People and purpose: what made SVA’s staff offsite a success

2017 SVA Offsite all staff photo

For the whole Social Ventures Australia team, the SVA offsite is a chance to reconnect with each other, and our shared purpose.

As I think is common in most workplaces, even progressive ones like SVA, there is a healthy amount of scepticism heading into an event like this. You’re asking busy people to take a step back, head off to the country for three days, share rooms, and drop their work.

This year’s offsite quickly did away with that scepticism. We travelled to New South Wales’ Hunter Valley, roughly 200kms from Sydney. There we spent three days examining our workplace culture, learning about the work we do, and placing that work in context with a day spent on country.

For me personally, and I think many other people at SVA, that day on country was incredibly meaningful.

After a brief discussion about SVA’s work with First Australians, we travelled to Baiame cave, the site of an impressive rock art depiction of Baiame – a creator of country and father in the sky to many Aboriginal people throughout New South Wales.

Visiting Baiame Cave

It was an incredible privilege to be shown this and other sites by First Australian elders from the region. It was a very moving experience, that gave me a deeper understanding of Aboriginal tradition and culture.

First Australians is one of our perspective areas, but it’s not something everyone at SVA gets to engage with in their day to day work. We heard about the destruction of indigenous people, land, culture. It also helped us understand the value of sharing culture and learning to Aboriginal lore, and how that provides the nation a positive way forward. It really brought back to me why we do the work we do, and why it’s important.

We followed this day on country with a barbecue to celebrate 15 years of SVA. This gave us the chance to recognise some of SVA’s senior staff for their contributions, and bond collectively over karaoke in the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately, exhausted after a memorable rendition of ‘Shake it off’, I didn’t make it to the 4am game of Twister.

The offsite gave us all an opportunity to reflect on all of our four perspective areas; First Australians, housing, education, and employment, and better understand how they fit into SVA’s mission of systems change.

SVA prides itself on a strong workplace culture. Family friendly policies like flexible work, are a big part of that. The two youngest attendees at the offsite were nine-month-old Quin and nine-week-old Joshua. Quin’s mum Tam, brought her husband along to help out. Joshua had mum Suzie and both nan and pop to look after him.

Suzie and son Joshua

These sorts of policies don’t come about in a vacuum. The offsite gave the entire SVA staff a chance to reflect upon what’s great about SVA, and how we can improve.

It’s that focus on people and purpose that makes SVA a great place to work.