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Southland District Council’s project sponsor was Rex Capil, GM- Community and Futures. Rex had one critical goal in mind: to get cross-organisational buy-in for the risk management project from all appropriate senior people; and a clear understanding of their top risks.

Rex had worked with Alicia before and sought her skill in taking a diverse team on a collaborative journey using a very thorough, robust process - and making sure every member was engaged.

Attendees included operational senior staff as well as the executive team and council members, from the mayor to activity team leaders. This was a significant investment for the council and one Rex felt was well worth it to gain a common understanding.

“Alicia brings a vitality and a freshness which just opens everyone up to her. When a room atmosphere might start to feel quite heavy, it doesn’t take long for her to turn that into a bubbly and constructive environment.”


Early on, Alicia led attendees to what they acknowledge was “a lightbulb moment” - that everything SDC does should link back to its vision, desired community outcomes and strategic priorities. The process highlighted the importance of being challenged to get back to the priorities that fit within a team’s overarching vision.

Rex, GM- Community and Futures, found the structured process really helpful, with the group working in incremental, manageable steps that kept the workshop momentum going, but “at an appropriate level, so it didn’t feel like a tidal wave”. He also appreciated the “free, frank and open discussions” that helped to overcome individual inhibitions.

Southland District Council Mayor Gary Tong expressed appreciation for the safe environment Alicia created - including breakaway sessions with multi-level teams - which enabled genuine collaboration.

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Southland District Council Mayor Gary Tong couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

“This is the only way to do it, with governance and management in the same room. We had councillors with a little experience and those with a lot, senior managers and team leaders, and we could step out up and out of our siloes, with everyone happy to speak up. Our focus now is to continue to lead the way.”

According to Rex Capil, the lasting impact of that initial workshop continues to be evident in the critical thinking of the SDC team as they continue to develop the risk management framework.

“What we’re seeing at all levels is the reference back to those strategic priorities and our vision, not only in risk-related conversations but also in day to day business and project delivery conversations.

“Risk was the catalyst, but it has highlighted the importance and significance of having that conversation across the organisation. The right questions continue to be asked by the elected councillors as well as activity managers and teams.”