• Co-Leadership: A enabler of greater leadership diversity in the cultural sector?

    Written by Dr. Claire Antrobus | Coach, Facilitator, Trainer & Consultant

    The recent past has seen an explosion in interest in co-leadership across other sectors internationally and new experiments in co-leadership in the UK cultural sector in response to an increasingly challenging operating context and an urgency to increase diversity. Recent adopters of co-leadership in the cultural sector are experimenting with less familiar models including co-CEO part-time job-shares; co-CEO models that avoid the executive/artistic binary and co-AD models. Across the UK cultural sector organisations are recruiting co-leaders for the first time, for example the appointment of Zak Mensah and Sara Wajid at Birmingham Museums Trust who are the first co-CEOs of a major museum. The Royal Shakespeare Company announced the appointment of its first co-Artistic Directors in 2022, following a growing trend that includes Clean Break, Royal Exchange Manchester, Diverse City and Paines Plough among others. Sometimes co-leaders job-share, working part-time around caring/parenting responsibilities or external artistic projects, other times the co-CEOs are both full-time roles.

    Internationally co-leadership is beginning to be viewed by commentators in healthcare, higher education, business, and non-profits and as a vehicle for enabling greater diversity in leadership. Others go further still, suggesting co-leadership enables a more inclusive organisational culture and offers an alternative to highly gendered leadership norms. In the business sectorco-leadership has been found to offer competitive advantage and improved profitability and performance by widening the leadership capabilities and perspectives available to organisations facing unparalleled challenges in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) operating environment.

    In March The Office for Leadership Transition launched my new research into co-leadership and diversity, funded by Clore Leadership and Arts and Humanities Research Council. Chaired by the amazing Sandeep Mahal MBE at the launch event we heard directly from four of the case study organisations – if you missed it you can watch it here. I also recently presented my findings at a seminar about co-leadership at the University of Exeter Business School, convened by Professor Ciara Eastell OBE. At both these events, and talking to the Clore Emerging Leaders this month, I’ve been struck by the enthusiasm many have for co-leadership. To many of us it feels like such a logical model, both from a business-need perspective and in terms of widening the pool of who can apply for executive roles and I expect it’s a model we’ll be seeing a lot more of in future both inside the cultural sector and beyond it. However, currently, except for the Artistic/ Executive Director model in Theatre, co-leadership still far from common practice.

    So whilst I began my research asking the question ‘can co-leadership enable greater diversity in leadership?’ I quickly concluded it could and instead found myself asking why isn’t this model more widespread and what could enable boards to more fully consider this option when recruiting senior roles? If you’re interested in the diversity case for co-leadership then you read more in my recent Arts Professional article or in a longer article on my website.

    The six main barriers that emerged from the survey and interviews as limiting use of co-leadership in the UK cultural sector currently are summarised in the illustration below, along with the factors driving change in the case study organisations who’s recently adopted the model.

    The barriers are:

    • A lack of information about how co-leadership works – co-leadership is not yet widely practised or understood; only 26% of survey respondents had experience either of working in a co-leadership role or for an organisation where the model was in use. 90% wanted to understand more about practical arrangements, including how these roles are recruited. Boards also often have reservations about the model and co-leaders I interviewed had often been questioned in detail about practicalities during the selection process.

    Therefore I’ve created some practical resources to address this lack of information:

    The Co-leadership Libraryhttps://coleadership.info – an online resource to host the growing collection of case studies I’ve written and articles I’ve written or founds useful on the topic. These cover how roles were recruited and how co-leaders approach working together practically.

    The Co-leadership User Guide – a practical free guide to what co-leadership is and how it works for potential co-leaders and their Boards. This includes sections tailored to Boards and potential co-leaders.

    • Very few roles are proactively advertised as open to co-leadership – 98% of survey respondents said they did not see many roles advertised on this basis. Within the case study examples only one was externally advertised as a co-leadership role, with another two welcoming flexible applications. Four arose through internal reorganisations and a further two resulted from employers changing their leadership model during, or shortly after, recruitment. The other two were externally advertised as single-leader roles with the applicants proposing a job-share solution. I would urge all organisations recruiting senior roles to consider co-leadership as an option and if they are open to receiving job-share and/or co-leadership applications to make this clear in their recruitment materials.
    • Lack of recruitment expertise – executive recruitment in the UK cultural sector is led by board members, sometimes supported by internal HR specialists or external consultants although many organisations lack access to relevant expertise. Too often when an outgoing leader departs, the board rushes to replace them without first reviewing what is needed, or assessing the market and designing an effective and inclusive recruitment process. Selecting the CEO is one of the most important roles for any board and I would advise seeking specialist advice around designing and recruiting the role. The cost of external support can be prohibitive for smaller organisations, but even if you can’t afford a full executive search service some consultants will advise on the role design and recruitment elements.
    • Trustee preference for full-time leaders – 83% of survey respondents reported that they felt trustees preferred a full-time leader. Even among employers who have adopted and value co-leadership there were initial concerns about the implications of having leaders working part-time. It’s time we recognise this attitude as discriminatory and hopefully the case studies showing how well part-time co-leadership is working in many organisations will help update how boards see flexible working.
    • Fear of conflict between leaders or lack of accountability – some boards fear shared responsibility could complicate accountability. Sometimes awareness of co-leadership arrangement that was not successful is viewed as evidence the model doesn’t work; instead of considering that the recruitment may have been flawed or the arrangement not well-managed. There is no reason why co-leadership can’t work well – and lots of examples where it does, as well as over fifty years’ research into what enables success and what needs to be avoided. The User Guide draws on this research to provide advice about how to approach co-leadership to ensure it is successful, for co-leaders and their boards.
    • Concerns about additional costBoards assume co-leadership involves doubling leadership costs. But whilst most co-leadership arrangements involve some additional cost, usually by 20% in a job-share with two leaders each working three days a week, it can be cost neutral. And in case study organisations which had increased leadership costs they had often been able to create savings elsewhere in the wider staff structure.

