Steps for Success

An effective Drought Leadership Group with clear rules and expectations will influence the success of local drought responses and preventative actions. Below are some steps you can use to create an effective Drought Leadership Group.

Step 1. Get Together

Find a core group of concerned community members to establish a small lead group. The size of this initial group is not linked to its success. Instead, it is the influence this group has within the community that will drive success. However, it is important to remember that leaders can come from all sectors of the community and all walks of life.

A key question that needs to be asked at this stage is; why are you working to form a leadership group and what is its purpose? A key reason needs to be to plan and manage the impacts of drought (or another challenge) locally. As you answer this question you may find there are existing groups within your community able to support local drought responses. If this is the case, you can approach these groups to see if they share your vision and would like to enter a partnership (more about partnerships in Step 7.)

Step 2. Develop a Plan
Establishing a local drought Leadership Group needs to be a considered and planned process recognizing and responding to local need. A good way to manage the establishment of the group is to develop an implementation plan. You can modify or adapt this implementation plan template to the group’s needs. The template outlines the key steps you can take from forming the group through to deciding what you can do in your community. There is also a similar template found on the Queensland Mental Health Commission’s website.

You can also view this implementation plan used by the McKinlay Shire Drought Leadership Group as an example.

Step 3. Share a Vision

Decide what your group will set out to achieve in your community. It is important to be clear on the purpose and role of the group. What are you doing and why are you doing it? This means thinking about what the Drought Leadership Group would like to achieve for the community.

The group’s vision will be unique to your community but will be linked to supporting your community and responding to the impacts of drought. It should reflect your community’s unique issues and local capacity.

When developing a vision it is important to value everyone’s ideas as a shared vision will inspire shared commitment from the group.

Once the group has developed an initial vision for what it wants to achieve, you can invite members of the community to become part of the group.

Step 4. Invite Stakeholders and Members

There will be individuals and groups who easily identify with the vision of the initial group and will become part of the broader Drought Leadership Group. However, it is important to recognise the diversity of stakeholder groups in your community and for the group to be as representative as possible.

Below is a list of stakeholders to consider inviting. This list is not exhaustive and not all groups will be present in every community.

  • Community leaders, including Indigenous Elders
  • Local government
  • Government departments and organisations
  • Non-government organisations
  • Industry groups and leaders
  • Public and private medical, nursing and allied health staff
  • Health service providers and organisations
  • Queensland Health
  • Primary Health Networks
  • Queensland Ambulance Service

There will also be individuals who may be interested in becoming involved or with skills or experience that will be useful to the group.

A diverse membership will ensure there is a broad recognition of the Drought Leadership Group with other organisations and allow extensive networks to develop in your community. The group’s size should reflect the issues and level of interest in your community.

Step 5. Structure and Governance Arrangements

It is important to clearly establish how the community’s Drought Leadership Group will operate. The group will need to consider a lot of practical issues necessary to maintain an effective leadership group such as:

  • Meeting location
  • Frequency and length of meetings
  • Membership parameters
  • Decision making methods
  • Participation between meetings

At this point you should clarify the group’s role as a stand-alone group or as part of a regional network. Even if what will become your Drought Leadership Group is an existing group, or a sub-section of one, you will need to consider these factors.

The terms of reference will describe the purpose and structure of the group. Creating detailed terms of reference is critical as they define the:

  • Vision, objectives, scope and deliverables (what has to be achieved)
  • Stakeholders, roles and responsibilities (who will take part in it)
  • Resource, financial and quality plans (how it will be achieved)
  • Agreed frequency and schedule (when it will be achieved)

This is an example Terms of Reference created by Springsure Hand in Hand, a local Drought Leadership Group. This is a template you can use to create your Terms of Reference.

Congratulations! You have now created your own Drought Leadership Group. Before you start on the real work, take a moment with your group to complete this self assessment. It will tell you if you are on the right track. At this stage it may only be applicable to complete sections 1-6 on this document but it is important that you make sure the foundation is solid before moving on.

