Oh, Miss Megan

Sunset hike to Drawing Rocks, South Coast NSW

Oh, Miss Megan. My incredible best friend, co-worker, co-founder, co-legend and co- so many other things, deserves the first blog of the year. Wow, I forgot I had a blog.

Megan Rowlatt is a legend. If you know her, you know what I am talking about. Everyday I am grateful to have her in my life for all the above and much more. And I thought perhaps by sharing a tangent about our work-life relationship perhaps, it might inspire you to think about a relationship with a co-worker. We spend most of our waking hours at work, working somewhere on something with somebody and developing a meaningful, respectful relationship makes ‘work’ that bit more enjoyable.

So here I go…

I first heard about Megan and her incredible community engagement work with Landcare sometime around 2014. She was (is) this phenomenon for Landcare. I started following her inspiring Instagram feed, and became one of her many followers – borderline stalker which I have since confessed! Then I got hold of her email signature and had her number. A few months later I worked up the courage to call her and share an idea that I had, and said that I thought she was the person to come on board to help make it happen. After all she was a phenomenon! She responded, sorry, who are you? Only kidding, she was like, hell yeah, there is another young person out there that thinks similar to me.

It has been three years since  we co-founded Intrepid Landcare. So, what has been our secret to creating a real, authentic professional relationship yet we live in different states and have other lives? How do we make what we do happen? Yet have so much fun?

  • No bullshit – to be frank first up, we do not bullshit. We do not have time for games.
  • Always a contribution to each other – what has to be said is said. Raw, honest feedback is given and taken as a contribution. We comment on what worked and even better if about each other’s craft, and this is taken on board to improve next time. We can only do better and strive for our best.
  • In communication – about everything. Facebook chat is where we do most of our communication and we do phone pow-wows when and if we can. We check in when it is appropriate with each other, as we also have lives outside Intrepid Landcare. I am usually walking my dog, Megan is usually driving. We also get into communication with each other asap when something urgent comes up and we back each other every time.
  • Work with integrity at its core – honouring our own word creates trust, with each other and ourselves. We trust that we will follow through with what we said and when we said it, and we will be in communication if we think a deadline might be missed.
  • Timekeepers – time is a commodity, we are both (I am probably more) meticulous on time management. We can see each other’s calendar to know what is going on for the other person. If anything, Megan can see  how I project manage… life. Our time is valued.
  • Actually interested in each other – between sharing ideas, sending each other designs and documents to look over, I also send probably too many photos of my dog. Megan knows what is happening in my life, she is part of my life. This keeps whatever is happening in perspective and we are able to provide advice on so much more other than work.
  • Honour space – we also honour space for other stuff, especially thinking time. We are not in each other’s pockets, rather,  honour space. Space to restore, recharge, rethink… reset. Setting up an organisation isn’t exactly a stroll. It can be long nights, weekends, sunsets and sunrises… and can be  a demand on the mind and soul. We both have  our own self-care approaches, and we honour space to ensure each other are ok. This also means our minds are rested, hearts are energised and we are excited to keep the adventure alive.

There is probably so much more to unpack about our relationship. But this is what I have got to share on a Tuesday night. Much love and respect to Megan xo



Ethical Christmas Construction

Earth Bud

Rose Quartz’s unconditional love snuggled into a bed of geranium, rosemary and lavender – oils of love, remembrance and clarity, (pc: Earth Bud)

Christmas can be a conflicting time of the year for some. For too many Christmas’s I’ve negotiated conflicts whether to either speak up for the voiceless or shrug off over consumption. It is fair to say that I have influenced my family’s Christmas affairs over the years. One year they opted in to enjoy a Vegan Christmas Lunch – which was one of the most memorable lunches that I can remember. Tofu turkey is on the menu every year, which is a great conversation starter about consumption over the Christmas period. And most of us have decided to limit the purchasing of presents, and there is an option to buy a present if you want to or not.

So, how can we continue to alter Christmas traditions for less consumption?

Interestingly, a study found that women in ‘traditional’ households have most of the power when it comes to making magic happen over the Christmas period [I’ll come back to what magic means and can mean]. Freeman & Bell’s (2013) study reviewed  two-decades of editorial content of magazines, which they suggest presents contradictory messages. For instance, time and cost saving tips and tricks conflict with ‘the magic’ images magazines portray.  Images of long tables with embellished table settings, gold trimmed white plates, selection of glassware, themed bon-bons and napkins, and happy, smiling people wearing their best Christmas outfits, indulging in more food than necessary (there is another study that looked into the links of Christmas consumption with obesity). I do wonder, who gets to decide if these images are ‘the magic’ people want, or led to believe they want? Especially with the dark-side of consumption, animal cruelty, and impacts on the planet and people’s mental and health wellbeing.

Capitalism influences these choices of magic.

So what can you do about capitalism this Christmas to turn the tide on the dark side of this perceived magic? My moto is buy local.  This year my gifts are made with love by  Yogi Tree Web (her candles and bath bombs are amazing), and Earth Bud (her soaps). Amazing local woman are behind these products, which are nutrient rich, smell amazing and are bedazzled with healing crystals. For blokes, yes, they are perfect for you as well. Yogi Tree Web refills my candle pots all year round, and she also does incredible vegan catering!

