Your Trustees have been active over the last five months with regular board meetings, a strategic planning session, scholar mentoring and the Nuffield International conference in the Netherlands.
I believe it is important to have a dual focus when considering priorities for the future.
Firstly, we must continue to attract sufficient funding to operate our organisation. By identifying, selecting and supporting high quality scholars who can add value to New Zealand rural communities, we can demonstrate our worth. This is our bread and butter. Currently we offer five scholarships each year.
In my last note to you, I explained that LIC had decided not to continue their financial support, leaving a gap in our funding. I’m delighted to inform you that the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation has come on board as a Strategic Partner for the next 3 years with right of renewal.
The Foundation was formed in 1976 when brothers Alan and Don Mackenzie made the decision to leave their estates to the community of Mid-Canterbury. Agriculture was amongst the matters of importance to the pair and their wishes included the support of agricultural research, development, education and training, and the science and practise of agriculture. With such well aligned objectives, I’m confident the Foundation’s investment in our organisation will provide a range of outcomes that would bring pride and satisfaction for Alan and Don. We look forward to working with the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation Trustees to achieve positive outcomes for all.
Secondly, it is equally important that that we structure and lead an organisation which is offering a unique, experiential learning opportunity which will equip future leaders to be relevant and effective. In an agri sector that is being confronted by massive and rapid change, we must be active to keep pace. Diversity of background and thinking, nimble decision making, an understanding of exponential technology, effective team building skills, a negotiator, the ability to influence and navigate change; these are a sample of the skills and characteristics that are important for Nuffielders to demonstrate if we are to maintain relevance and gain respect.
Historically, the key focus of scholar studies was improving farm systems productivity – how does New Zealand produce more food? Now the attention has moved to improved resource allocation with themes of sustainability, innovation and environmental protection. Producing high-quality food and fibre products which emphasise our story of excellence, provenance and safety continue to move the dial from quantity to quality. Production systems are still important but understanding the expectations of our customers and how we delight them with our products and the integrity of our supply chains has gained importance and attention. Study topics of the future are likely to focus on these themes.
Nuffield NZ, in conjunction with the NZ Rural Leadership Trust, has a process of continuous review for all aspects of the scholarship, from selection through to content. We currently have a renewed focus on opportunities for engaging and leveraging our Alumni. Trustees constantly consider the balance between maintaining Nuffield New Zealand’s traditions and heritage with the imperatives of change. We recognise that some transformation is required to ensure relevance and attract new generations of scholars. Doing what we’ve always done will not meet muster as we strive to maintain our position as the preeminent agricultural scholarship in New Zealand. The opportunities are exciting.
At the end of our 2016 Nuffield conference John Palmer asked the trustees to consider whether advocacy for the rural sector was adequate for the challenges we face and if not, whether the Nuffield Alumni could be mobilised in a new manner, to provide that needed advocacy.
The trustees have considered the matter and plan to present an expanded thought leadership and advocacy role for Nuffield, for ‘in principle’ consideration at the 2018 conference in Tauranga in May. We look forward to your feedback so please remember to register now and join us for some thought provoking presentations and discussion.
In keeping too with the theme of relevance, the future and ensuring our programmes are attractive to high quality applicants, we are currently undertaking a review of our brands and messaging. As a newly established organisation, it is important to clarify the role and position of the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust. How our Nuffield NZ Farming Scholarships and Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme fit within the structure requires explanation and it is important to confirm and explain the unique attributes of both in a compelling and engaging manner. We look forward to sharing the outcomes of this project with you.
Planning for the 2020 triennial conference is well underway with Michael Taylor at the helm and several alumni committees taking the lead on programmes for the conference and the tours. With a Christchurch base, the tours will cover a sample of the best the South Island has on offer and will include topics of interest to all.
2020 is a long time to wait for a Nuffield get together so it’s fabulous that Dave Hurst and his team have a plan for us to reunite in May. You still have time to register, to join recent scholars and old friends for ‘learning, listening and laughter’! I look forward to seeing you there.