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Emerging leaders take on the world

Nov 12, 2013

From Emerging Leader to Head of the International Affairs Division at the National Council for Culture and the Arts in Chile, Dr Ricardo Peach charts the career path of Chilean-Australian Magdalena Moreno from CEO of Kultour to directing the World Summit on Arts and Culture in Santiago 2014.

Chilean born arts manager Magdalena Moreno lived in Melbourne, Australia for 20 years until February 2012 when she relocated to Santiago, Chile to take up the position of Head of the International Affairs Division at the National Council for Culture and the Arts in the Government of Chile.  In this role she is also the Program Director for the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies’ (IFACCA ) 6th World Summit on Arts and Culture , which takes place in Santiago from 13-16 January 2014. Artery caught up with Magdalena to ask her about her experiences as an alumni of the Emerging Leaders Development Program  (ELDP)  as she prepares for the art world to descend on her doorstep in January next year.

Magdalena you have had an extraordinary journey since you participated in the ELDP program in 2011. What did you do before you applied to the ELDP and what motivated you to put your hat in the ring in the first place?

I was the CEO of Kultour , Australia’s national organisation for cultural diversity in the arts.  Kultour was at a critical turning point in its history, and I was very motivated to see how as CEO I could facilitate organisational change. What inspired me to participate was the fact that I felt I needed a group of peers with whom I could exchange experiences confidentially and who were going through similar challenges as myself.  I have always been interested in leadership in any-case and keen to learn about solid leadership. A few years earlier, I participated in the Asialink Leaders Program.  Although this was solid learning curve for me, particularly due to the cross-sector participation (I think only four of us out of 45 were from the arts) it was focused on Asian-Australian engagement rather than on leadership per se.  When the ELDP appeared and was supported by the Australia Council, I was immediately motivated to give it a try.

 As you began participating in the program, what did you find inspiring/beneficial about the ELDP?

The ELDP was beneficial and inspiring on so many levels.  Although I don’t want to give too much away, it was the group itself that provided one of the major benefits.  You get to meet colleagues from across the country and spend quality time exchanging views and even at times role playing.  Secondly the people that ran it, Graeme Gherashe and the team of experts were brilliant.  You feel like you can fit in an MBA in a weekend. It is non-stop and at times you feel that you brain is not able to process anymore, however, I can guarantee you that you can, and that you will retain it.  Third, the program itself, the retreat, its non-conventional approach to learning, listening, experiencing, interacting is forever changing its format.  This makes the program particularly dynamic.

So in a nutshell, the benefits are that you learn a lot about yourself.  For some quite a revelation, and that in itself takes time to come to terms with.  You are taught what true leadership is and that it can be found in many different ways.  Having access to this information, which is at times confidential, is a true gem of the program – and having the advisors there to help you understand it.

You lived in Australia for over 20 years and worked in numerous arts organisations here. How did the ELDP motivate you to reach your next goal – the National Council for Culture and the Arts in Chile?

Well, you certainly walk away empowered, but also very humbled by the experience.  It does provide you with the tools to take on new challenges.  In fact, many of my fellow ELDP colleagues took on more senior roles within the first 12 months after the program.  I believe the program provides you with new perspectives, and because it is so personalised, obviously what happens to each participant is quite different.  I was approached by the then Minister of Culture of Chile, to take on the position as Head of the International Affairs Division of the National Council for the Arts a few months after the ELDP retreat.  That was indeed my next goal.  I suppose the ELDP helped me believe in myself and not doubt my capacity.  It also taught me structure.

Now that you are based in the Chile, what does your current role entail and how did the ELDP perhaps prepare you for your new challenges?

In addition to my responsibilities as Head of International and advisor to the Minister on International affairs, late last year I was appointed Program Director for the 6th World Summit on Arts and Culture, to be held in Santiago, Chile in January 2014.  There is a book that was recommended to me during the ELDP program: Blue Ocean Strategy.  I have read and reread that book so many times and have implemented its diagnosis and analysis structure on several occasions in Chile.  There are several references that I draw from the ELDP.  However, one of the best came from my ELDP mentor.  The mentorship component to the program is wonderful.  However, finding the right mentor can be tricky and can take you a few goes to get right.

Any tips for potential applicants in preparing themselves for the program?

Read  what you are given to read. It will be worth your while.  Go with an open mind.  The more open you are, the more you will find yourself enjoying the program.  Trust your instincts, but don’t be judgmental.  You will be pleasantly surprised.  Don’t be concerned to let your guard down.  The program is set up to provide you with appropriate support.  The group is relatively small so very easy to get to know people. However, it is diverse enough that you don’t feel like you are always with the same group.  Take your time to find the right mentor, and if they are not right, then try another one.  Make sure you don’t take unfinished work with you to the retreat as this will impede you from focusing on the program and most of all, enjoy yourself… there are rare moments during work hours, when we are asked to focus on ourselves.  Make the most of it.

And lastly, a question many Australian artists are dying to know, is what are your plans for linking Chilean and Australian artists in the future? And what opportunities do you see for Australian practitioners to engage with Chilean and more broadly South American artist?

More then ever, I would say that the tyranny of distance between Australia and Chile is psychologically getting smaller and smaller.  I say this because the actual distance to get to Chile from Australia is less than the distance to the UK.  In fact, Qantas now flies direct from Sydney to Santiago.

Furthermore, the range of exchange programs, working holidays and other such programs that have been promoted since the signing of the Free Trade Agreement have certainly strengthened links and opened new possibilities.  The National Council for the Arts in Chile has a range of funding programs available for international exchange and I know so does Australia.  This means there are great opportunities for arts organisations, independent arts workers and artists to develop exchange programs.

Chile is also looking more and more at what is happening in the rest of the southern hemisphere.  For example, the tax incentives for donations for the arts has just undergone significant reform in Chile.  We have been eagerly looking at the legislation in Australia and its ecology of gift-giving.  Only last month, the National Council for Culture and the Arts in Chile held its 4th Creative Economy Seminar and invited Rupert Myer AM, Chair of the Australia Council to hear of the Australian experience.

There are great opportunities to develop strong links between Australia and Chile, and of course this extends to the rest of South America.   And as an Australian and Chilean citizen, I will always want to promote both countries and develop ways to support cultural dialogue that considers our geography, our history as colonies, and the diversity and the richness of our countries’ first nations’ cultural heritage.  I did so in my roles in Australia, and I am still doing this in my current role in Chile – in particular encouraging Chileans to look at the Asia-Pacific.