Leadership in the provinces

Last Thursday TV One’s Seven Sharp had an interesting segment about unemployment, or more accurately the way it is being confronted in Balclutha. The region has been hit hard in recent times. 150 people had just lost their jobs with company closures, including three sawmills. That’s 150 family incomes lost.

Fortunately the Clutha District (Pop 17,000) has a Mayor called Bryan Cadogan. There was a time when he was unemployed, so he knows being unemployed is not a nice place to be. His goal is zero unemployment for youth in his district. He put it this way; ‘zero is only a number, but it’s the only one that has not got an individual behind it’.

So this is what he did about it. He went door-knocking. He visited each of the districts major employers and asked for work, not for himself; work for those who had recently lost their jobs. Balclutha is a small place and everyone tends to know everyone, so Bryan got a cup of tea and a receptive ear at every stop.

He then got all of those who could take on a new worker into a room with those who had recently lost their jobs. It was good for employers because they could see a lot of job seekers within an hour, and it was great for the unemployed folk because it was a heck of a lot quicker and less humiliating than knocking on doors only to find there are no jobs available. ┬áThe outcome was a great result – jobs were found for many if not most.

Truth is, this is more than getting people in the same room. It’s about encouraging and inspiring others. Mayor Bryan Cadogan inspired employers to make the decision to employ, and he inspired the unemployed folk to ask for a job. It’s pretty simple stuff – no pretentious nonsense about high and mighty status.

He’s part of the community, not part of a bureaucracy – the community would see him as ‘one of us’, not ‘one of them’, and that’s important.

The initiative shown by Bryan Cadogan is sensible, simple, easy to organise, and effective. It’s something all community representatives can and should do. Leadership is not about getting elected and sitting in an elevated seat so short-people can look down on others. Sitting in meetings talking about silly stuff like increasing rates or new rules to restrict good people from using their initiative, is not leadership.

The mayor and councillors in all provincial areas need to go door knocking between elections. Local representatives get paid well, and in the case of the larger councils, more than most workers take home. There is nothing unreasonably about expecting them to spend some of their week talking to those who generate the wealth and jobs in our community.

While they are having those chats they should ask this question, – it’s a pretty simple one; ‘What can we do to help local businesses do better?’ Those prepared to listen will be surprised with the positive initiatives that will come out. Truth is there are good people ready to lend a hand to those in need live everywhere, not only in Balclutha.

To view the Seven-sharp story click HERE.

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