SAID forges ahead with 'united voice'
SAID forges ahead with 'united voice'
18 December 2017
Q&A with Lieutenant-Colonel Simone Robertson, Director of The Salvation Army International Development (SAID) Department
CH: Simone, two years ago you were appointed to be the Director of Salvation Army International Development (SAID). Can you remember how you felt when you received the news?
SR: I felt honoured, daunted, humbled and excited.
CH: You were not in the appointment for long when it was announced that we would begin a journey towards becoming a united national territory ...
SR: Yes, I was three months into my role. With SAID being one of the earlier departments to go through the transition process, I thought: ‘Wow, how do we navigate this?!’ For me, it was also exciting because I felt it was the right thing, a logical move.
CH: It sounds like there was a lot of change taking place all at once.
SR: Yes, around the same time we were responding to the directive from International Headquarters that every territory around the world would phase out individual child sponsorship. Unfortunately, there has been a misconception that this change took place as a result of Australia One. I think that was like a double whammy for some of our team members, especially the child sponsorship team. I really felt for them.
CH: I know you’re someone who cares deeply about people. How have you tried to support your team through this transition?
SR: Being open and transparent is important to me, so I have tried really hard to live this out through our transition. There are times when things have to be kept confidential but I don’t keep secrets unnecessarily. I’ve tried to come alongside people, being as transparent as I can, including people as much as possible.
CH: Do you have any advice for team members or leaders who are yet to go through the department design phase?
SR: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t just assume. Don’t make stories up. One of my experiences is that stories have been told about SAID that are not true. There have been assumptions made about how jobs have been filled, about child sponsorship, about how SAID was named. It’s damaging and quite unnecessary. Don’t contribute to the rumours. Instead, check the facts and help create a positive culture.
CH: 1+1 = New. In what ways does this describe where SAID finds itself today?
SR: Our situation is a little unique in that it was not two like-for-like departments going through the process. But five months after becoming national I would certainly say that we are seeing the “new”. There are new things happening because of all the learning we have done and we are operating in a new way. We have a much broader perspective because we have a national perspective. An exciting, practical tool is that we now have a national website. We’d love for people to check it out at: salvos.org.au/internationaldevelopment
SR: What other benefits do you see coming from SAID being national?
A united voice. This is especially powerful and important when we are working with our peak body (Australian Council for International Development), and with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They just see us as “The Salvation Army” anyway, so it reduces confusion and makes sense. It means our accreditation will become national. And it makes it a lot simpler when we are dealing with our implementing territories too. Being national also helps with government funding.
CH: One last question Simone – which part of the national vision statement excites you most today?
SR: Alongside others. That is what our department does – whether it’s our partnering territories, communities that have need or other departments. It is that picture of coming alongside, partnership, not lording it over, not a colonial rescue approach. We are better together.
Claire Hill is the Communications Coordinator for Australia One.