Who We Are

Core facilitation team

James Whelan

James Whelan

James Whelan (director) is director of the Change Agency, a not-for-profit that provides education and training, facilitation and strategy support for social change groups in Australia, the Pacific and Asia. In this role, he has facilitated campaign strategy, decision-making and evaluation workshops and meetings with hundreds of social movement organisations. He is director of the Community Organising Fellowship, an intensive, structured six-month training program for campaigners.

James has been a public interest organiser for three decades, campaigning on issues including climate change and air pollution, sustainable transport, forest conservation and human rights. He has also enjoyed 15 years as an academic and social scientist, working at several universities and think tanks.

James lives with his partner in Muloobinba (Newcastle) on the land of the Awabakal people.

Adele Neale

Adele Neale

Adele Neale is a 2016 COF fellow and a community organiser at Environment Victoria since 2015, following various roles with other climate campaign organisations. With a background in botany and marine biology, she loves nature and has developed a passion for shifting culture towards protecting the amazing world we get to live in, led by those most affected. Adele has worked with teams of local volunteers in Victoria’s most marginal seats, to build lasting public support for government action on climate change through thousands of conversations with voters. She particularly enjoys training and loves bringing people together to share knowledge and decide to do bold exciting things. She lives on Bunurong/Boonwurrung country in south-east Melbourne, and loves watching the waves roll in at sunset with friends.

Maxwell Smith

Maxwell Smith

Maxwell Smith
Max is a Clean Air Campaigner at Environmental Justice Australia, where he works with communities and health experts to control toxic pollution from coal-fired power stations. Max previously worked at the Australian Conservation Foundation, where he was a community organiser for three and a half years: recruiting, training and building the infrastructure to support a national network of volunteers running ACF campaigns in electorates across the country. Max started life as a campaigner and organiser with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. Max has a law degree, but he’s never been admitted to practice as a lawyer. He preferred the idea of being a grassroots campaigner! Max is a 2016 graduate of the Community Organising Fellowship and a holds post-graduate qualification in community advocacy. Max likes dancing, playing soccer and performing stand-up comedy.

Larissa Baldwin

Larissa Baldwin is a young woman from the Widjabul clan of the Bundjalung nation. She now works with GetUp after three years as National Co-Director for Seed where she led campaigns and strategy in partnership with frontline Indigenous communities, empowering young people to create change in their communities.

Erin Laurence

Erin Laurence

Erin Laurence works behind the scenes to keep the Community Organising Fellowship running smoothly. They have a background in flat-structured organising and take great care to ensure the plethora of intersecting and sometimes competing priorities and needs of people and tasks are considered and addressed as efficiently as possible.

Erin takes a great deal of interest in the intersectional political nature of all aspects of life, and enjoys applying an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist perspective to virtually any issue or challenge, and working through solutions with the prioritisation of needs of oppressed and marginalised groups and people foremost in mind.

Erin is a qualified graphic designer, and has worked in a great variety of areas, from helping run a circus (yes, literally!) to working in the human services sector, to casting and producing national TV ad campaigns, and helping set up non-profit accounting and payroll systems, among many other varied roles both paid and voluntary.

You will often find Erin working from home, watering the sunflowers, and working on a pottery wheel or with a crochet hook in their spare time.

Holly Buntman-Ronnenberg

Holly Buntman-Ronnenberg

Holly Buntman-Ronnenberg has fed each and every cohort since the Fellowship began. Her catering provides us with fabulous vegetarian and vegan meals. The food – and Holly’s commitment to sourcing local, organic and fair-trade supplies – are one of the highlights of the Fellowship. Holly thinks seasonally and focuses on slow food principles.

Reference group

Dave Muhly

 Dave Muhly

Dave Muhly has more than 20 years’ experience in student, community and environmental organising and is the Senior Organising Manager in the Sierra Club’s Eastern Region. He supervises seven staff in five states working on retiring coal-fired power plants and promoting renewables and efficiency, ending mountaintop removal coal mining, and addressing community toxics issues.

Dave has been with the Sierra Club for 14 years, working on public lands, energy, and environmental justice and economic transition issues and has been a national, regional and local trainer of other staff, activists and leaders.

Kate Smolski

Kate Smolski

Kate Smolski, originally from Boston in the US, is an environmental advocate with over 12 years’ experience in grassroots organising, campaign strategy, media relations, policy and lobbying. Kate has worked as a grassroots organiser and campaigner for several leading US environmental non-profits, including Green Corps, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. Kate co-founded the Community Organising Fellowship. Through innovative campaigns and training programs, she has worked with a diverse range of organisations and stakeholders to effectively advocate for action on climate change and clean energy, and for the protection of land and wildlife. From Congressional panels to community halls, her work has focused on effective advocacy, capacity building and the development of broad-based coalitions. Smolski has developed and implemented strategy and organising trainings for dozens of groups in the US and Australia. She moved to Sydney in 2012 and was CEO at the Nature Conservation Council of NSW until 2019, leading a team working for environmental protection in NSW.

