Leadership Matters

Brendon McLean - Prolife Foods

If you are an organisation in the Waikato and you are looking at developing your leaders and building stronger connections across the region there is nothing more impactful for your teams, your business and your region than the CELF Programme.


In all my working life I’d never considered that my participation in an intense leadership programme would have my wife thinking I’d joined a cult! 

Honestly though, the Community Enterprise Leadership Foundation (CELF) programme that I was fortunate enough to be a part of had such a profound impact on my life that I can understand the sentiment.

I was fortunate to be part of the 2016 cohort.   Up until that point in my life, I had had little knowledge or connection with the not-for-profit sector. And certainly, I had no appreciation of how spending the next 8 months with 20 people from vastly different sectors would affect my life.   

Through meaningful self-reflection, CELF's programme helped us to understand what and who had influenced us over the course of our lives and shaped us into the  people we had become.    

The conversations and self-reflections with a group of people I had never met were so enlightening and powerful. I quickly gained immense admiration for the individuals working in the not-for-profit sector.      Their humbleness, selflessness and passion for helping people continues to inspire me.

Giving Back

It was through a CELF connection that I was invited to join the board of a not-for-profit organisation called Child Matters.    Child Matters has been around for 25 years and was established to advocate for children effected by child abuse and neglect.   New Zealand has some of the worst statistics in the OECD with an average of one child dying every 35 days due to child abuse and neglect. And every day there are over 220 individual reports of concern received.   

Child Matters is an independent organisation working with government agencies to improve outcomes for children.    One of the largest areas of responsibility is the training of organisations and their staff who work with, or around, children to help them identify and respond to possible cases of child abuse and neglect.   

Child protection training is currently not required in any industry which, in my view, is simply wrong and we are working to change this.

The team at Child Matters are humble and selfless in their dedication and are making some significant progress.     However, with so many priorities it can be difficult to know where to start.   

Most not-for-profits live in the “here and now” due to funding or sector constraints. It is a privilege to be able to contribute to this remarkable organisation in ways that complement their existing expertise and knowledge. 

Working with the organisation over the last 6 years, I truly feel I have gained so much more than what I’ve contributed.  I get to work with a group of people who have dedicated their lives to improving outcomes for children and that, to me, is both motivating and energising.

My Journey

My journey at Child Matters started because of Bernie, Kaye Crosby, David Irving  and the other co-founders of CELF who decided to initiate a programme with a simple goal of connecting business and not-for-profit organisations.   Although this appeared to be a crazy idea at the time, and had never really been seen anywhere else in the world, it has worked on so many different levels.

I will be eternally grateful for the many opportunities and learnings it has afforded me, but especially for allowing me to connect and work with an organisation like Child Matters.     

Prolife Foods together with the  APL, ASP, BNZ, Fosters, PowerFarming, Schick, Trinity Lands and WEL Energy Trust continue to be supporters of the CELF who deliver the Elevate Leadership Programme with the University of Waikato. 

Every year, a leader from each of these sponsor organisations, alongside an individual from the not-for-profit sector, is sponsored to participate in each year’s cohort.

With each year there are more graduates, who will only too willingly share their story of impact of the programme on themselves, the organisation they work for and their community. 

Brendon McLean  - Prolife Foods
Brendon McLean

Prolife Foods


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