Coming up to a couple of months ago I sent an email to a Federal shadow minister in response to an article I had read in the newspaper. A highly respected and long-serving MP, she was conducting a policy review into the social security portfolio. As this is something I have strong views about – and lots of personal experience – I sat down and wrote an email briefly explaining my background and offering the benefit of my experience. I was sincere, even passionate in doing this – I have strong views, and have acquired significant sympathy for the people who society overlooks.
Until Monday I heard nothing, when I received an email from an assistant to the minister asking if I was available to discuss my views. Last night we caught up by phone as I drove home from work.
We spoke for nearly 50 minutes, initially about my experiences, about how hopeless the current network is, and where it needs to be improved. From there we moved into discussions on policy. He raised with me a proposal they were discussing – which I won’t go into here – but which I thought was excellent, and told him so.
Did I have any ideas? Well, I have plenty, but limited it to one.
I’m a strong believer that’s there’s a wealth of untapped experience and knowledge in the country. There are thousands upon thousands of people who could benefit from that – the unemployed, but also school-leavers, new arrivals, people in career transition, even just the regular guy on the street. I believe that most people are more than willing to share that. It’s potentially a win-win situation, but a situation that rarely occurs.
About the same time I sent the email to the minister I began working on a mentoring concept which I thought to commercialise (though with a strong altruistic and charity bent). Basic concept was that anyone can be a mentor. You don’t need to be the CEO of the company to be a mentor, it doesn’t just have to be about hard, professional skills. Life experiences and learnings are as valuable as how to do this or become that.
I mentioned this in my discussion, explaining how it might work. A government sponsored program would be different than one more commercially oriented, but conceptually there is little difference: it serves the same purpose. He liked the idea and promised to take it to the minister. I may have given away a handy commercial opportunity, but I’m happy to do it for the greater good of the nation.
The other thing I mentioned is how there needs to be a safety net for the long-termed unemployed, financially, in managing their debts, and psychologically. There’s too many people without a voice who have no-one to speak for them.
Let’s see what comes of this, if anything.