Dave Copeman

Dave Copeman

Dave Copeman is an experienced community organiser. He was the founding organiser of the Queensland Community Alliance, an alliance of faith organisations, unions, community groups and ethnic associations in Queensland, working to build power for the common good. Dave has been a human rights campaigner for Amnesty International in Queensland and East Africa, and was first inspired to work on human rights after volunteering with the Movement for Democratic Change, the political opposition in Zimbabwe. He has also worked for trade unions as a campaigner and as a political advisor. Dave is currently living in Spain with his family, watching football in more reasonable hours, and trying to write about organising.  

Ian Lisser

Ian Lisser

Ian Lisser is Lead Organiser with the Finance Sector Union in Sydney. As well as having a long history in various roles in the union movement spanning 30 years, from shop floor delegate to union President. Ian is also known for his work in GetUp! and Amnesty International as an activist trainer and facilitator. Ian undertook the COF Fellowship in 2017, the Australian Progress Fellowship in 2016 and the Harvard Leadership, Organising and Action: Leading Change executive program in 2018 as well as having undertaken training with the ACTU, Plan to Win, Ayni Institute and the International Institute for Peace (IIP) and International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict. As well as being focused on organising and building workers power via representative workplace structures and networks, Ian focus in on member to member recruitment, leadership development, mentoring and training of both organisers and workplace leaders.

Jane Stabb

Jane Stabb

Jane Stabb is the Community Organising Program Manager at Environment Victoria. Jane leads a team that is building power for the Victorian environment movement, working with *incredible* volunteer and community groups in key areas and across the state to stop climate change and protect our precious environment. Jane cut her teeth grassroots organising and delivering field campaigns in Melbourne’s beautiful south eastern burbs, and is managing a program that uses an organising approach to deliver campaign outcomes on climate and clean energy. She has worked as a campaigner, organiser and facilitator in the climate and environment movements and believes that if we build enough power, we can stop climate change.

What are people saying about us?

Shani Tager

Shani Tager, Friends of the Earth

The fellowship has been really useful in helping me become more disciplined in the strategic planning process and able to clearly communicate why we’re doing what we’re doing. The facilitation team have been fantastic and having theory drawn out from our own experiences and then immediately applied to our campaigns means I’ll be returning to my team with a solid analysis of how we can be more effective.
2014-05-10T21:52:42+10:00
Shani Tager
The fellowship has been really useful in helping me become more disciplined in the strategic planning process and able to clearly communicate why we’re doing what we’re doing. The facilitation team have been fantastic and having theory drawn out from our own experiences and then immediately applied to our campaigns means I’ll be returning to my team with a solid analysis of how we can be more effective.

Alana West, Quit Coal organiser

The fellowship has equipped me with a deeper understanding of what community organising is, and how it can best be applied. Through my learnings I have been challenged to move from tactics-based campaigning to more strategic, long-term campaigning. I understand better where my campaign and my community fit into the incredible tapestry that is the environment and climate movement in Australia.
2015-03-17T21:00:54+11:00
The fellowship has equipped me with a deeper understanding of what community organising is, and how it can best be applied. Through my learnings I have been challenged to move from tactics-based campaigning to more strategic, long-term campaigning. I understand better where my campaign and my community fit into the incredible tapestry that is the environment and climate movement in Australia.
Nic clyde

Nic Clyde, Climate team leader, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Before coming into this cohort, my community organising ability was – at best – intuitive, with not much structure and theory... or ‘all hat and no horse’ (as the Texans say). This is starting to change. This fellowship has reinvigorated my thirst to become a better campaigner. It has built my skills in strategy and community organising. It has connected me with a mob who are passionate, connected and willing to help out in whatever way they can. Thanks!
2014-05-23T16:40:41+10:00
Nic clyde
Before coming into this cohort, my community organising ability was – at best – intuitive, with not much structure and theory... or ‘all hat and no horse’ (as the Texans say). This is starting to change. This fellowship has reinvigorated my thirst to become a better campaigner. It has built my skills in strategy and community organising. It has connected me with a mob who are passionate, connected and willing to help out in whatever way they can. Thanks!
Jane Stabb

Jane Stabb, Community Organiser, Environment Victoria

The Community Organising Fellowship workshop was extraordinarily impactful for me. I had a chance to investigate the theory behind effective organising and campaigning tools that I can use in my practice every day but very rarely interrogate or reflect on.  I found new frameworks and structures that will improve my practice so much. I had the space and place to interrogate my campaign with the assistance of masters!  And I was given the opportunity to build relationships with leaders in my field, to be supported in my thinking by them and to support them by sharing our practice and experiences... 100% pure gold.
2014-05-23T16:45:53+10:00
Jane Stabb
The Community Organising Fellowship workshop was extraordinarily impactful for me. I had a chance to investigate the theory behind effective organising and campaigning tools that I can use in my practice every day but very rarely interrogate or reflect on.  I found new frameworks and structures that will improve my practice so much. I had the space and place to interrogate my campaign with the assistance of masters!  And I was given the opportunity to build relationships with leaders in my field, to be supported in my thinking by them and to support them by sharing our practice and experiences... 100% pure gold.
John Hepburn

