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       Q&A  with Michaela O’Donnell Long, 2019 ADM Visiting Fellow     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      Scheduled around this year’s    Annual Funding Event   , ADM will host Dr. Michaela O’Donnell Long from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA as a Visiting Fellow. Because she’ll be involved in a variety of events during her time at ADM, we wanted folks to get to know her a bit.    ADM caught up with her recently and asked her the following questions.     ADM:   You grew up in the U.S. midwestern state of Nebraska, much of which is made up of farming communities. Tell us a bit about how the landscape/community might have shaped some of your perspectives and pursuits.    Michaela:  Ah, yes. I did grow up in Nebraska. Although it was nothing like bustling Sydney, I grew up in the city of Omaha. With about a half million people, it was a mid-sized city mostly made up of houses and shops and other suburban amenities. Outside the city in nearly any direction, you’d find agriculture of various kinds.   Reflecting back, I realise that a large swath of the year was measured by the production of corn. In summer, the mantra was that corn would be “knee high by the 4th of July.” In August, farmers would load up their freshly harvested corn and drive into Omaha to sell their harvest out of the back of pick up trucks. And by late September the leftover stalks in the field would turn to golden brown. So, although I’ve never picked an ear of corn in my life, the rhythm of planting, growing, and harvesting is forever sketched into the aesthetics of my brain. And that aesthetic has shaped my own expectation for my work. I trust the rhythm of what I have seen, that there is a time for planting, a time for growing, a time for harvesting, and a time to clear the fields.       ADM:   When you decided to attend university, the word on the street is you got an athletic scholarship. True? What sport/position? And so, from your personal experience, how might sports serve as a metaphor for working in ministry, business or an organisation?    Michaela:  It’s true. I had the privilege of playing softball for a few years in college—as pitcher first, then short stop. My husband and I were recently talking about how formative sports have been for me, and about how great athletes are coachable. They learn quickly that there is always room to grow, that critique of their game isn’t personal, and that in order to achieve big goals you’ve got to ever evolve in your game.   I carry this same belief into my work as a leader, writer, mother, and creative. Early on in my PhD process, I remember turning in a paper that I thought was profound. When I got it back from my professor, there was so much red ink on the page that I gasped. And when my face reflected my disappointment, he said something that any good coach would agree with: “In order to be a top level thinker, you’ve got to love the critique.” And, now my own leadership style resembles that of a coach—always working with my team to finesse their gifts and skills so that they might flourish in their work.        ADM:   You’re now at Fuller Theological Seminary in southern California, serving as the senior director at the    De Pree Centre    and a lecturer of practical theology—a long way from the softball field or Nebraska farmlands. You’re also an entrepreneur and co-founder of a branding and video production company. Tell us a bit about your journey and how God lead you there? And how does theology mix with business?    Michaela:  Life really is unpredictable, isn’t it? When I look back, I can see how all these different parts of my life weave together. But at first glance, one might wonder how all these parts make up a whole. My husband Dan and I both graduated with MDivs from Fuller and started our creative agency soon after, mostly as a way to make money in the middle of a recession. God has been very good to us through Long Winter Media. We’ve learned lots of lessons, met amazing people, created meaningful projects, and paid our bills.   A few years into that, I sort of twisted my own arm into going back to school to get a PhD. And because I was desperate to integrate my work as a business owner with my work as student of practical theology, I studied people who had charted their own way in work, people who I called faithful entrepreneurs. This work eventually led me to the De Pree Center. In my role, I get to bring my full self to the role: entrepreneurial in that I get to create programs and resources rooted in my research; writing and teaching about calling, work, and leadership; and because I have a background in creative content, I serve as creative director on many of our multi-media content offerings. It’s actually sort of a dream. And I don’t take that privilege lightly. I’m committed to stewarding the resources God has given me in this season (including the resource of myself!).       ADM:   What sparked your interest in practical theology as well as helping women in particular develop leadership skills?      Michaela:  Practical theology is a discipline that revolves around four basic questions:   1) What’s going on in the world?   2) Why is it going on?   3) How might the Bible or Christian tradition speak into it?   4) What should we do going forward?    Over and over again, practical theologians seek to answer these four questions in particular contexts with particular praxis. A quick example of how I might answer those questions around one particular reality of women in leadership , given my role at De Pree Center, might include: 1) Women lack adequate mentorship in the workplace; 2) Statistics show that a majority of senior level men are uncomfortable mentoring women in 1 on 1 situations. Because so many men occupy leadership positions, women are missing out on key mentoring relationships; 3) Right from the start, we see a biblical commissioning of men and women working together in the Garden; 4) What if we created resources that outlined for men “how to mentor a woman” in an approachable way? Therefore, how can we work toward more opportunities for women to be mentored? This is why I love practical theology. It’s critical, synthetic, and practical.        ADM:   Deaconess Mary Andrews, after whom our Bible college is named, once said that, “The measure of what you can do for the world will be simply what you let God do with yourself. With most of us God can do so little because we are so little between his hands. That Jesus really wants me and needs me is the wonder and strength of my life. He has met my every need and in him I am fully satisfied.”  In what ways might this resonate with you and your scholarship/work on vocation, calling and entrepreneurship? Are there any easy steps to discovering our calling, or “what you let God do with yourself”?    Michaela:  Wow, this quote resonates so much with me. It is convicting in that it highlights how our best  doing  comes not from getting great at  doing , but by deepening our  being . When we know who we are, and are deeply satisfied with Christ, it becomes like a wellspring bubbling up and impacting every move we make in the world.   I am convinced that most of what we think about how God’s calling works in our lives is limited and therefore unhelpful. I think God is much more interested in the long haul of our formation than any one thing we might put our hands to. And in that, the things we put our hands to are part of how God is always forming us. To let our beings sway in intimacy with God and all that God calls us to, we must ready ourselves to be disrupted over and over again.       ADM:   As Visiting Fellow for ADM, you’ll be coming to Sydney in August with your family during the time of our Annual Funding Event. Have you ever been to Australia?     Michaela:  It’s our first time. I’m bringing my whole crew: husband, two young children, my mother, and her husband!      ADM:   What do you think you’ll find in the land down under?     Michaela:  My three-year-old daughter talks nearly every day about seeing a kangaroo. She’s a big Winnie the Pooh fan and imagines that Australia is full of Kanga and Roos. So, fingers crossed.       ADM:   Finally, as women prepare their pitches for the    Annual Funding Event   , what advice or guidance would you give them? Could you recommend a few resources that might help women work toward their goals and/or consider how God is calling them? Final insights?    Michaela:  I am so excited to hear pitches from women there. I’m already praying for you and cheering you on! And, I know first hand how vulnerable it is to put yourself out there, so you’ve already got my respect. I’m excited for you to learn. Whenever I’ve given pitches (and I’ve given a lot), I inevitably have to get a little clearer on who I am, what I’m doing, and why it matters. And that process of refining and clarifying is a gift.  If I were going to encourage you to think about one thing for your pitch it would be  value add .  Value add  is a shorthand way to think about the benefit that you and/or your idea adds to society. As Christians, we might think explicitly about how what we’re doing is a  value add  for the Kingdom. What I’ve learned over time is that while ideas and stories might overlap, each person brings a unique  value add  to the table.   This means that even if there are five people who pitch an idea for a coffee shop that furthers justice in their community, each will do so in a unique way and therefore add unique value to the Kingdom. In this, we can helpfully shift our internal focus from competing with all the other ideas of the day and instead think about how together we can get clear on the unique  value add  of our idea, organisation, or project!

