Change Fellowship leadership program even more special. Ten Fellows from around the country kept their fingers crossed that borders would stay open, donned their masks, and remembered how to ‘do’ domestic travel. Interesting, inspirational people from around Australia with rich and varied experiences and plans to create change for good. As the week went on, we slowly unravelled the threads of our lives and leadership experience, and wove them together to create a beautiful, rich fabric that helped us to think bigger about our opportunity to create impact and change the world.

We looked inward to prepare us to create change in the outside world. We looked back through history to see where we have come from, what we have gone through, and to acknowledge, respect, and reconcile Indigenous and First Nations People and practices. We looked down, to expand our ideas of who we could learn from. And we looked up; to reach for the most ambitious targets. To shift our perspective to aim higher, to see the possibilities, and understand how we could achieve the impossible, together.

Throughout the week, we shared challenges, knowledge, and hope. We connected with others who understood, and gave each other unconditional support. We searched for ways to continue to engage and lift each other up. We laughed a lot, and we danced - not in the physical sense, but a dance of the mind and the heart.

Sad, grateful, and inspired, we returned to the far-reaching corners of Australia, and as I go back to my home office in the trees, I feel less alone, and a true sense of belonging that makes me imagine a bigger impact than was possible before.


2022 Westpac Social Change Fellowship applications are now open. Apply or nominate someone today.