The University of Newcastle teamed up with the Jack Ma Foundation to deliver an innovative scholarship experience incorporating leadership development, facilitation training and local and international cultural immersions across a three-year journey.


In 2019, Jamie Pomfrett and the University of Newcastle engaged Polykala to design and deliver the training and development aspect of the university’s renowned Ma & Morley scholarship program. 

The project would involve delivering an intensive on Adaptive Leadership to the scholars in their second year of their scholarship journey and a train-the-trainer intensive on Facilitation to the scholars in their third year who were responsible for welcoming new scholars entering the program.

In Jamie’s words: “We needed training and facilitators who could deliver a leadership program of excellence which met the standard and expectations of our University’s flagship and globally recognised scholarship program. Our group of scholars are diverse culturally and academically. We needed training and facilitators who could create an atmosphere of trust, while being sensitive and aware of when and how to push, challenge and stretch the learning environment. This was a tough ask. We searched far and wide to find an organisation who could fit this bill. Some organisations could fit some, but not all of our requirements. Polykala demonstrated the professionalism, rigour, creativity and personable nature to give us confidence they could deliver on our challenging request.”


The aim of the leadership development component of the program was to provide the scholars with a shared language around leadership and cultural change. Central to the design of the leadership intensive was a set of tools on how leadership can be practised individually and collectively. Given the centrality of cohort relationships to their scholarship journey, the sessions built on their strong culture to provide an opportunity for the participants to challenge themselves and their thinking to prepare them for the challenges they will face in their respective fields.

The facilitation train-the-trainer intensive was designed with a clear outcome in mind: for the scholar-facilitators to feel confident and prepared to provide the kind of induction experience that they had had when newly entering the program. The facilitation training was composed of a brief education on facilitation as a learning mode and the key ingredients of designing facilitated experiences. With the help of Polykala’s experienced trainers, participants co-designed and, importantly, practised the aspects of the induction program they were about to deliver.

“Polykala created a positive learning which invited full engagement from all participants. There was a great balance between ‘theory’ and interactive activities to explore the key concepts. They were able to adapt their workshop design to our needs and use any unexpected challenges as case studies to explore the key concepts of the workshop. This adaptability is a joy to watch and is a terrific learning for the group.”

Jamie Pomfrett – Program Coordinator, Ma & Morley Scholarship Program, University of Newcastle


Polykala has now delivered training to five cohorts of the Ma & Morley scholarship program and it remains one of our proudest collaborations. To have the opportunity to influence, and be influenced by, the remarkable individuals that comprise the scholarship cohorts is incredibly rewarding. One of the noteworthy outcomes is the expansion of facilitation capacity within the cohort. We’ve now worked with successive years of scholars to take on the role of designing and delivering the Welcome program. Scholars who have undergone our adaptive leadership have stayed in contact with us, the program and have a increased appetite to hone their new found skills and give back. We’re delighted to continue our partnership with the University of Newcastle and the Ma & Morley scholars.

“Polykala exceeded our expectations for both of the training sessions provided. Polykala are astute at ensuring they set out to achieve what is asked of them. From the early consultation they engaged in conversation and asked the right questions to help clarify exactly what it was that we wanted to achieve. During their delivery it is clear they are very well planned and have a number of measures to ensure that they stay focused  and keep the participants on track for why they are there.”

Jamie Pomfrett – Program Coordinator, Ma & Morley Scholarship Program, University of Newcastle


University of Newcastle


2019 – Present

Number of participants


Number of sessions



Newcastle (NSW), Online