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Meet the young leader who's been chosen to hang with the Obamas next month

After years working ‘behind the scenes’ to ensure social justice campaigns succeed, Tim Middlemiss will step into the spotlight next month, taking up a prestigious position in the inaugural cohort of Obama Foundation Leaders of the Asia-Pacific region. And yes, Barack and Michelle will be there.

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In some circles, Tim is best known for his work as Tim Costello’s sidekick – or “2 Timothy” as Costello himself jokes – having remained an advisor to the prominent leader after serving as his Chief of Staff at World Vision Australia. Costello is clearly thrilled to see his sidekick awarded such a prestigious opportunity.

“He has insight, competence, good judgment and amazing skills in communication.” – Tim Costello

“I have enjoyed many different Chiefs of Staff at World Vision Australia and Tim was the best. He has insight, competence, good judgment and amazing skills in communication,” Costello told Eternity.

“I have known for some years now that he would go a long way and I am pleased – not surprised – that Obama has recognised the same!”

These days Tim (Middlemiss, that is) begrudgingly describes himself as a “consultant for social impact” – which he knows sounds like one of those ubiquitous job titles that nobody is exactly sure how to interpret. In Tim’s case though, it’s a fairly literal description of the work he does strategising behind the scenes to see initiatives with the potential to change society for the better actually succeed.

Take, for example, his work as part of the behind-the-scenes team that delivered the Kids off Nauru campaign – one of the most successful Australian social justice campaigns of recent years. Or as a founding member of social enterprise “Agency”, which developed creative solutions for not-for-profits like TEAR, Amnesty Australia and Cancer Council NSW, and also led the United Nation’s largest global digital vote for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Tim’s even helped out here at Eternity – again, behind the scenes – as co-producer of “The Good Vote”, our unique podcast which saw the likes of Natasha Stott Despoja AM, Prof Tim Flannery and Dr Susan Carland discussing the issues that mattered most to Australian Christians in the lead up to the 2019 election.

“I found out I was selected while sitting in a caravan park in Western Australia, in my board shorts, watching my daughter try and play mini-golf … It didn’t seem real then and it still doesn’t now.” – Tim Middlemiss

Named as one of just 200 emerging civic leaders chosen from the public, private and non-profit sectors for their work on a variety of issues, ranging from education to environment to entrepreneurship, Tim says he is still pinching himself about the Obama Foundation opportunity.

“I found out I was selected while sitting in a caravan park in Western Australia, in my board shorts, watching my daughter try and play mini-golf … It didn’t seem real then and it still doesn’t now.”

“I remember staying up to the early hours to watch the Obama election. Right now, I feel honoured, ridiculously excited and, if I’m honest, mostly surprised that I will have this opportunity.”

The Asia-Pacific cohort, representing 33 nations and territories in the region, will convene in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from December 10-14 for an intensive 5-day workshop in skill and leadership development training.

But that’s just start. The gathering will kick off a year-long leadership program designed to connect emerging leaders from around the world and provide them with training from some of the world’s most prominent thinkers.

“The Foundation is all about community building,” explains Tim.

“One of the things I shared in the application process is how blessed I’ve been to be part of a community that reaches beyond social barriers, that rolls up its sleeves for those around them, and where people regularly disagree but, more regularly, remain united.

“In fact, all of the community building lessons I’ve learned are tied to that group, the global church, who have been community building for two thousand years in every corner of the world.”

“What I’m most excited about are the lessons I can bring back from leaders across the region.” – Tim Middlemiss

The Obama Foundation’s Asia-Pacific program follows the Foundation’s inaugural international Leaders program launched in Africa in 2018 and, in their own words, “represents the Foundation’s commitment to the region, along with the belief that these emerging leaders, through the extraordinary work they do in their own communities, have the potential to positively affect change across the globe.”

In Malaysia, Tim will not only meet his cohort, he will also hear from an impressive list of speakers and thought leaders during a series of plenary sessions on topics such as progress and opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region, values-based leadership, and the intersection of purpose and entrepreneurship. Speakers include: Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes, Malaysian entrepreneur and co-founder of AirAsia; Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, Director of External Affairs at the Green Climate Fund; and Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds.

Once home, Tim’s will receive a year’s worth of remote mentorship from the Foundation through webinars, a virtual speaker series, plus personal support and more.

“While the Summit is one thing, what I’m most excited about are the lessons I can bring back from leaders across the region; places where grassroots churches are growing at incredible rates and where non-profits are seeing amazing community transformation. I’d love to see more of both those things here in Australia,” Tim said.

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