Meet the trainer: Ian Woodruff


What’s your role at ICDA?

I am part of the training team. We deliver the Diploma of Governance and a range of face-to-face and online workshops for various clients.

Our work connects us with not-for profit organisations across Australia to diverse audiences, sometimes as a one -off training request and other times as part of a long-term engagement, such as with Cemeteries Trusts in Victoria and Crown land managers in New South Wales who oversee the many and varied reserves in the state.

Another major client group is local councils. They will often request training for the community groups working in their region. The anchor for all of our training is better governance, which might be approached from a financial, cultural, strategic planning, communication, organisation structure and design and of course – the constitution! Sometimes, like the Diploma of Governance, we cover all of these themes.

What’s your involvement in the community sector?

I have had a strong involvement in sexual health promotion and outreach in the gay male communities of both Melbourne and Toronto.

I’ve contributed as a volunteer outreach worker, a community researcher, as a service program lead and, in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, as a clinician at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital.

More broadly I am passionate about improving the rights of the wider LGBTQI+ communities.

What’s your teaching style?

I spend a decade teaching at RMIT University in the Management School. Some of that teaching was in “traditional” areas like Bachelor of management degrees and MBAs but I gradually got more involved in the university’s offshore programs in Asia. That in turn led to a very rewarding role in planning and delivery of health service management training for government-funded aid programs. More on that below!

My style is a little nonconformist in that I ask those I’m working with to challenge accepted wisdom of these governance / leadership models. It is sadly still the case that much of the management literature still draws from a narrow base of white, North American Anglo-Saxon research. E all know that the world is far more diverse than that!

I value diversity in approaches to teaching and learning. We all have preferred ways of engaging with education and we should never assume that one single approach is going to work for everyone!

Finally, I believe that the interactions and story-sharing between students / learners can often be the most valuable part of the learning experience.

How do you like to be taught?

I am most happy in an applied or experiential setting where I’m challenged to find solutions. That is so much more rewarding than simply passively acquiring knowledge!

I think I learn the most when I’m in a group setting where we are collectively working on solutions to wicked problems!

That said, I am also a big fan of short YouTube-style instructional videos and case presentations.

What’s the most memorable thing anyone has ever said in one of your training sessions?

I was running a 12-week Australian government funded training program onsite in Samoa. The objective was to enhance the trainees’ healthcare leadership and management skills.

Each day I would run a workshop with various groups under a metal – roofed open-air room – a bit like a fale but without the traditional thatched roof!

It was common to experience power interruptions, so the teaching had to be flexible enough to instantly switch from a (probably a bit boring) PowerPoint presentation mode to a tech-free mode.

Along with the power supply unpredictability, a heavy rainfall (very common in Samoa!) made such a racket on the metal roof that it drowned out any possibility of conversation.

One of the trainees I was working with confided that usually EITHER a power interruption OR rain was a good enough excuse to duck out of training. In what I think was a compliment, she said both would have to occur at the same time before she would duck out of my session 😊

If you weren’t a trainer, what would you like to be?

I have had a lifelong (unrealised) ambition to be heavily involved in a project that supports underprivileged kids in lesser-developed economies.

I’ve spent a lot of time working in South East Asia and it is quite confronting to see the extent of exploitation and neglect that children sometimes face.

As a (less and less competent) Thai speaker, I still hold out a hope of one day contributing in some hands-on way in supporting Thai children in the more remote northern parts of the country – or into neighbouring Laos.

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