Case study: Terrain Natural Resource Management


Terrain Natural Resource Management (NRM) is a regional natural resource management body of the Wet Tropics. Terrain NRM’s key role is to protect environmental resources and promote sustainable use of land and waterways. It supports healthy, productive and viable communities and sustainable industries, particularly agriculture.

Terrain NRM has a solid reputation and profile in the Wet Tropics and agricultural industries, however the board was aware that people in urban areas knew little about them, particularly the younger generation. Terrain NRM developed an Emerging Board Leader Program, as a year-long knowledge exchange and mentoring program.

We caught up with Keith Noble, Board Chair and Rhiannon Simcocks, a graduate of the Terrain NRM’s Emerging Board Leader Program. Keith and Rhiannon discussed the emerging board leader program, including the benefits and successes from gender diversity for the board and Rhiannon herself.

The Emerging Board Leader Program

The program aims to expose a future board leader to the board process and help extend their knowledge and skills. Participants can establish networks and gain experience. They see what it’s like working with a high performing not-for-profit organisation. The board members saw it as an opportunity to diversify their board.

Rhiannon reflects that she has gained new perspectives and skills. Since implementing the program, the organisation has strengthened links in the community, particularly with young people and women.

Keith says:

The concept of Terrain NRM's Emerging Leader program came about through the board realising the need to expand its generational reach, but not knowing how to do it.

Promoting the opportunity

As well as using their usual advertising, Terrain NRM extended their recruitment timeframe for the program and their promotion. To reach the target cohort, they used extensive social media and approached young professional networks to get the word out about the position. Following the promotion of the program Terrain NRM received 17 high-quality written applications.

Keith recalls:

It was astounding to see the calibre and dedication of young people already operating in our community. That was a learning in itself, and reaffirmed our decision.

Rhiannon appointed to the Emerging Board Leader role

Rhiannon is a business and economic development consultant. She has a family history in farming. While participating in the program, Rhiannon learnt from a professional board, received mentoring and guidance from the Chair and CEO. She had the opportunity to absorb the collective intellect from around the boardroom table.

This program gave Rhiannon the platform to make a positive contribution to Terrain NRM. The experience provided her an opportunity to hone particular skills she identified important in her career plans for the future.

Rhiannon says:

Agriculture and the land is in my blood. Above all else, I applied as I felt a complete and satisfying alignment between my skill set in a professional sense, the style of contribution I want to make to our future as a society and links back to my farming roots.

Most organisations are now identifying the need to engage the next generation; few know where to start. Rhiannon saw Terrain NRM's commitment, acceptance, encouragement and eagerness to embrace this new role. It was a humbling and inspiring experience for her as a young person. Rhiannon felt included to contribute to discussions, voice opinions adding rigor to debate.

Rhiannon is currently developing a youth engagement strategy for Terrain NRM and said:

Youth insights and curve balls were always welcomed. In fact, where I am quiet on a topic, the Chair will ensure I am given the opportunity to contribute my thoughts.

The opportunity to engage with the leaders of the future

An organisation’s intention to engage with the target demographics must be genuine. Rhiannon believes there was an ultimate success factor; it came from the organisation's intention, motivation and willingness to engage with youth. Words must match actions. It is important to show honest and agreed commitment to inclusive and collaborative engagement. She said:

Millennials are desperate for ways to make a contribution, to show leadership, to step up and to take responsibility for our futures. The strongest youth engagement strategy is to help shape this enthusiasm into an experience, the way Terrain NRM has afforded me.

Advice for others

Keith was thankful to Rhiannon for the enormous contribution she made to Terrain NRM. He felt Rhiannon demonstrated the value of gender diversity on a board. Rhiannon’s views were from a younger generation with clear thinking and a sharp mind. The experience demonstrated the achievements possible from working together.

Terrain NRM has a standing independent selection panel for new board appointments. The panel briefing was clear on the skillset and intent to achieve gender equity. Terrain board members raised the weighting and importance of gender equity in the selection process. This has achieved great results.

Rhiannon reflected that long after her tenure has ended she continues to be an active and proud ambassador for Terrain NRM and for the work they do. Rhiannon intends to apply for the next available Director’s position with Terrain NRM and wants to continue to be part of a forward-thinking organisation with wonderful people and culture.