John Hepburn, Outreach Manager, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

When you stop learning, you stop growing. For social movements and organisations to grow and develop, they need to learn from their successes and failures. The Change Agency have played a key role in helping Greenpeace to do this, to reflect on our work, to focus on what is effective, and to map out some exciting new strategic directions. They've supported our staff and volunteers with some great practical training on campaign strategy, and, of course, they've been a joy to work with.
2014-03-30T07:35:05+11:00
John Hepburn
When you stop learning, you stop growing. For social movements and organisations to grow and develop, they need to learn from their successes and failures. The Change Agency have played a key role in helping Greenpeace to do this, to reflect on our work, to focus on what is effective, and to map out some exciting new strategic directions. They've supported our staff and volunteers with some great practical training on campaign strategy, and, of course, they've been a joy to work with.

Chris Henderson, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

I want to seriously thank you for the huge contribution I believe you're contributing to the peace/activist community, not only in Brisbane but also nationally and undoubtedly beyond. Profound. For starters, the resources on your website, they are so good and I'll continue to use them with our WILPF branch, and to spread info about them more widely. For WILPF Qld, the MAP workshop and resources have seriously contributed to the transformation of our branch, helping to focus and get into action in relation to the nuclear cycle, in conjunction with many other organisations that have joined the Qld Nuclear Free Alliance. And maybe will have effect way beyond that.
2014-03-30T07:44:52+11:00
I want to seriously thank you for the huge contribution I believe you're contributing to the peace/activist community, not only in Brisbane but also nationally and undoubtedly beyond. Profound. For starters, the resources on your website, they are so good and I'll continue to use them with our WILPF branch, and to spread info about them more widely. For WILPF Qld, the MAP workshop and resources have seriously contributed to the transformation of our branch, helping to focus and get into action in relation to the nuclear cycle, in conjunction with many other organisations that have joined the Qld Nuclear Free Alliance. And maybe will have effect way beyond that.

Jess Kirby, GetUp! organiser

The Change Agency fellowship has been a completely transformative experience for all of us. I’ve met 22 of the most diverse, interesting organisers and campaigners in the country, and been trained by more than a dozen experts on everything from critical pathways, to the history of the environment movement in Australia, to NationBuilder best practice. I can’t recommend this program highly enough.  
2015-03-17T20:50:52+11:00
The Change Agency fellowship has been a completely transformative experience for all of us. I’ve met 22 of the most diverse, interesting organisers and campaigners in the country, and been trained by more than a dozen experts on everything from critical pathways, to the history of the environment movement in Australia, to NationBuilder best practice. I can’t recommend this program highly enough.  
Meghan and Lilly

Meghan Halverson, Queensland Koala Crusaders

I am so very grateful for the Change Agency’s perspective in helping to coordinate and inspire our group.  The weekend at Wild Mountains to begin to create the foundation of our national koala alliance will certainly be a highlight of 2014. The combination of your amazing resources and the collaborative facilitation helped to provide a cohesive, motivating structure for the path forward and a fresh new approach.
2014-05-06T00:41:31+10:00
Meghan and Lilly
I am so very grateful for the Change Agency’s perspective in helping to coordinate and inspire our group.  The weekend at Wild Mountains to begin to create the foundation of our national koala alliance will certainly be a highlight of 2014. The combination of your amazing resources and the collaborative facilitation helped to provide a cohesive, motivating structure for the path forward and a fresh new approach.

Ben Margetts, Australian Youth Climate Coalition 2007

I wanted to express how grateful I was for the experience to work with Sam and James. It was very special for me to interact with a part of social movements that I feel a lot of affinity with. I also think tCA shows a great example of 'best practice' in regard to organisational interactions. We at the AYCC have benefited immensely from working with you not just in your capacity as trainers, and the learning that was facilitated, but also with tCA as an organisation.
2014-03-30T07:33:22+11:00
I wanted to express how grateful I was for the experience to work with Sam and James. It was very special for me to interact with a part of social movements that I feel a lot of affinity with. I also think tCA shows a great example of 'best practice' in regard to organisational interactions. We at the AYCC have benefited immensely from working with you not just in your capacity as trainers, and the learning that was facilitated, but also with tCA as an organisation.
Emilie Carey

Emilie Carey, Solar Citizens


I really admired your facilitation skills. I learnt lots watching you guide us through the evening. I'll definitely be using lessons from last night. You're a total pro and I'm really grateful you're generous enough to share your knowledge.

2016-03-25T10:35:26+11:00
Emilie Carey
I really admired your facilitation skills. I learnt lots watching you guide us through the evening. I'll definitely be using lessons from last night. You're a total pro and I'm really grateful you're generous enough to share your knowledge.