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Assess your purpose and vision
This topic explains the importance of your vision and purpose. It also explores how these contribute to the direction of your governance. We also discuss the role of vision and purpose statements. This topic matches ‘Assess your person and vision’ in our Governance Self-assessment Tool. We recommend that you do activities 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4 in the tool after reading each subtopic.
While reading this topic, think about the following questions and how they relate to your organisation, community or nation:
- Why does your group do governance?
- What do you want to achieve in the future?
- What kind of governance do you want your group to have?
Your governance direction
When you know which direction you want to go in, it’s easier to figure out how to get there. Your governance direction represents a shared understanding of:
- why your organisation, community or nation exists
- what is important to you.
There are 2 concepts that make up your direction:
- Your purpose (the why).
- Your vision (the what).
Everything your group does should aim to fulfill your purpose and achieve your vision. Together, they are the motivating force behind your governance.
Members who are aligned with your purpose and vision are often more passionate about their work – and the work of the group. Your purpose and vision can help you:
- make decisions
- navigate change
- stay focused on what matters.
For these reasons, it’s important to define your direction early in your governance journey.
Your purpose is the reason why you and your people have come together. It encompasses what you believe in, your motivations, and what you want as a group.1“Principle 1: Purpose and strategy,” Australian Institute of Company Directors, January 2019, [link]
Your group can create a ‘purpose statement’ to summarise the reason behind your governance. A purpose statement defines:
- who your group is
- what you do
- why you do it
- who you do it for.
Your purpose statement should be simple, concise and accessible to everyone involved in your governance.
A clear and agreed purpose can serve as a ‘roadmap’ to guide your actions. ‘Does this align with our purpose?’ is the first question your group should ask when making decisions. If the answer is ‘yes’, then you can be confident you’re travelling in the right direction on your governance journey.
Your purpose may change over time. For example, when you achieve your initial goal, or you define a new goal. It’s important you regularly evaluate your purpose. This checks it’s still relevant and central to your work.
SNAICC are the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait children and families. They offer a range of programs across Australia in the areas of:
- early childhood development services
- family support
- foster care
- services for youth at risk.
“SNAICC is the national non-governmental peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. We work for the fulfillment of the rights of our children, in particular to ensure their safety, development, and wellbeing.”1“Vision and Purpose,” SNAICC, accessed June 2023, (link)
– SNAICC purpose statement
SNIACC have a clear, succinct purpose statement on their website. All their projects centre on fulfilling their purpose.
Do activities 3.1 and 3.2 to define your purpose and develop your purpose statement.
The goal of these activities is to realise the fundamental reason your group exists. Make sure your purpose is clear and easy to understand.
Your vision represents the future aspirations of your organisation, community or nation. It describes what things look like if your group is successful in fulfilling your purpose.2“Proclaiming Your Dream: Developing Vision and Mission Statements,” Community Tool Box, accessed June 2023, (link) Think of your vision as the ‘destination’ of your governance journey.
Like your purpose, it’s useful to summarise your vision in a ‘vision statement’. Your vision statement explains why your group exists and what you want to get done. It generally defines:
- where you want to be in the future
- what your long-term goals are
- who will be a part of your journey
- when you will do it by.
Make sure that you include your group members in the conversation when developing your vision. It may be helpful if you support your statement with a ‘preamble’. This is a short statement that gives background on your group and explains your current context.
Everyone in your group should be able to understand your vision statement. You can translate it into a different language, make it into a video, or draw it on a poster.
Western Arnhem Regional Council (formerly the West Arnhem Shire) provides services to improve the employment opportunities and health and wellbeing of its residents.
The council has a vision:
“Strong communities working together to improve our lives.”
On its journey to becoming a shire council, the West Arnhem Shire Transitional Committee also prepared a draft preamble. This was developed by Indigenous community leaders and organisations in Arnhem Land.
The preamble explains their governance vision and commitment to a regional form of local government with foundations in their traditional culture and governance system. It also has strong links and legitimacy in the non-Indigenous world around them.
This preamble is shaped in accordance with the visions, needs and aspirations of the people of the West and Central Arnhem and the Kakadu areas of the Northern Territory. This area is in transition to a Regional Shire to be known as the West Arnhem Shire. The preamble is grounded in the traditional Aboriginal law, language and systems of self-governance for the region. It brings this view to the implementation of local government administrative systems that provide service delivery to all peoples of our area. It provides understanding and support for legislation which links our local communities and governance to the other two tiers of government within our nation.
Read the full preamble:
Do activities 3.3 and 3.4 to define your vision and develop a vision statement.
Your goal of these activities is to identify the goals and aspirations of your group. Think about what you want the future to look like.
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