Engaging the customer: changing the governance of Surf Life Saving, Western Australia Surf Life Saving is the premier coastal rescue authority in Australia. Consisting of over 250 clubs around the Australian coastline, with over 100,000 members, Surf Life Saving provides volunteer beach patrols during summer, using a variety of rescue methods to save over 2,000 people every summer on local beaches. In Western Australia, the organisation sought to reposition itself after a strategic review that highlighted the need to appeal more to the community it served. Surf Life Saving Clubs were seen by
Engaging the customer: changing the governance of Surf Life Saving, Western Australia Surf Life Saving is the premier coastal rescue authority in Australia. Consisting of over 250 clubs around the Australian coastline, with over 100,000 members, Surf Life Saving provides volunteer beach patrols during summer, using a variety of rescue methods to save over 2,000 people every summer on local beaches. In Western Australia, the organisation sought to reposition itself after a strategic review that highlighted the need to appeal more to the community it served. Surf Life Saving Clubs were seen by the community as places that were closed to the public, and surf lifesavers were perceived as authoritarian, aloof and difficult to communicate with. To ensure relevance to the communities that the organisation serves, a cultural change was highlighted as needed by Surf Life Saving to be able to be more inclusive as a movement and embrace the communities in which it operated. It was recognised that the value and reach of SLSWA operations and the opportunities for SLSWA and its members extend far beyond the current operating structure and practices. To this extent the organisation remodelled its core purpose to reflect this change, and used a tagline to illustrate this: SAVING LIVES AND BUILDING GREAT COMMUNITIES The CEO of SLSWA, Paul Andrew (2011), commented on the shift as the move away for from our previous core purpose of Save life. Care for life. Building lives, is seen as a must in the changing culture of surf life saving. Save life, Care for life, Building lives is seen to have a focus that is insular within our own organisation and not broad enough to engage the communities that we seek to embrace. Saving lives and building great communities, encapsulates and extends our core business beyond our current boundaries while reaching out and embracing the community. As an organisation and especially at club level SLSWA saw the need to have processes in place to understand the needs of the wider community and facilitate the necessary change to embrace them, and enhance relevance as an important community partner. In doing so, Surf Life Saving became an initiator and is now identified as a progressive and inclusive organisation a community leader. New government policies and initiatives such as the focus on battling obesity, the need to better protect children and the continued push to engage more ethnic or minority groups provided opportunities for Surf Life Saving in WA to deliver on this message. Projects that engaged ethnic minorities by teaching them surf awareness skills, and brought disadvantaged youth to the beach, proved very popular. Community trends of fast food participation in sport and recreation also saw the introduction of events open to the public where a Bronze Medallion and patrol hours (the minimum requirements for surf lifesavers) were no longer required for participation. Discussion questions 10 Why do you think SLSWA adopted this strategic intent to drive their sport business? 11 What current socio-economic issues could be adopted by similar organisations to change focus to become more reflective of society in general?
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