Redefining Success: How Changing a Scholarship Application Process is Contributing to a Community of Emerging Thought Leaders

Our conference presentation showcases how creative thinking transformed a stagnant scholarship program into a thriving talent initiative. Our journey began in response to declining applications for the Margery C. Ramsay and Barrett Reid Scholarships, awarded in alternate years by the Library Board of Victoria. In 2022, only five applications were received for the Margery C. Ramsay Scholarship, with none selected.

Our problem was how might the State Library Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria collaboration increase the level of applications for the Margery C Ramsay and Barrett Reid Scholarships, while ensuring inclusivity and attracting a diverse pool of emerging leaders with a strong aptitude for leadership and big picture thinking? Our response used human-centered design principles and redefined success metrics as we restructured the scholarship application process into stages: Recruitment, Ideation, Pitch, and Proposal.

In 2023, we embraced Design Thinking and Lean Thinking principles to shift the focus from passive competition process to a program of nurturing emerging leaders—it was a dynamic shift. The redesigned program introduced new features such as talent pipelining, group briefings, cross-promotion, and sector presentations. Our main focus was improving application quality by offering detailed feedback early in the process, ensuring that all participants received guidance before finalizing their proposals, a departure from the usual practice of post-submission feedback.

Dedication to feedback extended to every stage of the application process, with feedback cycles occurring between each phase. Applicants’ ideas were presented to sector leaders to ensure that ideas met sector needs and were desirable, viable, and feasible. In other words, ideas were already vetted by the intended audience before proposals were submitted. This coaching and development process grew the confidence of applicants and developed their understanding of the sector needs as they moved toward refining their final proposal.

Surprisingly, the final applicants of the program spontaneously formed a support group as we approached the proposal stage, beautifully underscoring our objective to foster a sense of community rather than competition among applicants. This holistic approach to people and innovation empowers libraries to nurture talent, expand capacity, and maintain their role in communities. Our success lies in proactive recruitment, talent development, human-centered design, and strategic investments. Libraries must create an emotionally safe profession, engaging, empathizing, and fostering experimentation to remain relevant. We are confident that our process modifications will produce exceptional results. Given the outstanding calibre of work that has been submitted, we anticipate a challenging decision-making process.

We eagerly look forward to sharing further insights about this transformative journey and outcomes with conference attendees.

Nadyne Eggleton

Senior Program Manager, State Library Victoria

Author Bio

Collaborating with CEOs, Library Managers, and Senior Leaders to deliver Statewide Programs Nadyne brings extensive project experience to the table, specifically LEAN and Agile skills and experience. Their expertise lies in creative and transformational project management. With a strategic mindset, Nadyne navigates the intersection of design, business strategy, and processes, driving innovation and breakthrough improvements and prioritizing the value of respect for people.