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Westpac Scholarship winner uses course to inspire change

06 December 2016

Danielle Whitaker

With university degrees in marketing and psychology, Danielle Whitaker (above), a recent Mary Reibey Scholarship winner, was expecting her week-long, live-in AGSM General Manager program prize to focus heavily on more traditional business theory: “finance, HR, some legal components”.

However she says she was “pleasantly surprised to find there was a lot more focus on strategy and innovation and networking and thinking outside the square about how you put all those things together to drive organisational culture.”

Danielle is General Manager Client Services at scosa, a South Australian not-for-profit organisation delivering services and support to more than 400 adults living with complex and multiple disabilities. scosa offers a range of individualised and group support day options programs for people with very high to extreme support needs resulting from Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disabilities, Acquired Brain Injuries, Down Syndrome, and Autism.

“AGSM’s General Manager Program was exceptional. The content and activities were inspiring and practical, but as I said to one of my colleagues during the program, even if there was no content and it was just the opportunity to spend breakfast, lunch and dinner with this group of experienced GMs, that would have been phenomenal. I learned so much from them,” says Danielle.

According to Danielle, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will challenge the disabilities sector.  For scosa, the plan is to  transition from a predominantly government funded NGO delivering prescribed group programs to a professional evidence based service provider while retaining and emphasising our strong values based service models developed over many decades of serving the disabilities community in SA. To do so will require innovative and diverse services to meet the needs and preferences of our NDIS participants. This evolution will mean a new culture for scosa; working toward bedding down that new culture is one of Danielle’s many priorities.

“I am excited to put what I learned during the AGSM program into action as we move toward the new scosa. For example, I am planning a mini hackathon with scosa people and people from other industries - the technology space, start-ups – to look at what our strongest opportunities are and how we can improve and benefit from thinking differently.

“Such innovative approaches will re-energise the team and bring in new thoughts around how we provide better service and value to our scosa participants to really enhance their quality of life, and, it should be fun as well” says Danielle.

The Mary Reibey Scholarship will open for applications in 2017. Please, look out for more.