Enabling Change

That's you
leading change

Les's projects

Here's a selection of Les's consultancy work. In each case Les facilitated workshops that brought together diverse participants to create new knowledge and generate innovative solutions.

Primary students as Changeologists

Power and Water Corporation (NT)

Les devised a primary school-friendly version of Changeology, enabling teachers to facilitate their students to innovate their own imaginative micro-campaigns on water conservation behaviours.

In a prototyping session teachers said: "Great workshop! I'm going to apply this to my students." and "I'll be able to implement this again and again."


Environmental Trust, NSW

In 2020 I had the pleasure of working with a small team from AAEE (NSW chapter) to innovate the grant-making process of the NSW Environmental Trust, a NSW government agency that offers grants of up to $250,000 for projects tackling various diabolical environmental problems.

The most critical change we made was the mandating AND FUNDING of preliminary 'audience' research, and prototyping, for funded projects, with the expectation that project plans would be rewitten following each of these phases, prior to release of the bulk of funds. This aimed to tackle the chronic lack of preliminary research and depth that bedevils grant-funded projects everywhere.

Another amazingly effective innovation was for Les to facilitate a full day kick-off meeting of each project team. Here the project model and tactics were revised and fundamental decisions made about strategy and tactics. These were seriously exciting events that made the world of difference to the thrust and creativity of each project.

And to support this new model, we made a cool one-stop guide to strategy-making
the Palette of possibilities for environmental action projects (4.4Mb PDF).

Tackling dog attacks on wildlife

Department of Environment Industry and Planning, NSW

Pet dogs kill a lot of precious Koalas, rare seabirds, and other threatened native animals. This is a classic 'wicked' problem!

Les facilitated a diverse 'brains trust' workshop that used real-life scenarios to develop a palette of solutions.

He then encapsulated the solutions in a reader-friendly guide for local government: Protecting Wildlife from Domestic Dogs.

It sets out a suite of community enagegment strategies and tools which are known to make a difference. Plus important communication approaches, like using non-blaming, dog-friendly language; expressing that most dog owners care about wildlife; offering alternative dog walking sites; and having face-to-face contact.

Transforming Local Government - What works

Municipal Association of Victoria

Local government is in the midst of an historic modernisation.

Many councils are experimenting with innovation, design thinking and collaboration across boundaries.

Many are undertaking the momentous revolution towards Ôall digital, customer firstŐ - a seismic shift that challenges time-honoured expectations, skills, modes of thinking and work methods of staff, managers and executives.

Is there a formula for success? (Yes)

The Municipal Association of Victoria asked Les to inverview leaders in successful local government transformation projects to explore this question.

Here is 'how to do change' in the words of the change makers.
Download the booklet (142k PDF).

Expanding a brilliant community initiative

Garage Sale Trail

What a fantastic program: 136 councils and 370,000 Australians participating in an annual weekend of garage sales, building community and saving waste.

After years of success, Garage Sale Trail asked Les to review and help innovate their engagement path and web instrastructure. The result will be a whole new look and simpler, smoother participation experience in future.

Hothousing Landcare grants

South East Local Land Services

What's a better way to issue a grant? South East LLS invited Les to apply the "grant reinvention" process to its Landcare grants scheme (the idea was originally developed for Healthy Together grants for Victorian councils).

Here's how it worked:

  • Instead of a long application form, there was a short, simple expression of interest.
  • Short-listed applicants, in buddy pairs, attended a one-day workshop to hothouse their ideas, immersed in inspirations, best practice project design thinking, plain English writing, sharing ideas and (this was the most amazing part) advising each other.
  • Les guided the teams, step-by-step, to sketch innovative project plans during the workshop itself. They walked away having done all the thinking, often revolutionising their assumptions, and creating wonderfully engaging projects.
  • Each team then had 2 weeks, with the help of a staff mentor, to finalise their project plans.
Landcarers truly appreciated this process:

"The space for creative thinking built excitement back into the project and we are leaving the workshop inspired."

"Fantastic. Shifted outside of our comfort zone."

"The ridiculous ideas session...expanded my world."

Innovating engagement in water planning

Mid Coast Water

Mid Coast Water asked Les to facilitate the keynote community engagement process for its 30 year Our Water our Future strategy - a series of collaborative multi-stakeholder workshops.

Les devised interactive agendas that enjoyably engaged a diverse group in systematically digesting complex data and making difficult trade-offs that involved technical constraints, community values, environmental outcomes and major infrastructure investments (and it was fun).

Tackling a bad cactus

Waggamba Landcare

Harrisia is an invasive cactus that's muscling its way onto good farmland on NSW/Qld border around Goondiwindi.

How to start the fight back?

The first step is to figure out what controls work and spread the knowledge widely. But that's not enough, unless landholders who are 'growing' it are motivated to put the effort into removal.

So we decided to demonise the cactus...giving an identity that's liable to spark emotive responses like resentment, anger and shame. The resulting image is a significant departure from the neutral, colourless terms of a typical agricultural brochure, so it should easily grab attention as well.

An engaging council

Wyndham City Council (Vic)

Wyndham City, on the western outskirts of Melbourne, is Australia's fastest growing municipality with 77,000 new residents in the last 5 years, and, like most councils, it knows it has a community engagement deficit. This project involved training a cross-departmental "team of 30" in engagement design and facilitation skills. As well, Les facilitated a Rapid Innovation Lab with a mix of council staff and community leaders. The lab devised a suite of engaging initiatives to help council better listen to its community and simultaneosly build new relationships between neighbours.

