The road to the Games – Invictus Games Sydney 2018 and Deloitte

Sometimes a plan just comes together. An inspiring engagement, the right team and a chance game of wheelchair rugby was the formula which led to Deloitte’s foundational support to bring the Invictus Games to Australia. We talk to Deloitte colleagues Patrick Kidd (now CEO, Invictus Games Sydney 2018) and Ben Rahilly (now COO, Invictus Games Sydney 2018) about the journey to get this far, and what lies ahead in the run up to and after #IG2018.

In general, people’s image of where professional services teams spend most of their time is probably a stereotypical one; corporate headquarters, big cities and head deep in spreadsheets. So many would have been surprised to see a Deloitte team at the Soldier Recovery Centre in Darwin in August 2014. More surprising again has been what has come to pass as a consequence of that engagement.

Soldier Recovery Centres, established by the Army, aim to optimise recovery for sailors, soldiers and airmen requiring complex and long term support as a result of wounds, injuries or illnesses suffered in the military. In August 2014, Ben Rahilly and injured Wallaby Captain Stephen Moore, part of a Deloitte team at the Centre were invited to play a game of wheelchair rugby with some of the wounded soldiers. This was an experience that stayed with them; not only were they impressed by the facilities and staff at the Centre but they were struck by the important role sport played in recovery and what they might do to support this work.

One of the most interesting aspects of the game was that everyone played it, regardless of their requirement for a wheelchair and Ben Rahilly, who had been part of that Deloitte consulting team in Darwin remembers how he felt after that initial game. “The use of wheelchair rugby to support recovery struck me as incredibly powerful, making soldiers active again, getting them back in a team, providing a sense of identity and perhaps most importantly normalising adaptive sport”.

The weekend after the chance game of rugby, Stephen sent a text to Ben saying, “See Prince Harry’s nicked our idea!” in reference to the inaugural Invictus Games taking place in London. And like all the best stories, there was an element of ‘right place, right time, right people.’

Stephen knew the Governor General through Rugby Australia and arranged an appointment to discuss the concept of bringing the Invictus Games Down Under. Being a former soldier, the Governor General was immediately supportive and volunteered himself as an Ambassador and connected Deloitte with the former Chief of Defence Force (and now Invictus Games Sydney 2018 Board Director) Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC. From there the work began, commencing with a feasibility study.

From that initial round of senior approvals, it was full steam ahead. Patrick Kidd (known as PK), who had served in the British and Australian Armies and had most recently served with the US Army in Afghanistan, joined the Deloitte Consulting Strategy and Operations team and was asked to lead the project. He remembers being briefed on why Deloitte wanted to do this. “There was an overwhelming sense that this was, quite simply, the right thing to do. Deloitte is a purpose driven organisation and this was a real attempt to create an impact by focusing our resources and effort around a single purpose. Deloitte had the vision to drive the process and, over a prolonged period, we were able to pull together the team of key stakeholders and partners necessary to deliver the Invictus Games. Throughout, the firm stood behind us and gave us the freedom to breathe life into this incredible enterprise.”

He pinpoints two key moments in the journey. The first was Deloitte’s agreement to support this significant pro-bono effort and the allocation of time and people to create the core team; the second was the creation of a steering committee that brought together the most senior people in the defence community and the corporate sector to guide and advise.  “The trust built through this forum directly led to the Federal Government, through the ADF, committing the initial seed funding, without which the project would have failed at a very early stage.”

Since March 2015, Patrick has been leading the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 team. He is clear on his main objective. “We will host a great Australian Invictus Games which will celebrate the competitors and their families and friends who play such an important role in the recovery and rehabilitation process.  The incredible stories of those taking part will inspire a national and international audience and showcase the amazing qualities of those that serve and the healing power of sport.”

Ben talks us through the type of work the Deloitte team has led from 2014 to this point, as we swiftly approach the Games. “The Deloitte team has driven this process right from the start; we’ve brought together the right people with the right skills at the right time to mobilise the Games.  We have designed and driven the strategy and orchestrated a complex array of stakeholders to take forward the planning. Our role has included the development of the initial feasibility study, preparing and submitting the Games business case, setting up a not-for-profit organisation with the associated governance, processes and frameworks, and building out the team to deliver the Invictus Games.”

