Inaugural Waterway Management Twinning Program Alumni Workshop

I surround myself with good people who make me feel great and give me positive energy.
– Ali Krieger

In mid-July, twenty people from our Waterway Management Twinning Program gathered in Melbourne for our first Alumni workshop. As the founders of the Program which began in 2016, myself, Adam and Lucy were thrilled to have so many people come along, and we had a wonderful couple of days catching up. One of the best things about the workshop was that the participants ran all the sessions, covering a range of topics from harnessing positive peer pressure, to resilience in the workplace, and effective communication for lasting behavioural change. We have put together a summary of the sessions, along with some great photos to give you a sense of our time together. You will notice in the photos a lot of people laughing – this is a key ingredient for building strong bonds, creativity and lasting relationships. ☺

Getting the workshop underway with some truths and lies…

Session One: Positive Influencers (reference Shawn Achor ‘Big Potential’)

Ruth McDonnell

In small groups, we were given half hour timeslots to run a workshop themed around ideas from Shawn Achor’s Big Potential.  Workshop preparation was an opportunity to hook up with Alumni members we may not have met, and to have a discussion around a particular topic.  We were encouraged to ‘take a risk’ in terms of our presentation approach, drawing upon what we had learnt during our Twinnings journey about communicating with impact.  Themes included positive peer pressure, reciprocal bonds and creating balance through variety.

As daunting as it was to find time to prepare and arrange a workshop over Skype (with people I hadn’t met!) and be all set to go Monday morning, I should have known there was method behind Siwan’s madness, which was in fact a stroke of carefully crafted genius.  Each of us rose to the challenge and brought out the best in ourselves and others, by unleashing our creativity and spunk to bring these topics to life in a way that was meaningful to each of us as individuals, team mates, waterway managers and friends.

The workshops promoted lively discussion and activities around breaking the pecking order; how to make helpfulness outshine individual intelligence; enhancing our connections, showing gratitude and encouraging positive feedback; understanding our personality and the importance of diversity of thinking; and creating reciprocal bonds by both giving and taking.

I must admit I was a little anxious about running the workshop with so little prep time, but with such a supportive Twinnings crew I know I was in a safe place.  We all wanted the best for each other, to get the most out of the topics, and to have fun, so everyone immersed themselves in the sessions and participated enthusiastically. With that sort of environment there’s no such thing as failure (only laughter if something doesn’t go according to plan!).

Working out our communcation styles – green, red, blue or yellow?

One of the really wonderful ideas that came out in the workshop was contributed by Jenny and Natalie who created a postcard on to which we all wrote our names and addresses. These were then distributed amongst the Alumni and will be posted to us with a special message – part of the random acts of kindness Shawn Achor recommends for building strong bonds and making us all feel good.

We also explored different ways of communicating ideas so we included a creative task which was to get ‘crafty’ and prepare an artwork symbolising ‘connection’.

Results of our creativity exercise which was to make something that represented ‘connection’…

Session Two: Networking mastermind (Exploring the purpose and opportunities of the Alumni group)

Andrew Lowe

It is always a rewarding experience when participants of the Twinning program get together. Engaging with people who are passionate about the work they do is extremely motivating. Having met a range of people from across the water industry as part of the Twinning program, the focus of this session was to explore options to mobilise the Alumni and make the best use of the network.

The Twinning network brings together decades of skills and experience across the water industry. Strengthening this network provides the opportunity for the Alumni to continue to develop as individuals, while also providing the opportunity for members to give back to the industry.

This workshop session focussed on identifying priorities for the Alumni to support each other and promote ongoing collaboration. To enable this, as a starting point the group identified need for the Alumni to establish a group through LinkedIn, allowing continued connection of the group in between the face-to-face Alumni catch-ups. Importantly, the group committed to being active within the LinkedIn Alumni page to ensure it remains relevant. Ongoing interactions will allow participants to share success stories, seek advice, contribute their own expertise or share a good laugh with the group.

LinkedIn is seen as the networking tool of choice for industry representatives. Having a Twinning Alumni group on LinkedIn will provide future Twinners, and those not familiar with the platform, with an opportunity to learn to use the program in a welcoming environment – showing that learning and development continues beyond graduation from the program.

With LinkedIn a great start, we gave ourselves homework of thinking about what else we could do to within our Twinning Alumni group so that we could reconvene on Day two and discuss our next steps.

Session Three: Resilience in the workplace

Kira Woods

To close out the afternoon session of the workshop, Adam, Sarah and I talked about resilience in the workplace and the role of laughter in helping to cultivate resilience. While our discussion touched on some serious topics, we practiced what we were preaching and made sure to have a laugh along the way. It turns out your brain can’t tell the difference between fake laughter and real laughter, so we thought we’d give it a try with Adam leading a fake laughter activity to finish off the day. With a lot of fake belly laughs turning into real laughter we finished the day feeling more refreshed and relaxed.

Session Four: Connecting with communities (reference Les Robinson Communicating for change)

Matt King

We focused our session on how to apply Les Robinson’s Eight rules for enabling community action. The eight steps are as follows:

1. Spotlight a hero
2. Choose and authentic voice
3. Shake people up (gently)
4. Focus on one doable action
5. Depict exactly how it is done
6. Make it about community
7. Show that you care for your community
8. Check that you have listened enough (

I think behavioural change takes time, but if you plant the seeds of change in a unique way, you may be more successful. This concept was brilliantly demonstrated through the medium of disco dancing by Alumni attendee Lucy Cameron. The concept of using disco dancing in challenging times to reignite your inner mojo is truly groundbreaking and breathtaking to watch in action! Lucy took the whole group through the eight steps using her disco dancing approach and it was a truly memorable experience!

How disco dancing can change your life!

Next steps for the Alumni:

Trent Wallis

As we wrapped up our workshop we reflected on how we can continue to realise the goals this important waterway mentoring program into the future. These goals include:

  • To provide an ongoing pathway for past participants to develop in the waterway industry.
  • To provide a broader support network.
  • To develop the industry and its practitioners.
  • To connect participants across different parts of the industry.
  • To develop new approaches and thinking through mentoring.

Looking at these goals, the group identified a number of the program’s key success factors including that it:

  • addresses a training gap in the industry – focused on people/ practitioners, and complementing existing skills based training.
  • is built on trust and goodwill and provides a safe inclusive space to network, learn and develop.
  • is varied – different industry practitioners and organisations all linked through waterway management.
  • provides both one-on-one mentoring and broader peer support.
  • gives back to the water industry – expanding the network.
  • provides a pathway to other professional industry network.

The steps we agreed on to further this pathway included:

  1. Establishing a “Program Coordinating Group” from past Twinners on a rotational basis.
  2. Repeating the annual forum / workshop (built on the enthusiasm of this year).
  3. Maintaining the people focus on practitioners.
  4. Attending the annual graduation and share with new Twinners their role in the ongoing alumni “Twinning Network”.
  5. Growing the branding and promoting the program outside the network – conferences, award nights, other networks.
  6. Reconnecting with absent Twinners – actively getting them involved.

The Twinning Alumni is now looking forward to being part of a professional and supportive network to share our successes, access decades of industry expertise, and continue to be motivated by a positive, supportive network.

The one thing we forgot to do was to get a group photo! This will be at the top of our agenda for next time.

If you are interested in becoming part of the Twinning Program please register your Expression of Interest for 2020 by following this link.