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Learn For Yourself

An educated business move                                    

Albert Park’s Learn For Yourself adult education provider hopes to help even more local residents and do it better thanks to some timely advice to its management committee chair by the Small Business Mentoring Service. 

Learn For Yourself is a not-for-profit pre-accredited community education organisation. It has offered practical technology and arts courses to inner Melbourne residents for more than 25 years 

After joining the organisation’s Committee of Management (COM), Alison Boughey wanted to ensure she had the right skills to do the best possible job so sought SBMS help. As a result, she is well placed to contribute to the organisation and help it to expand both its numbers and programs. 

Alison has owned and run Alison Boughey Consulting for seven years. She became the voluntary Chair of the Learn For Yourself Committee of Management in April 2012 and still runs her business. 

“Most of my career has been spent working in the health sector,” Alison says. “I wanted to contribute to the community more and learn more about corporate governance through being on a Board / COM. 

“The opportunity to be on the COM of a learning organisation I thought would broaden my perspective beyond the health sector and provide me with a valuable learning opportunity.”

 Learn For Yourself is a not for profit pre-accredited community education organisation. It is primarily funded by the Victorian Government under its Adult Community and Further Education Section, now known as Learn Local, and the City of Port Phillip.

 Its mission is to deliver high quality learning experiences in the City of Port Phillip, primarily for people with limited opportunities due to factors such as disability, age and social disadvantage. 

 Learn For Yourself is run by a manager who is responsible to the COM. It offers low-fee classes in technology/computer studies, music and art. Volunteers help run the classes and the organisation has eight part-time and casual workers. The training is all pre-accredited.

 Being new to the role, Alison felt she could benefit from a mentor. She discovered SBMS through Learn Local.

 “As I was new to the role of being a Committee member and Chair of the Committee, I didn’t know what I didn’t know so I thought it would be good to have someone to guide me through the first few months in the role,” Alison says. 

Alison was matched with mentor Elizabeth Raut. Elizabeth spent 10 years as the Victorian manager of the Australian Institute of Architects, where she worked on all aspects of running an organisation including finances. Before this she worked in the health sector in a range of business-related roles. 

The SBMS is a non-government non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it. 

Alison initially had five in-person sessions over five months with Elizabeth under a program which saw the ACFE engage SBMS to train and mentor Learn Local COMs. 

They used resources from the ACFE Board’s Learn Local Committee of Management Capability Framework, which helps COMs to effectively meet their governance obligations.  

The resources include a workbook and a self-assessment tool designed to provide tailored advice. During their mentoring sessions, Elizabeth advised Alison in a range of areas, including:

  • Skills needed in a not-for-profit COM
  • Identifying the competencies she has to contribute to the organisation
  • Giving time to the CEO, who reports to the Board through the Chair
  • Assisting the CEO in the capability areas of planning, directing, overseeing, engaging and supporting
  • Contributing at the strategic level and to leave the operational leadership to the CEO
  • Taking a leadership role in preparing for and conducting the COM meetings
  • Websites providing information for COMs in the not-for-profit sector.              


Learn For Yourself does not make a profit, but the mentoring has helped Alison and the organisation as a whole to move forward on a strong and confident footing. 

Elizabeth says Alison is now focusing on growing the organisation through encouraging the manager to expand the range of programs offered to the community and develop partnerships with other organisations to increase the service delivery output 

“Alison is now more confident in the role as Chair and more comfortable in being a leader in this organisational context,” Elizabeth says. “She is working hard at making a major contribution to this organisation.” 

Alison has maintained contact with Elizabeth and says she helped her to better understand her role. This boosted her confidence to make appropriate decisions and take appropriate actions in her role as Chair/President. Her understanding of her role has also improved, reducing the stress that arose from uncertainty about its boundaries. 

“One of our goals is to grow the organisation in order to improve its viability and sustainability,” Alison says. “There is some early evidence to suggest we are on this path.” 

Alison says her experience with Elizabeth has been “incredibly valuable”. 

“As well as so generously sharing her own personal experiences as a CEO and Board / COM member, Elizabeth has directed me to a range of useful resources that I was previously unaware of including many SBMS resources such as the Learn Local Committee of Management Workbook,” she says. 

“With Elizabeth, I have been able to work through specific events and issues that have arisen in performing my role as Committee member and Chair.  

“We are able to talk about these in a confidential environment that enables learning and growth to occur.  Elizabeth is always encouraging and never judgemental, which fosters a safe and open environment for exploring issues and events in a way that is useful and educational.”

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SBMS is proudly supported by the Victorian Government & Small Business Victoria