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Q&A with Michaela O'Donnell Long, 2019 ADM Visiting Fellow

Scheduled around this year’s Annual Funding Event, ADM will host Dr. Michaela O’Donnell Long from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA as a Visiting Fellow. ADM caught up with her recently and asked her the following questions…

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      Q&A: Bernie Black steps up in the brave world of leadership   When Bernie Black pitched at    ADM’s 2018 Annual Funding Event   , she knew exactly why she needed to be there: leadership development. Her organisation had grown and she needed help to lead well. Bernie’s idea landed and she won funding to participate in Harvard’s Kennedy School as well as in year-long mentoring through ADM’s Hub program of innovation. ADM wanted to hear about some of the things she learned in Boston—beside Red Sox baseball—knowing her insights would be helpful for others.       ADM:  In 2009, you founded the Brave Foundation in response to your own experiences as a teen parent. Tell us a bit about how the work has grown since.    Bernie : The vision of the Brave Foundation is to build a village of support and acceptance around expecting and parenting teens. Brave is the 10-year over-night success; in fact, we celebrate our 10-year anniversary in July 2019, with Her Excellency Kate Warner hosting us at Government House in Tasmania.   I am the Founding Director and essentially Brave is what I looked for and couldn’t find as a 16-year old expecting teen. I was shocked, very alone and scared at this time. So I made myself three promises late into my pregnancy: 1.) to somehow be a good mum – I’d hardly held a baby and wasn’t a maternal girl; 2.) to finish my secondary school education —I had no idea how to do this either; and 3.) if I fulfilled the first two, I would write something for others in the same situation.   In 2006, I wrote  Brave Little Bear  (this is the meaning of my name Bernadette), and due to its success, created Brave Foundation in 2009. Soon, people called me from all over Australia to find out how the expecting or parenting teen in their life could be connected to education and support. That was the beginning of our Directory of Services, which now has over 600 organisations listed and referred to nationally.   What I didn’t realise in the early days was that it would take time for Australia to have a conversation about how to help young parents. I learned how important it is to share a compelling vision with widely varied stakeholders. For me it’s now about knowing my audience and why my message matters to them. For example, the economic benefits of supporting young people in vulnerable situations may be more important to some, while others might care about the social impact we have.   But whether we have ever supported or known a young parent or not, we are all part of the Brave village. Just one positive voice, one ‘You can do it! ’ or one smile that smashes a stigma reminds us that we all have a role to play in helping those at risk of disadvantage, which many young parents can be.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Bernie graduates from her leadership course at Harvard’s Kennedy School.  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