Reinvigorating Landcare and Bushcare groups

Numerous NRM organisations and councils in Victoria, NSW and Qld.

For the past few years Les has run Passion Mashing workshops with hundreds of Landcare and bushcare leaders with a focus on creatively reinventing the volunteer experience. 'care volunteers respond amazingly positively to new pespectives based on innovation thinking. As one participant put it "I feel re-energised! Hit with a zapper!"

If Not, Then What captures some of the more brilliant reinvention ideas generated by the volunteers.

Greening the Victorian Film and Television Industry

Film Victoria

Film Victoria is looking for ways to enable filmmakers to reduce their environmental footprint. Apart from a few enthusiastic innovators, this is an industry early in its sustainability journey. But where to begin? And how best for Film Victoria to make a difference? Les developed a strategy that examined changes in the global industry, workshopped approaches with local producers and industry leaders, and recommended a set of initiatives for Film Victoria to drive systemic change.

Organisational change for business champions

Office of Environment and Heritage (Sustainability Advantage program)

Les developed and delivered a specialised workshop for sustainability "champions" in medium to large businesses - essentially, a crash course in organisational change. The workshop focuses on creating ownership through empowering conversations; framing the vision; selecting a fresh, do-able focal behaviour; creating an enabling environment; and devising persuasive invitations. It's now a regular component of the Sustainability Advantage program.

Strategy to Enable Cycling in Sydney

GHD and the City of Sydney

The City of Sydney is embarking on a transformative program of cycleway construction to dramatically shift transport choice in Australia's most traffic-clogged city. It wants to get the human dimension right too.

Les worked with multinational infrastructure consultants GHD to devise a behavioural strategy to greatly increase the number of people cycling and improve the behaviour of cyclists. The result was a suite of innovative on-ground projects that involved infrastructure, communications, events and partnerships.
Download the paper What Enables Cycling? (1.5Mb PDF)
Download the
cycling logic model (168k PDF)
Download the full Enabling Cycling strategy .

Conversation skills for emergency volunteers

NSW State Emergency Service

Les developed and piloted a training course on conversation skills so SES volunteers can engage the public in prevention-oriented conversations about flood and storm safety.

Beyond the Fence - facilitating communities of learning and environmental action


Les trained and mentored coordinators responsible for working with four clusters of schools across NSW to create learning communiites to plan and initiate environmental action 'beyond the fence'.

Community leadership training

Australian Conservation Foundation

Les facilitated the 2009 community leadership program for ACF in Sydney. This short video shows the projects that resulted.

How to save the world - one conversation at a time

Australian Conservation Foundation

Does conversation change the world? Yes..if it's optimistic and action-oriented. Working with facilitator Margo Lockhart, Les developed a guide for community champions to facilitate action conversations in their networks and communities. Download the conversation guide.

Strategy to save a river

Lower Georges River Sustainability Initiative

Les facilitated a logic model workshop that developed outcomes (focused on a mix of governance interventions and community partnerships) that will determine the success of this $2m two year program.

Maximising innovation in an NRM body

Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority

After four years of hectic activity, spending some $50m on natural resource management projects, what have the staff of this agency learnt about doing this work well? What processes and tools have they innovated? What do they want to do differently from now on? Les recommended organisational improvements to get the best results in future.

Enabling parent self-help groups

Mission Australia, Miller Pathways

Starting a self-help group is daunting. Fortunately it's possible to break down the process into a series of simple step-by-step how-to guides. It's amazing that no one has ever done this before. Download the CLEAR Manual. (1.3Mb PDF)

Upskilling Al Gore's Australian presenters

Australian Conservation Foundation

With facilitator Tony Wilson, Les developed a new worshop format for Al Gore's local presenters, to enable to them to better engage the public in climate change actions, and we trained them in how to use it.

Arabic anti-smoking campaign: Ma'feesh cigara men gheir khosara (No cigarette without loss)

Sydney South West Area Health Service and Social Change Media

Les developed a research methodology to identify enabling conversations that allow both smokers and non-smokers to negotiate healthful outcomes where there is conflict over smoking in the home (as is often the case). These conversations were modelled in a radio advertising campaign over 18 months leading to a 5.3% drop in smoking prevalence and a 7.8% increase in smoke-free homes in this community. (Results published in Health Promotion International.)

Practice Change in Natural Resource Management

The Australian Government

This national project closely examined the experiences of four regional NRM organisations in different states. Recommendations aimed to improve the effectiveness of regional NRM organisations as agents of practice change.

Effective small projects: a facilitator's handbook and evaluation tools

Environmental Protection Authority (Vic)

The Neighbourhood Environment Improvement Program (NEIP) has proven a sound model for collaborative community/agency action on tricky and chronic environmental problems at the neighbourhood and catchment level. This consultancy involved developing tools and methodologies to improve delivery and enable reflective assessment by participants. Download the CoCreate Guide.

Education for Resilience

State Emergency Service (NSW)

Les devised a communication model for building the resilience of vulnerable communities in the face of natural hazards, and also offered some solutions to the perennial problem of motivating the public on low probability hazards.
Download the full study. (PDF 248k)

Public participation in decision-making

The Western Australian Local Government Association and The Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council, with Nolan-ITU

WA has experienced intense, protracted public conflicts over new waste facilities. This consultancy looked at international best practice in community participation, recommended a new approach and provided decision tools which aimed to make communities more equal partners in decision-making for new waste management facilities.
Two useful papers also resulted:
The qualities of effective public participation processes (PDF 185k) and
Two decision tools for setting the level of public participation (PDF 348k).

"All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning." - Albert Camus

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