Making it happen

Working out in regional areas, making it happen is the day-to-day. And it seems like such a simple thing: just make it happen. In a nutshell, making it happen is about taking intentional action toward your goal, holding on to that determination, and problem-solving until you have delivered. But there’s more to it. Making it happen depends on strong relationships and willingness to have those hard conversations. It is about connecting back to an underlying process, doing the planning, and then changing plans when you hit a block. It is finding opportunities to keep building on that energy and stickiness – and never giving up.

The ideas and stories captured here were shared by members of the Regional Innovator’s Network (RIN) during a peer learning session on 24 April.


Quick summary

What does it mean?

  • Being intentional
  • Being action oriented
  • Supporting people, supporting organisations
  • Staying determined
  • Problem solving
  • Delivering

What helps

  • Build strong relationships and partnerships
  • Have the hard conversations
  • Tap into (external) facilitation and support
  • Lean on a process
  • Use positive energy to drive you forward

What hinders

  • Don’t give up!


What does it mean?

Being intentional

Making it happen is having a clear goal and being very intentional and strategic in everything you do. You keep the “it”  of “making it happen” in mind. You keep pursuing your goals, to the best of your ability. Making it happen means prototyping and testing assumptions to make sure your solution works.

This is “when the innovation script comes in” – Shane Phillips, Lake Cargelligo Community Connector


Being action-oriented

“Making it happen” is about getting in, having a go. It’s doing the planning so you can coordinate action and people. It’s kicking goals.


Supporting people, supporting organisations

When you set out to do something there are often a number of people involved, and the people involved may need support to get there. They may need help in knowing what to do next. They may need to learn how to do something in order to move forward. Making it happen is figuring out what support is needed so that everyone can do their part.


Staying determined

To make it happen, you have to keep connecting back to your purpose. Don’t give up, stick with it! Take the good with the bad. Enjoy it while you can, enjoy what you can.

“It’s a mindset. It’s that sheer determination and doggedness.” – Anne Shortis


Problem solving

When you’re making something happen, it’s not always clear HOW you’re going to make it happen. When you hit barriers, find different ways to solve the challenge and get to the outcome. Find the ways to make it happen. Engage others in problem solving as well as taking on ownership.

“He’s making it sound simple, but it was a really lengthy, involved process to get to this point for these participants, for Jai and Lana. These young people are completely disengaged from any other service, the school system, and even in some cases their own family. So to see people go from that to up at 5:00 am packing lunches. The story doesn’t actually do it justice. We all went out to visit and do it justice. It had a vibe. You know, a good process has a vibe. There’s something in the air. These guys faced barrier after barrier, every day. People didn’t turn up. Something went wrong. Flat tyres. People didn’t turn up. But these guys rolled on. They rolled with the punches. Problem-solved on the spot. They engaged the participants in problem-solving those opportunities well. They learned SO much more – it wasn’t really about shearing school, that was the activity. It was all the pieces that fit in around it. You know, I’ve never seen some of those boys stand so tall. You know, it just a really amazing thing. And they wanted to come in and see everyone in the office and tell them: ‘We did it! We finished.’ And they came in the next week and signed up for first aid – because they knew they could.” – Shane Phillips providing further context to Jai James’s story



Making things happen is about seeing things all the way through to outcomes. It’s about sticking with it, problem solving and finding ways through so that you get there.

“I don’t go into programs without the mindset of ‘I want something to happen here’.” – Anne Shortis

“When you’re making things happen, you’ve gotta deliver.” – Sharon Tomas


What helps?

Build strong relationships and partnerships

Making things happen is always a “we”. Relationships are built by doing things together, experiencing the learning, building trust. It’s finding and working with others who share that commitment and determination. For others who are less convinced or who don’t share the same view, find a way to build a shared understanding and commitment. Notice when you need to let go of your original ideas so that you can negotiate a way to move forward with the group that will still get the outcome. Engage community to get a broader view, and to get them involved and build ownership.


Have the hard conversations

Trying to “make things happen” means that you will run into difficulties. There may be a difference of perspective or goals. You may be struggling to see the big perspective and get focused. Some members of the group may not be fully committed. You may have an “elephant in the room” that needs to be discussed and dealt with. Many things come up in the process of trying to work together. When nothing else is working, sometimes you need to sit down and have the hard conversation. Identify and work through (or around) blockers. If you do need to have a hard conversation, make sure your relationships are strong enough for the discussion — as it will be the trust, strength of the relationships and sheer determination to make something happen that will see you through.


Tap into (external) facilitation and support

It can be helpful to have a external facilitator who knows the group well enough to know when and how to challenge. Facilitators are often external because they bring an element of neutrality. A facilitator can help you (re)focus and catalyse action. If you do need a facilitator, take the time to get the right person in who will really get to know what the group wants and needs, will listen deeply, and can provide guidance as to how you can “make it happen”. Their job is to help you have those hard conversations.


Lean on a process

It can be useful to set out a process and trust in that process. When you’re not sure the next steps, go back to the process, see what you might have missed, and trust that the process will get you there. If you don’t have a process, the innovation and co-design process can help you structure the work.


Use positive energy to drive you forward

Pay attention to the vibe – is there excitement that you’re making something happen? Find ways to build that vibe and keep people engaged. Create that stickiness. Create opportunities for others to join in and contribute.


What hinders?

Don’t give up!

Believe that it is possible – hang on to that sense that “this CAN be done” – I can and WE can do this. Having that experience, the sense of success because you have done it before, can help you to believe you can do it again. If you have strong partnerships, someone else will pick up the pieces when you get frustrated. Find your strength, find what it takes to get you (and others) through to the finish. Hold on to that competitive sense in you that you won’t give up.

Enjoy the challenges! Notice, celebrate and remember the successes – even the little wins.

“Give it it’s due course. Find that stickiness and stick with it! This work can feel lonely at times, find other ‘glue mats’ and stick with them. Look after each other and look after yourself.” – Shane Phillips, Lake Cargelligo Community Connector




Related capabilities

  • Maintaining energy and passion: “Making it happen” doesn’t always happen fast sometimes it’s a sprint, but more often than not it’s an endurance test with plenty of obstacles (hurdles!). As the process unfolds, teams lean on those things that help them “maintain energy and passion”
  • Thinking and acting strategically towards the broader goal: when you dig deeper into “making it happen” – beyond the action-oriented part – we really start talking about another capability, “thinking and acting strategically towards the broader goal”