Step 6. Gain Recognition

The intention is for the Drought Leadership Group to be a recognized point of contact for government departments working to support programs or provide funding to the community. Therefore, it is important the group has local support and can be recognized as credible. Formal recognition for the group might come from local government, so seek the support of your Mayor and Chief Executive Officer of your local Council prior to consulting with other levels of government.

Here is a template for your letter to government departments.

You will also need to let everyone in your community know about the Drought Leadership Group and what the group hopes to achieve. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Contact your local newspaper or radio station.
  • Organize a community event or partner with an existing community gathering.
  • Promote the group via community noticeboards, school newsletters, community groups, social media etc.
Step 7. Build Strong Partnerships

Now that you have successfully established your Drought Leadership Group and have gained recognition from your community, local government and other important stakeholders, it is critical to develop partnerships. Community responses to any situation require strong partnerships.

Stop, think and check your own readiness

Confirm the Drought Leadership Group cannot solve a particular issue alone and consider other ways to address the issue/s. Then, consider if the Drought Leadership Group is ready to partner with others in your region. Some questions to consider:

  • Have we determined with whom we want to partner and why?
  • Are we communicating our intentions and listening to the concerns of our people?
  • Are we sufficiently flexible and prepared to respond to change?
  • Do we have the right skills?

Decide what partnering means to the group

Consider some of the key definitions of partnering and discuss these with your potential partners to see if you share a common belief:

  • Organisations work together in a transparent, equitable and mutually beneficial manner towards a goal. Partners agree to commit resources and share risks as well as the benefits.
  • A commitment to work collaboratively to pursue common goals.
  • A commitment to work together on something that concerns both, to develop a shared sense of purpose and agenda, and to generate joint action towards agreed targets.

The purpose of identifying or creating a definition of partnering and how the leadership group will operate is that you can relate back to this meaning. A common definition also helps create a common language and understanding.

Identify and understand your partners

Organisations choose to partner because they cannot achieve their desired goals by other means. In other words, there is inevitably a level of self-interest in the motivation of all partners. Each partner will need to see benefits from their collaboration, measured in their own terms, if their involvement in the partnership is to be sustained over time.

Each sector brings a different set of values, priorities, resources and competencies to a partnership. It tis important to consider where your potential partner is coming from and what it is that will motivate them to get involved.

You may need someone to help facilitate your partnering process. This can be the role of a Partnership Broker who can be internal to the group or someone who is contracted independently. They can support and strengthen partnerships by helping to initiate, develop, maintain, review, revise and support multi-stakeholder collaboration through a deep knowledge and understanding of what it takes to collaborate effectively

Create sustainable partnerships

There are three basic principles to successful partnering:

  1. Equity: an equal right to be at the table, and a recognition that contributes to the partnership can be in different forms.
  2. Transparency: relationships are based on openness and honesty, and people will people truly accountable.
  3. Mutual benefit: partners can achieve specific benefits over and above common benefits to all.

Some of the most sustaining partnerships have been so, not only because of mutually beneficial outcomes, but because of the relationships built. Five successful community activities, as outlined by Paul Born in his book Deepening Community, are:

  • Sharing your story,
  • Enjoying one another,
  • Caring for one another (building social capital),
  • Taking care of one another (empathy and belonging) and,
  • Working together for a better world (collective altruism), which follows naturally if you work on the first four activities.


Comprehensive, constant and regular internal and external communication is critical. Strong feedback loops are requires at all levels within the partnership and with partner organisations. You need to be able to share and access all knowledge and information.

When you communicate, remember to tell the story. When you tell a meaningful story to your listeners, you allow them to understand the conclusions you have reached then decide for themselves whether or not to believe what you say. People value their own conclusions far more than yours. Once people adopt your story as their own, you have tapped a powerful source.


An evaluation process helps you determine whether or not the partnership is meeting it’s goals. It is also a great opportunity to explore ways in which the partnership could be strengthened and refined and to celebrate and showcase achievements.

You can use the partnership self-assessment tool as part of the ongoing evaluation process.

Step 8. Measure Community Progress

The idea of well-being as a measure of progress is rapidly gaining support worldwide. The word ‘well-being’ can be used interchangeable with related concepts such as ‘quality of life’, ‘life satisfaction’ or ‘wellness’, ‘health’ and ‘mental health’, to just give a few examples.