And what does a typical day look like now? Both agree that the landscape at the moment is very different from when they started with just the two of them. “From being directly involved in every aspect of the project, PK and I have now transitioned to the oversight of a team of experts that grows every day to deliver the Games. This has been a start-up operation – from the 9 people who were in the team 14 months ago we will grow to a team in excess of 130 full time staff and over 1000 volunteers. Our role is to support these amazing people in any way we can while ensuring that we collectively retain our focus on what the Invictus Games stand for.”

As for what they will take from this experience – they are perhaps wary of looking too far ahead given the scale of what remains to be delivered! But both are equally confident of the benefits to themselves personally, to Deloitte and to our clients from what is being done. In an era where companies and their employees take corporate social responsibility seriously, PK believes the Deloitte experience of supporting the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 helps to show how corporate Australia really can make an impact through pro-bono work. “Through utilising the networks, capabilities and scale of a large organisation, while focusing effort and driving outcomes, firms like Deloitte can support worthy causes to drive real change. On a personal front, I’ve enjoyed learning about setting up and running a business while helping to bring together a great collection of stakeholders around a common purpose.”

Ben is excited about what he can bring to clients once this project is over. “I work supporting COOs in my day job at Deloitte. Having now been one, means I can bring huge empathy and understanding to our clients.  As a project team, we’ve now used many of the Deloitte frameworks from concept to delivery, and have a far deeper understanding of their benefits to clients.”

And the question we had to ask – have they met HRH The Duke of Sussex and what’s he really like? Ben and PK have both been privileged to meet The Duke on a number of occasions. Disappointingly, they didn’t have any insider information about the royal wedding for us! But both confirm that he is far more than a figurehead for the Games.

PK says, “His commitment to the cause is inspiring and his ability to reach out and link with people really does make a difference. He is the undoubted leader of the Invictus Games movement and through his vision, force of character and genuine passion for this community, has helped to bring together veterans and their families from many different countries.”

Both think that one of The Duke’s most important legacies will be how families are included in the Invictus Games. “He realised that the recovery and rehabilitation process is a team effort, and that the families play a key role in this. While the sport is compelling, one of most powerful aspects of the Games is the connection which takes place between competitors and their families – it can be life changing for some.”

The Invictus Games are as much about the legacy they leave as the event itself. PK invests a lot of time making sure that the opportunity offered by the Games is not lost. “These Games allow us to reach out to all of Australia through telling powerful stories of people who have refused to be defined by their injuries.   Ultimately we hope they will provide the impetus to put in place a program that encourages and supports those who have served and their families to reach out and connect through sport.” Now that would truly be making an impact that matters.

Quick takes – PK

What are you doing to relax throughout this?

Keeping healthy, exercising, getting home to see the family. Working with a great team of people who are good fun and supportive of each other helps me maintain balance.

What sport are you most looking forward to seeing at the Games?

Indoor Rowing – it’s an amazing feat, over 300 competitors will row, a frenzy of people together giving their all. I’m also excited to see the Twilight athletics.

Aussie medal count prediction? It’s not about the medals – most powerful stories are about people who simply participate and finish

What’s the first thing you’ll do when it’s all over? I’ll have a cup of tea and a piece of cake with my wife!

One word to describe the experience so far? Humbling

Quick takes – Ben

What are you doing to relax throughout this?
Trying to see my family!

What sport are you most looking forward to seeing at the Games?

I pushed to have sailing included and being an enthusiastic (but poor) sailor myself I can’t wait to see it on Sydney Harbour.
And Wheelchair Rugby is one of the fastest and most furious sports you’ll get to see!

Aussie medal count prediction? Agree it’s not about the medals (but I think the home team will do well!)

What’s the first thing you’ll do when it’s all over? Spend time with my family, perhaps after a bit of kip!

One word to describe the experience so far? Rewarding. The most challenging but rewarding thing I’ve ever worked on.

Deloitte is incredibly proud to be a Founding Partner of the fourth Invictus Games, taking place in Sydney from 20-27 October 2018. For more stories and details visit the Invictus Games webpage. 

 


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