Why Do We Do What We Do?
A presenter at an education conference I attended last month asked this question of the room full of representatives from Neighbourhood Houses and community-based Learn Locals – the sector I have worked and volunteered in for over two decades.
‘WHY’ is such an important question to ask and often the hardest to answer – just ask any parent of a young child!
It is a basic part of human nature to be curious and young children are programmed to ask countless questions as they learn about the world, regardless of whether the answer is easy or esoteric.
Later, in adolescence, the ‘why’ or perhaps a ‘why not’ becomes more a challenge to authority than general inquisitiveness – and giving answers even harder!
The education conference was titled “TOWARDS SMART AND SUSTAINABLE ADULT & COMMUNITY EDUCATION” and organised by Adult and Community Education Victoria. (ACE Vic)
The Topics Explored
- Looking at smarter ways to work that create flexible and viable options for not-for-profits.
- How community education & training can continue to be a critical part of the Victorian educational environment.
- The sharing of models with future ideas and practice in engaging and holding learners.
- What it means to be a sustainable community organisation. This includes focusing on strategy, strategic business development, the learner-centric positioning of the organisation in a competitive marketplace
- How you can expand your contacts and networks, capture ideas & opportunities, and improve your market intelligence.
I was one of the few teachers at the conference – most attendees were managers and administrative staff so I was out of my comfort zone – again.
We were challenged to articulate why we do what we do…
- what’s our purpose, cause, belief?
- why do we get out of bed in the morning?
- why should anyone care?
The presenter referred to The Golden Circle, a TED talk by Simon Sinek who declared “people buy why you do it not what you do.” Check it out on youtube.
Sinek wrote the book “Start with Why” and his premise is not the “what” that motivates us to jump out of bed in the mornings, it is the “why.”
In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn, inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on START WITH WHY — the third most popular TED video of all time. Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over? People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it. START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.
Most people agreed that it is not the “what” that drives us to give great service and try and excel, but the “why.”
And losing sight of your “why” is destined to make you an average or poor performer, probably unhappy, and not where you want to be.
Each table in the room was asked to discuss
- what we do,
- how we do it, and more importantly
- why we do it!
The presenter had Powerpoint and we had the ubiquitous large piece of paper and pens to record ideas.
I shared a table with representatives from Echuca, Ararat, Beaufort, Yarraville, Footscray, Bacchus Marsh, and Ballarat. Although the sector is female dominated, we had a few males and there was a range in age in the group too. Diversity important.
Firstly, we made sure we were clear on
What we do:
- we provide a safe space to learn, grow and build
- we build a community
- we create community connectedness
Then we moved on to –
Why do we do it?
- Because we love and value people and community
- Because we want to educate the community
- Because we believe everyone has a right to education to lead a better life
- Because we believe everyone deserves a chance and we can help them to be happy if they join our family – we are about inclusion
- To empower people – living our values – we want to share and let them enjoy our values
- To provide an opportunity to people who often wouldn’t fit into any other educational system
- To act and show our actions say to people ‘we love you and want to make you happy’
- To provide a sense of direction and offer an opportunity to as many people as possible
- To empower people to live a fuller life with access to education to suit their needs
For the community education sector this discussion and reflection on doing the valuable job we do
- provides guiding principles as to what we do and how we do it
- informs our clients of our reason for being.
- determines our behaviour
- reflects our values.
- determines the sort of clients we will attract and deal with because they will share in our why
- determines the sort of people who will work in the centres and continue to represent the sector
Understanding The Sector
- We are not commercially based providers but community-based.
- The sector is unique.
- The sector is not a public provider like others, nor is it commercial. It is not for profit, but we can provide programs similar to TAFE.
- The research has been done and the government will give support through quality partnerships so there can be no implication the standard at the community level is less than expected from the TAFE sector.
Adult community education provides
- employment pathways,
- recreational activities,
- builds life skills, and
- also gives people a second chance at education.
The community sector is a dynamic contribution to all of these reasons of why people enrol in courses or attend activities!
As a writing teacher, I know why I do what I do
Writers are continually told to remember the “W’s” – who, what, where, when and why…
If you want a story to be memorable and engaging getting the why right is a winner – a strong character needs motivation, reader’s demand a mystery or back story that explains the good and bad actions of the hero and villain as well as the current reasons for their actions and story conflict.
And so it is with a one-off workshop or a career teaching others to write –
We need to reflect and dig deep and answer honestly what inspires us and what motivates us so that we can not only give of our best but also be satisfied and happy ourselves.
Enthusiasm, passion and joy necessary to inspire others.
- Understanding why we do what we do comes with deep reflection of self.
- Awareness of what makes our heart beat.
- What experiences/values in our lives lend an influence as to why we do the things we do.
Looking back I remember why I started to write and also teach writing.
( I always say I fell into the teaching career, but on reflection it was perhaps a natural progression from volunteering and establishing the Mordialloc Writers’ Group to teaching at Sandybeach Centre and then Mordialloc Neighbourhood House, Godfrey Street Community House and Longbeach Place, Chelsea – a tiny ripple in a small pond.)
- I was lucky to have the influence of some great teachers – one in particular Dr Norman Saffin (PhD in Literature). He taught me four HSC subjects in my last year at Croydon High School and instilled a love of history but also a confidence in my writing ability.
- I had wonderful parents who nurtured a love of books and great writers. A book can change your life – never underestimate the power of story – you are never alone if you can read!
- My father’s belief in socialism and my mother’s Christianity instilled a commitment to serving community and fighting for not only equality but equity. I can’t imagine a life that didn’t include being of service.
- My Dad had a talent for creative writing and loved poetry – I can still hear his voice reciting Rabbie Burns. Dad always encouraged me to fulfil my dream of being a published writer – I suspect because if times were different that’s what he would have chosen to be.
- Writing is as natural as breathing to me.
- The joy I feel when I write keeps me alive – whether I share the words with others or not. I feel privileged to have been able to follow my heart – to see my words in print and to help others become published.
- What a wonderful motivation it is when words work or connect with a reader and they take the time to tell me or thank me for helping them on their writing journey, and being in a classroom with people who want to write is a fantastic privilege – especially because so many are talented writers!
Doing what you like is freedom.
Liking what you do is happiness.
Next month the City of Kingston will be showcasing neighbourhood houses at the Arts Centre in Moorabbin, and people will have the opportunity to participate in a free writing creatively class as well as other activities.
- Date& Venue: Monday 21 May at 1.30pm – 3.30pm Writing Creatively in Gallery 2.
- Contact Rebekah Longbeach Place on 9776 1386
Come along and say hello to me – you never know you might discover that writing or another activity will decide or confirm why you get up in the morning!
Come celebrate community heART
I start work tomorrow for the new term at Godfrey Street Community House – another venue to check out for great activities.
Tuesday Class Poem – Godfrey Street, Bentleigh
Tuesday, a scarlet day, like a magnificent sunset
It’s a blushing woman, ‘Gone with the Wind’
It’s a juicy Victoria plum, dripping sweetness
It’s a burning bush, splashing golden sparks
It’s the last glass of claret, enriching palates
It’s a heated argument, getting out of hand
It’s a colicky baby, seeking comfort
We muse, we brainstorm, we mindmap
Writer’s block banished as we write.