The Stanford Scholar Experience
Image: Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders program attendees, held at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California, USA in May 2023.
In 2022, the Stanford Australia Foundation (SAF), with the support of Dyson Bequest, was pleased to offer three not-for-profit leaders the opportunity to study at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) in the United States.
The 2022 Stanford Australia Foundation Scholarship winners include Emma Henningsen, Head of Consultancy, Australia Network on Disability, Debbie Heron, Regional Manager QLD/NT, Ability First Australia and Elise Cook, CEO, Eat-Up.
Emma Henningsen, Australia Network on Disability, shared the following about her experience, ‘The 2023 EPNL cohort was made up of 62 incredible non-profit leaders from 11 countries. My colleagues ranged in age from 29 up and came with years of experience and knowledge – many were Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, and Executive Directors of their organisations. Being relatively new to organisational leadership, I spent the week listening, asking questions, and trying to take in as many different ideas and approaches as I could with an aim to bring these home for further consideration and to potentially implement with my team.’
She highlighted the value of the experience in providing the opportunity to cultivate a strong network of colleagues, as well as engage in reflection on the course subject matter. She said ‘Each of the classes, shared meals and walks between sessions provided opportunity for rich discussion and the forging of real connection. Where the sessions covered the breadth of leadership through subjects such as Business Models for Impact, Persuasion, Crisis Management, and Leading Change for Good, the relationships formed provided space to consider the depth of leadership – the questions, challenges, highs, and lows of what it is to lead.’
‘I wish I could say that the feeling of overwhelm passed during the course of the week, but it didn’t. Even now, a month later, I am still overwhelmed at the experience. I am intensely proud to have represented Australian Network on Disability in that space. I am so grateful for the opportunities that Stanford Australia Foundation afforded me through this scholarship.’
Upon attending the program, Elise Cook, CEO of Eat-Up shared, ‘The week provided an enormous amount of education, insights and new perspectives – in equal parts from lectures and discussions with other participants.’
Surrounded by such a broad range of Not-for-Profit organisations, Elise was surprised to find that ‘Remarkably, NFP organisations of all sizes and in all fields face similar issues: recruitment and retention, pay scales and benchmarking, performance management, implementing effective and affordable team rewards programs, creating and maintaining positive cultures, particularly in remote working situations and creating effective and practical strategic plans that drive growth and allow for innovation.’
When Emma returned after completing the course, she noted ‘A key, and encouraging, takeaway is that considering our size and maturity, overall Eat Up is doing a lot and doing it well. The week highlighted the importance of, and reasons behind what we are currently doing both culturally and strategically. It has equipped me with the ability and confidence to approach these areas with more intention and the inspiration and tools to develop and build upon Eat Up’s great culture and strategic planning framework.’
Debbie Heron, Regional Manager QLD/NT, Ability First Australia also described how memorable the program was from day one. ‘Walking around the Stanford campus the first day I found a quote inscribed on one of the buildings that I now have framed on my desk: ‘Dedicated to the things that haven’t happened yet, and to the people who are about to dream the up’. That quote felt like it was placed specifically for me to read that day – and I think I’ve shared it with every stakeholder I’ve come into contact with since my return.”
She shared, ‘The EPNL program is all about integrating conceptual knowledge with individual experiences to support participants in their impact on the nonprofit sector. In our first class we all had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and explain to the group the issue of importance that we are working on. Everyone had their own issues that they wanted to further or solve – and you’d be right when noticing how vast the spectrum was. Surprisingly though by the end of the course, we had worked out that all our different issues were really the same: how to best elevate a marginalised population/cohort. When we took away the questions or barriers, we were all grappling with individually and elevated them to a higher level of thinking – it was amazing how similar our causes became.’
‘I am particularly excited for where what I learned about development and implementation of strategy for social change will lead me and my organisation. Transforming great ideas into impact can improve lives all around our great country and I’m excited for what the future holds. I sincerely thank the Stanford Australia Foundation for this lifechanging opportunity’, says Debbie.
Danielle Wood, CEO of the Grattan Institute was the recipient of the Stanford Australia Foundation Scholarship in 2021. She also shared the diverse range of NFP organisations represented within the cohort. ‘The not-for-profits represented varied hugely in both size and mission. There were a small number of research-based institutes in the group and there were many opportunities for general discussion and sharing ideas across the leaders including on fundraising, governance arrangements, performance management, and technology issues.’
Her favourite units included the following:
- Mission, Strategy and Business Models for Impact – an important chance to step back and review strategy, triggering me think about the importance of balancing growing our social policy agenda with a more pro-growth policy agenda.
- Crisis Management – Skills I hope to never need but the unit provided useful ideas to return to if we are ever tested in a public crisis.
- The Power of Story – emphasised the way in which stories can persuade and motivate which really crystallised the importance of using stories to explain to new audiences how Grattan delivers positive change in the lives of Australians.
Upon completing the course, she reflected ‘it has been a wonderful experience that has re-ignited my enthusiasm for the work Grattan does and has connected me to a wonderful network both in Australia and overseas, many of whom I expect to stay in touch with.’
‘I have honed my strategic thinking abilities to allow me to identify sources of competitive advantage and capitalise on them to create opportunities by leveraging and optimising the organisation’s strengths, as well as understanding its limitations in line with market opportunities.’
We are pleased to announce that the Stanford Australia Foundation Scholarships 2023 opportunity will be open to applications for 2023 on the 11th of August. Read more about the scholarship here.
Congrats to all our scholarship recipients in 2023
A big congratulations to all the not-for-profit scholarship applicants awarded scholarships in 2023.