#50 ADWAG – Always Doing What Always Got

Image of a sign with the words "The Same For Everyone"

Such an interesting way to start a Blog with a crazy new acronym. ADWAG. ADWAG is an acronym for the phrase – always doing what always got– meaning if you keep doing actions as you have always done you will always get what you have always got. I have much conviction around sharing this phrase. My conviction comes from my experience over the decades of life and working in all sectors which I note includes working across both the 20th and 21st century. In addition, I have successfully led a rare merger/ acquisition of not- for- profits in Australia creating its own case study #GoodSave. Finally, to make sense of all these experiences and ADWAG I completed a PhD that has helped me not only theoretically clarify my learnings but more importantly make recommendations that are ‘fit for purpose’ or being ‘21st century ready’.

More importantly ADWAG is my way of taking a ‘prac-academic’ approach to how I can take the learnings of a PhD and seriously enable people personally and organizations – both business and charity – to be ‘fit for purpose’.

When I seriously thought about my insight into repetitively doing what is simply the norm without having some form of check in I became quite reflective.  I have come to the realization that there is another reason for my lens which is broader than my personal life and professional career. Being first-generation Australian I grew up in a very British family environment but in rural Australia during the 60s – 80s. Yes, life was much simpler (definitely slower) but even my English speaking family had to re-adjust. My ‘ten-pound pommie’ parents constantly reminded myself and my three other siblings that we had so many options and were living in a country that truly was the lucky country.

Without going back into too much of the history of Australia there was a very important point in time that happened to coincide with my families settling in period. I am in no way writing this Blog from a political stance, but it was the messaging of that period in time that is important to revisit.

My own personal time of growing up coincided with the time of the Whitlam government (1972-1975). Keeping the focus on what was achieved during the Whitlam’s administration a record number of bills were recorded and a record number of bills were enacted (this included a record number of bills that were blocked!). It was a time of much mobilization for Australia and the campaign slogan for the Whitlam Australian Labor Party (ALP) at the time was “It’s time for a change”.

The focus of Whitlam was very much on participatory democracy bringing the decision making closer to the end-user and those living at the local level. Regardless of individual political persuasions it is obvious that the Whitlam government’s radical reforms changed Australia’s economic, legal and culture landscape. This included attention to education (free university education); health (universal health insurance – known as Medicare); connection with urban life; the environments; equality for women; migrants; aboriginal peoples. It was even during Whitlam’s leadership that the review of the national anthem to shift from God Save the Queen to Advance Australia Fair began (official launch being 1984 after a plebiscite in 1977). Years on as a child of this decade I believe that this radical period of change influenced the foundations of my life. This is no different to the children of the 21stcentury who will only know life with emerging technologies as part of the norm.

My reflection of this period of radical change is fueled by having lived in the UK for nearly 20 years. I would spend many of my UK working days in policy debates in Westminster often concluding or reminding my British colleagues that if we were having the same discussions in Australia such archaic broken systems would not be in place and/or decisions could be made so much more quickly. Many decades on and having returned to live in Australia I find an Australia that is suffering from what I now refer to as ADWAG (interestingly it took me five years of research and completion of a PhD to succinctly concluded this with an acronym!). Upon my return to Australia over a decade ago I could not believe the limitations and extremely limited approaches Australia had reverted to. I bring attention to Hugh Mackay’s recent writing and 2018 book (Australia Reimagined) where he articulates extremely clearly to some of the broken elements in Australia. I join Hugh in his positive aspirations for Australia but set this in the framework that only if we don’t continue to set our decisions and /or base them on systems that are broken – hence the ADWAG warning.

So, what does this mean for philanthropic funding or in fact for any funding. The solution to being ‘fit for purpose’ is taking a Competition Detox (title of my forthcoming book) or in other words not funding anything that consolidates competition. For example, only funding organizations, concepts or movements that CAN demonstrate how their action is part of a joint alliance or in partnership with others. Most importantly how together through such collaboration how they are creating long lasting positive sustainable change – ‘moving the needle’.

At risk of alienating what is considered as an innovative future funding approach I also hold a caution for creating scenarios that calls for pitching or competitive approaches for funds. Creating this competitive environment was identified in my research as reinforcing old behaviours leading to ‘entrenched silos’. There may be a place for market decision making but I advocate that during times of extreme change, when existing systems are broken leading from a scarcity or competitive mindset creates more limitations that innovation. Such action reinforces the broken system and unless a conscious check in is made this is where ADWAG becomes most dangerous.

Being aware of ADWAG and how we can collectively move forward to be ‘fit for purpose’ or be ‘21stcentury ready’ I shall further expand on the concept of a ‘Competition Detox’.  In all the decisions that are made whether they be at a personal or professional level, if there is an element of ‘competition’ you could be heading down the alley way of ADWAG. The flip side and other direction of the alley way is where the opportunities to emerge become the point of focus. In being 21stcentury ready emergence is like diving into a pool of unknown waters. Just think of the diving board as the structure and the splash of the water as the innovation and spontaneity required. Keeping things as the same without checking if it meets needs is a little like standing on the diving board but making no impact.

Thinking back to Whitlam days in Australia there were many splashes being made which created new pools and opportunities to dive! Thinking forward to the future being sure decisions are not based on ADWAG but on being ‘fit for purpose’ will in fact enable decisions and systems to be ‘21stcentury ready”.


#GoodSave – further details www.socialconnect.com.auConsequences Blogs

Advance Australia Fair www.pmc.gov.au

Hugh Mackay – Australia Reimagined www.hughmackay.net.au

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