In order to consistently determine the needs of your community, the indicators for community well-being have been used with each of the determinants of health falling under one of the broad indicators of well-being. Your Drought Leadership Group will need to decide which of the indicators of community well-being are most relevant to your community. You can do this by reaching out to your community and surveying individuals and organisations, partnering with organisations which have already done this research or by looking at publicly available statistics. There are resources to help you with this task included in the toolkit (see the toolkit resources page on the blue menu).



Indicators of well-being

Human Capital

Human capital refers to confidence in skills and education, health, community leadership and collaboration.

  • Education: Number of enrolments in schools locally. The number of students enrolled in boarding schools. Student’s ability to attend extra-curricular activities.
  • Early Childhood: Support services available to mothers and young children. Education programs for early childhood. Early intervention programs available locally.
  • Leadership: The effectiveness of leadership, collaboration and partnerships within the community and local organisations.


Social Capital

Social capital is about social networks. Spending time with friends and family, getting involved in the local community, sense of belonging.

  • Social Contentedness: The connections between members of the community as individuals and families. The contentedness of community organisations and service providers. Awareness of local social or support organisations. Opportunities for community interaction.
  • Culture: Opportunities for the development of cultural and arts programs locally. Support for the development of local cultural events.
  • Health and Social Services: The perceived health and well-being of the community and individuals within the community. The level of access to health and social services and their role and effectiveness within the community. Local knowledge of and access to, available services. Gaps in services.


Institutional Capital

Institutional capital is the community being able to have a say and be heard, equity and inclusion.

  • Access: Level of access to essential services, health, communication, social services and community planning.
  • Gender: Perception of inclusion of genders and safety of individuals in the community.
  • Ethnicity: Perception of inclusion of diverse cultures within the community. Acceptance of Indigenous people and other ethnic groups within the community.


Physical Capital

Physical capital is about access to services and infrastructure, access to telecommunications, crime and safety, landscape and aesthetics.

  • Housing: Available, affordable housing and current housing vacancies.
  • Built environment: Level of access to the required community infrastructure. Recreational places and events available. Safety and crime statistics for the region.


Natural Capital

Natural capital is the perceived health of the environment.

  • Physical Environment: The current drought status and stocking numbers. Length of recovery time and affected land.


Financial Capital

Financial capital is about household financial well-being and local economic well-being.

  • Employment and working conditions: Number of people employed or unemployed and searching for work. The number of positions vacant. The number of positions lost.
  • Income: Changes in levels of income to households and individuals. The turnover and profit margins in local businesses. The level of funding to publicly funded services and also the income base for the region.
Step 9. Engage the Community

Your Drought Leadership Group will become an important facilitator of local involvement in the planning and deliver of activities, funding and services for your local community.

So that the group can engage with the community effectively, consider the following principles.

The Drought Leadership Group should

  • Understand your community and and its capacity, strengths and priorities. This can be achieved through:
    • Respectful use of local knowledge and experience
    • Tapping into existing networks
    • Identifying and acknowledging community capability and sharing resources
    • Appreciating the risks faced by your community
    • Assessing risk and levels of community awareness and preparedness
  • Recognise your community’s complexity which may include:
    • Ensuring differences and diversity are embraced and respected
    • Using genuinely respectful and flexible approaches
    • Identifying and addressing barriers to engagement
    • Recognising that your community will evolve and change over time
  • Support existing networks and resources. This can be achieved through:
    • Building and maintaining partnerships
    • Fostering relationships with community leaders
    • Respecting community choices
    • Building on existing social capital
    • Identifying and employing strategies that empower local action
Step 10. Make a Difference

Now that you have laid all the appropriate foundations, your Drought Leadership Group is ready to start making a difference. Examine the needs that you have found in your community, the skills and resources of all of your partners and potential partners and, the funding and resources that are being directed to your community by government, then decide how you are going to start supporting your community. There is a template of an Action Plan to help you do this (also available from the Queensland Mental Health Commission). You may also find this example Action Plan from Springsure Drought Leadership Group useful.

Build your Drought Leadership Group with our Resource Toolkit



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