My other greener side to making a different kind of magic happen is donating to charities. This is easy with a growing network of incredible grassroots causes. My top pick this year is the Save The Bilby Fund. I decided to donate $30 on behalf of each of my nieces and nephews this year. The small, yet worthy donation, will go towards their bilby breeding program. How cool is that! My nieces and nephews might not be overtly excited about the donation certificates, but one day in the future they’ll appreciate that they have been part of bringing a cute and cuddly Australian marsupial back from the brink of extinction.

Going back to understanding what does this Christmas magic mean and can mean for you? ‘Magic’ denotes the idea of paranormal, the use of rituals, symbols, actions and language with the use of supernatural forces. It has been used in many cultures, some of the earliest cultures to separate ideals from reality. Thinking beyond magic tricks like turning a hat into a fluffy white rabbit, magic can offer ideas that it can influence the reconstruction or deconstruction thinking process. Just when you think it is impossible, something becomes possible. By thinking a little deeper through reconstruction or deconstruction, your thought processes can enable you to start to see other ways. Other ways of viewing ideals from reality, allowing a new reality to emerge. If you are compelled to act, this reconstruction or deconstruction process reorganises to construct another way of acting. New actions then create new images, a new reality, which over time can reconstruct or deconstruct new identities (e.g. my own reconstruction and deconstructed process has constructed me to portray ethical acts in the world, performances for sustainability). My assumption here, which is part of some new research I have been working on, is that through reconstruction or deconstruction, the construction of new images emerge to create new realities, new identities, which is fundamentally influenced by constant conflict negotiation (so conflict negotiation can be good when the outcome portrays ethical acts).

Through the art of stimulating conflict negotiation, you can start to see that a much more ethical Christmas is possible… and recreate your ideals of Christmas magic by buying local and supporting charities.

Reference: Lynne Freeman, Susan Bell, (2013) “Women’s magazines as facilitators of Christmas rituals”, Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 16 (3), pp.336-354.

Culture first, collaboration then just happens

The last two foundation years of building Intrepid Landcare has been a bit of a blur. It only feels like yesterday when I met Megan for the second or third time in a Sydney cafe in Chatswood only moments before meeting Landcare Australia to pitch our idea of a national movement that connects, inspires and empowers young people to act and lead with Landcare. Back then it was just the two of us, and our parents and friends who were probably like, yes, this is another great idea, “go for it and best of luck!”

I knew it was a great idea, and so did Megan.

From that initial meeting with Landcare Australia it took us about 3 months to figure out if we should be our own identity or be part of another identity. Having hindsight from many failures before with trying to setup young people movements I knew that we had to be our own identity. An identity for young people, created by young people so that it can become their identity. A movement becomes a movement when people embody the core of who you are, and part of this is your organisational identity.

So, how have we created an identity for Intrepid Landcare?

We soon pooled together a brilliant tribe filled with passions and skills that were similar yet different to our own passions and skills. We knew we needed what we didn’t have, along with having what we had lots of, that being energy! We pieced together a constitution, governance structure and without any face to face meetings we soon became an identity over Facebook chat, phone meetings and Google Hangout. We then raised enough cash through our initial crowdfunding campaign, which we are always grateful for the donors who initially backed us, to fund flights and food to pay for our first Board Retreat, our first face to face meeting. Thanks again!

It was as if we already knew each other but didn’t. We met in Berry NSW, and stayed in this beautiful log cabin filled with love and international treasures, the home of Bill and Leslie Pigott, who are worldly legends on all things Landcare and leadership. The Pigott’s opened their home to us for a weekend, and also baked muffins and refilled (and still do) our hearts with worldly insights into Landcare and leadership.

We had a packed agenda for this first face to face meeting (which we now call Board Retreats), yet somehow had lots of time for laughing, sharing stories and enjoying nature (which is of no surprise when you are around Megan!). First off the agenda was how we expected each other to communicate, recognising that we all are different, have different needs and work and live different lives and in different parts of the country. We started with this because we knew we wanted to create the right culture.

We are ever so grateful for this initial work we worked hard to get right, and still do! We continually put ourselves on the line to share our deepest flaws and greatest assets. We discuss what we like and don’t like to do, and work out how to share the load and keep us moving forward. We clearly know what we don’t want what people think comes inherently with organisations – gossip, hierarchical structure, power and generational indifference with gender, age, ethnicity and disabilities, among much more. None of us either have time or want to tread water through murky waters. Our cause doesn’t deserve the impurities of human beings’ inequalities, it deserves equality.

It has been two years and if we wrote a plan – which we kind of did – it wouldn’t have been filled with the characters we have met and the conversations we have had. Although while I think it is important to have a plan, it is not essential to be first off the rank with designing and defining organisations, rather, you need the right culture to be the heart of what is and has to come. This is my biggest lesson thus far, and it is the why of what Intrepid Landcare is and is becoming.

Culture is the beating heart of any organisation. We can talk about intellectual and emotional intelligence all you like, or the super-drivers of organisations. I think the most important part is getting over yourself and having the listening of others and granting yourself the listening of others that speaks what you or your organisation wants – collaboration and all that super-driver talk. What other organisations do not do enough of is working hard on the essentials, and that is figuring out what organisational identity do we want to create and need to have to be and do what those strategic and business plans suggest we need to achieve.

Once you have the right culture sorted (which is always in a state of flux, meaning that this part needs consistent work, and needs to be the heart of every conversation) in a blink of an eye your movement will have its own wings. The next challenge is not letting others’ impurities diminish your identity – it is best to leave gossip, hierarchical structure, power and generational indifference with gender, age, ethnicity and disabilities, among much more at the door 🙂