Footprints: Exploring cultural capability
By Sophie Nelson, National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA)
The APS Academy and NIAA are working together to make NIAA’s Footprints program available to the broader APS via APSLearn.
The Footprints program embodies learning that exemplifies the APS Continuous Learning Model through learning design that:
- recognises the benefits of informal learning opportunities and the power of shared learning
- encompasses learning that is user-centric, learner-driven, opportunistic and available ‘in the flow of work’
- engages teams, managers and leaders in the learning experience, and
- encourages reflection and application.
Footprints is a cross-cultural learning and professional development framework. Footprints supports continuous and ongoing development of cross-cultural capability to help meet NIAA’s organisational goals and objectives.
Originally developed in 2019, Footprints aims to ensure all NIAA staff are continually increasing and enhancing their cross-cultural capability, including of First Nations people, cultures, lands and histories.
The elevation of ongoing cultural development as an essential capability for business was the key driver behind the development of Footprints. The goal was to move cultural capability from a compliance activity to one of engagement and transformation.
The power of self-directed learning
What is different about Footprints is that the individual takes the lead in self-directed learning. It’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ format that encourages learners to take responsibility for their own cultural learning journey.
Participants are encouraged to harness their individual curiosity to explore, appreciate and learn about cultures through existing learning activities. Ideally these activities:
- motivate you
- align with specific workplace needs
- increase and enhance your knowledge and understanding of the cultures that make up Australia
- support respectful learning about other cultural backgrounds
- encompass the principles of creating and maintaining a culturally safe work environment.
The activity possibilities are limitless - from reading a book, watching a movie or participating in on Country experiences.
In essence participants undertake a number of activities of their choosing, discuss and track completion with their manager, and undertake a learning reflection.
The learning reflection is used to describe the activity’s impact and linkages to the Footprints learning outcomes. This not only leverages the opportunities for learning within the flow of work but embeds the learning experience through reflection and application.
Developing a culture of continuous learning
Footprints' approach to learning aligns with the APS Continuous Learning Model in practice. Participants have regular conversations with their managers about how Footprints activities support their work performance and the individual drives their own development.
NIAA is developing a culture of continuous learning that deepens individual and collective cultural capability which supports our purpose, vision, values and diversity and inclusion commitments.
Having a user-centric approach to cultural capability means that the learning experiences undertaken by participants are relevant to the work of the NIAA and the individual.
As the Agency at the forefront of producing policy affecting the lives of First Nations people, developing a workforce that has an understanding of First Nations culture contextualises our work.
By linking our learning to organisational strategy and improving cultural capability, we not only grow a richer appreciation of culture, but it results in the provision of better advice, policy and outcomes.
Footprints expectations are now also embedded in Engage (NIAA’s Performance Management Framework) and NIAA’s Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan 2022-25.
Footprints learning library
To help participants select, manage and monitor their activities through Footprints, a library of learning resources has been developed and added to NIAA’s Learning Management System. This provides the option to digitally record reflections and activities throughout the year.
This initiative is expected to create efficiencies for both learners and the organisation. Capturing digital records will also help in efficiently gathering information about participation and impact. A forum option is also available for learners to review activities and share thoughts with colleagues.
Leading the way
Following the nomination of Footprints in the 2022 Institute of Public Administration’s Spirit of Service Awards, Footprints received the runners up award in the learning category.
The judging Panel commended the Framework for its simplicity, ease of practical application and its potential for buy in from the ground up.
Our ongoing goal is to continue to evolve Footprints and expand its use beyond NIAA. Through sharing this practical Framework beyond the NIAA, we hope to enhance ongoing respectful cultural learning in more workplaces. In turn, this demonstrates the positive outcomes that can be achieved through growing cultural understanding.
If you have any queries or would like to know more about NIAA’s Footprints program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also download the NIAA