Strengthening Leadership Capability of Not-for-profit Organizations in Australia: An Open-Space Exploration in the ALARA Community


  • Shankar Sankaran


Leadership Development, Not-for-profit organizations, Open Space Technology Meeting, Action Research


This paper is based on reflections from two ALARA conferences when exploring whether four new leadership theories are significant in developing leaders of not-for-profit organizations in Australia. The authors  invited the attendees at ALARA’s national conference held in Brisbane in 2011 to participate in an interactive workshop to explore four new leadership theories – authentic , servant , spiritual  and relational leadership for their applicability to not-for-profit faith-based organizations providing health and community care in Australia . The workshop was facilitated by the authors of this paper using an Open Space Technology (OST) Meeting format to facilitate dialogue between participants utilizing a theme proposed for the meeting. . The theme for the Open Space meeting was leadership research in not-for-profit faith-based organizations in which the primary author is an investigator. At the start of the meeting the facilitators briefly introduced the four leadership theories to be discussed. They then described the OST process, its four principles and one law. Participants were then asked to announce discussion topics at the village marketplace that was created for the workshop. Groups formed around topics in which the participants were interested in and the discussions were led by the participant who announced the topic. Summaries of discussions held were collected and posted by group leaders. A final reflection and dialogue took place in the open space (a circle of chairs with a space within) with all participants. The reflections recorded at the ALARA Brisbane workshop were then analyzed and presented at the ALARA National conference held in 2012 and discussed with two groups to get their feedback on leadership capabilities required of leaders in not-for-profit organizations. The two discussions formed the basis for action research cycles with the ALARA community that led to this the paper.