      ADM: Last year, you pitched at our 2018 Annual Funding Event. What were you hoping to get out of that experience? What happened?    Bernie:  It was a very empowering experience, and one I’m grateful for. A dear mentor and friend nominated me, so I felt encouraged from the get go. At the time, I was dreaming about the possibility of learning from an executive course at Harvard’s Kennedy School in Boston, MA. But that course, “Women and Power: Leadership in a New Generation” is one I couldn’t fund myself, even though I knew it could help solidify my leadership skills while strengthening and expanding the work of Brave Foundation where I serve as CEO.   So when I filled in the application for the Annual Funding Event, I explained that I would use the prize money to pay those course fees. I was astonished when I won my category!  Not only have I been blessed by participating in the Harvard Kennedy course (even to go there!), but the growth, strategy and direction of Brave has since increased dramatically. That means we’re able to help more people at risk of experiencing disadvantage, especially expecting and parenting teens. The women and team at ADM really champion women in the unique lanes they run in. The whole experience (of AFE and The Hub) has been a massive gift, personally, spiritually and professionally.      ADM: So your dream came true and you travelled to Harvard earlier this year for its leadership course. What were some of key insights you gained during your time there?    Bernie:  I learned that according to research most women are reluctant to ask questions. We likely get sweaty palms, question our questions a million times over, and even after this arduous process, we often decide  not  to ask the question. Research also shows that most men skip this process entirely and just ask a question without over-thinking; nor are they worried if the question doesn’t sound great. The moral of the story here is we need to ask questions and then ask more questions. Ladies, raise a hand because we need your perspective and influence.  Another key insight was realising that our vulnerability is a gift to others and can be a strength. The power of your ‘North Star’ story can also gain more traction in the career world, rather than your ‘Gold Star’ story, according to research. The Gold Star story is the one we often tell on our CV’s and biographies, which include your qualifications, roles, leadership advancement, experiences, etc. Your North Star story, however, uses your personal story of survivorship and vulnerability, and this creates a community of followers who are energised by your ideas, leadership and pioneering. When both the Gold Star and North Star elements of a person’s career and life story are told together, there is an increased opportunity for career advancement and personal joy and fulfillment.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              While in Boston, Bernie managed to catch a Boston Red Sox game.  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     Finally, I learned about transformational and transactional leadership styles. I use a transformational leadership style, and research shows that women innately use this style because it creates longer lasting changes in a culture.   Four core ingredients of transformational leadership are:  •Individualised attention: why does what you are saying to someone matter to  them ?;  •Inspirational motivation: where you are taking the listener inspires them;   •Idealised themes: how connecting values and ethics with the person listening motivates them;  •Intellectual stimulation: acknowledges and challenges intellectual gifts.  Studies show women come out stronger than men in the use individualised attention.      ADM: What would you say are practical ways women can grow as leaders or as people of influence in their respective areas?    Bernie:  Perseverance, passion, persistence, sacrifice and lifelong learning! Keep knocking on doors and be bold. Keep asking questions. I went to Canberra 10 years ago but we didn’t receive federal funding until 2018. We need to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing.   I now have the privilege of reading the stories of young women in our Supporting Expecting and Parenting Teen program (who we assist intensively). As I do, I learn of the promises they make themselves, changing their own lives and their child’s as well as the generations beyond. Honestly, I didn’t know if I would live to see what is currently operating across Australia and am so grateful that I kept at it to be a part of this work.     ADM: As one of the winners last year at the AFE, what advice would you give to those women who are pitching this year?    Bernie:  Practice your five-minute pitch, but don’t overcook it. Authenticity is key. I wrote down five key points for each minute on a small palm card, in case I needed it, and it did help with my nerves.   By sharing a part of your personal story in your pitch, you can create a sense of transparency and vulnerability, which is a real strength. Be  you — that’s who all of us want to see because the world needs  your  idea. Enjoy the moment and regardless of the outcome, be prepared to make connections that will last, friends you haven’t met yet!       ADM:  What verse continues to inspire you as a woman flourishing in your work?    Bernie:  “If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones,” -Luke 16:10.     Find out more about our    Annual Funding Event    and    Hub    for Christian women    here         At the Annual Funding Event (AFE), ADM awards funding to Australian Christian women to support them and multiply their effectiveness as they use their opportunities and gifts to develop gospel-shaped innovations. Applications are now open!    At the AFE, invitations will also be issued to become part of our Incubator Program. Our incubator is a community for Christian women leading for-profits, charities or community initiatives seeking to do gospel-shaped work.

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Q&A: Bernie Black steps up in the brave world of leadership

When Bernie Black pitched at ADM’s 2018 Annual Funding Event, she knew exactly why she needed to be there: leadership development. Her organisation had grown and she needed help to lead well.

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