A changing of the guard as Sparkways prepares to work with new CEO in 2023
The Sector > Provider > General News > A changing of the guard as Sparkways prepares to work with new CEO in 2023

A changing of the guard as Sparkways prepares to work with new CEO in 2023

by Freya Lucas

November 23, 2022

As early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider Sparkways prepares to work with incoming CEO Daniel Findley, we caught up with outgoing CEO Angela Forbes to learn more about her term leading the organisation, some of the highlights from her time with Sparkways, and her hopes for its future. 


We also spoke with Mr Findley to learn more about his leadership style, ambitions for the organisation in the short and medium term, and what he’s looking forward to when it comes to working in such a nuanced sector as ECEC. 


Growing an organisation, embracing advocacy


Our conversation with Ms Forbes began by asking her about the highlights of her term, and if there were any initiatives or outcomes of which she was particularly proud. 


Funding work with advisory firm KordaMentha to deliver information about Sparkways Kinder funding model was a highlight for Ms Forbes, because it sharpened and visualised an understanding of how each Sparkways kinder contributed to the balance sheet, information that was then used to drive advocacy discussions with government. 


“That made a significant impact both in terms of the ECEC sector more broadly, but also in terms of the government’s understanding of the reality of the funding model for kindergarten more generally,” she shared.


“One of the things that has happened since then is that they’ve reviewed their financial support, and changed it. And I’d like to think that the work (with KordaMentha) contributed a little bit towards that happening.”


Securing the financial pathway of the organisation was also a highlight, she continued, saying “One of the really strong things I did was to move the organisation from uncertainty to a secure financial pathway and far more contemporary systems, which means that we can support our staff in working with young children and young people in a much better way. And in doing that, we also lifted pedagogy and quality within the organisation.”


By bringing together pedagogy, quality and practice, Ms Forbes believes that Sparkways is now “a far more robust organisation which provides better services to children and their families and better outcomes for young children, particularly disadvantaged children, and we work in a number of areas where disadvantage is still an issue for families.”


Finally, the focus on youth services, and better integrating youth services into the learning of the organisation, which has in turn fed the mentoring program. 


“We have mentors amongst our staff and we also have traineeships and we look to some of our young mentees if they’re interested in apprenticeships back into early learning. And I think that there has been a really good integration of two parts of the organisation.”


The evolution of Sparkways 


“William Forster started an organization called TRY and he was really a person who was committed to changing the trajectory for young people,” Ms Forbes explained. 


“TRY originally started running youth groups and supporting young people in employment. In the 1990s the organisation realised that, in fact, to change the trajectory for young people we needed to get in there even younger, and started involvement in early learning, with a real commitment to actually enhancing the social and emotional situation through education of children and young people.”


“So it was really bringing two streams together in a way that made sense and that would actually be more impactful in enhancing the lives of young people so that by the time they reached adulthood, they had much better outcomes and a much better chance in life.”


Through getting involved with the ECEC sector, the organisation realised that it needed to rethink  “the way we saw ourselves and how that related back out to the consumers and constituents,” she continued. 


With an organisational history dating back to 1883, “there’s always been a real passion around working with people to create better outcomes for children, young teens and families”. 


Looking forwards


When asked about her hopes for the future of the organisation, Ms Forbes said “I think it’s about solid and sustainable growth, to grow in the spirit of William Forster.”  


“The ECEC sector is growing in terms of childcare (sic.), learning, the way the government is getting behind it…you know, it’s a source of optimism for the future.”


She expressed her own optimism about the integration of mentoring and early learning and the understanding and ability of Sparkways to provide services in a way that allows interrelationships to continue to the benefit of both. 


“I think the other thing is that there’s a new and refreshed board and that the board has strengths that will benefit the organisation as it looks to refine its work and grow. I think we’ve got far more questioning and savvy people. I think that we are now far more connected to our peak bodies, particularly ELACCA whose advocacy at a federal level has been profound over the past several years.”


A new dawn – strong work ethic, competitive fire, supportive style


We asked Mr Findley to outline his leadership style, and share some of his thoughts on how his previous roles would support him to be successful in the new sphere of ECEC. 


He began by sharing a quote from John C. Maxwell: “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts; it’s about one life influencing another.”


As a leader, Mr Findley is collaborative and dynamic, embracing authentic leadership, while also motivating teams to exceed performance targets.


“My passion, strong work ethic, competitive fire, and supportive style are key assets and have led to a high level of success,” he shared.


“I am looking forward to joining the Sparkways team, getting out and about and meeting all the amazing people who choose to work at Sparkways. I believe that strong personal and business networks are based on mutual trust and respect and I encourage collaboration, integrity and support for one another at a community and industry (sic.) level – I will work diligently to continue to build on the work that has been achieved in this area.


Mr Findley has always worked in values-based for-purpose organisations including a few years in local government, and has experience with ECEC and the broader education sector.


To learn more about Sparkways and its involvement and initiatives in the ECEC sector, please see here. 

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