    What is driving uptake of co-leadership?

    Where co-leadership has been introduced the Chair has often been instrumental. In several case studies the chair had championed the model, persuading stakeholders that the benefits outweighed any potential risks. They had also supported the change process when a new model had been introduced, helping ensure internal and external stakeholders understood and had confidence in the new ways of working. The chairs I interviewed had also been willing to accept the responsibility and additional support that working with co-leaders meant for them, partly as a result of the appointments being first-time CEOs.

    Hopefully, given the benefits co-leadership offers – including that it enables a larger and more diverse pool of applicants – more Chairs will be willing to accept the challenge of introducing a new leadership model. Others may also find themselves forced to consider new models – three of the case studies initially had difficulty recruiting into their executive vacancies and either had to re-think or re-advertise. Several found themselves having advertised for single roles but realising that they needed to appoint two people instead.

    Increasingly, boards are recognising that the way leadership roles have been configured needs to change, to be more inclusive, if they are to attract the leaders needed for the future. Co-leadership is definitely an option more boards are advised to consider when recruiting senior roles, although they will need to capacity and ability to support co-leaders well.

  • Stories, Stereotypes and Unconscious Bias

    Written by Michèle Taylor MBE | Director of Change, Ramps on the Moon

    Thinking about stories can be really illuminating and powerful when I work with arts and cultural organisations tackling ableism, promoting Disability Equality and elevating the place of disabled people in our mainstream arts landscape.

    Leaving his post with the Race Relations Council, Colin Prescod is reported to have said recently that Unconscious Bias Training is “nonsense”. I can’t speak to the best ways of fighting systemic racism, but I do know that exposing the stories about disability that we are all continually ingesting has proved effective in supporting people to interrogate their unconscious bias towards disabled people.

    Think for a moment about books, plays and television programmes; think of current examples, classics, material for children, and then ask yourself who the disabled, deaf and neurodivergent characters are? Chances are you have come up with a list of characters many of whom fall into one of three lazy tropes: the villain, the victim or the superhero. Think about other representations of disabled people in the media, the road safety billboard which shows a wheelchair as an obvious emblem of the terrible consequences that could follow a failure to buckle up front and back. Or the newspaper adverts playing on our sympathy in order to persuade us to donate to Children in Need or the RNIB.

    These are stories about disabled people and about disability that affect how we think, and I believe we need to be rigorous in checking the stories we have internalised, the stories that, unbeknownst to our conscious mind, impact our behaviours, our language, and our fundamental beliefs. There is some strange mental gymnastics required to accept at face value the poster that uses disability as a cautionary tale and then to live our lives affording equal regard to the lives of disabled and non-disabled (not yet disabled?) people.

    What stories about disabled people do we perpetuate, believe, and elevate, and what stories about disability do we allow to shape our attitudes to disabled people?

    It seems to me that these are fundamental questions that we all need to engage with regularly (and I don’t exclude myself, a disabled person, from that). Only by doing so can we avoid the pitfalls of stereotyping. Walter Lippmann, the American writer and political commentator said that stereotypes are “the pictures in our heads – impressions that reflect subjective perceptions but stand in for objective reality”. The problem with stereotypes is that they are a barrier between us and the individuals behind them.

    So personally, I think a well-designed, well-delivered, compelling, stories-based programme of Unconscious Bias Training is not nonsense when it comes to tackling ableism; in fact, it’s essential.

    Michèle Taylor is the Director of Change at Ramps on the Moon, a collaborative partnership led by the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, and six National Portfolio Organisation theatres funded by Arts Council England, which aims to enrich the stories we tell and the way we tell them in theatre, culture and arts by normalising the presence of deaf and disabled people both on and off stage.

    The work of Ramps on the Moon is fundamental to the sector in transforming perceptions and representations of disability in the mainstream. At an unprecedented time of instability, uncertainty and change within the arts and cultural sector, more funding is needed to support and sustain organisations, collaborations and initiatives like Ramp in the Moon, who have such a vital role to play in engendering equity, diversity and inclusion. If you are interested in learning more about the work of Ramps on the Moon, or are interested in collaborations, ideas exchange and co-development or co-learning practices, please get in touch with Michèle here.

  • How can we be good ancestors?

    Some provocations for embedding climate activism into your practice
    By Adam Cooper | Director, Threads in the Ground. Associate, people make it work.

    What emotion do you feel when you read “climate crisis”?

    If you’re a UK resident there’s a roughly 75% chance you feel (very) worried, accompanied with feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and shame.

    Perhaps you worry about your carbon footprint? And that of your clients’? Are you switching off your lights, buying a Tesla, using a Bag for Life?

    Please just notice whatever you’re feeling and put it to the side for the moment.

    I think it’s important we remember that the phrase “Carbon Footprint” was coined by British Petroleum – part of a brilliantly successful PR campaign designed to shift responsibility on to the individual. It has deeply embedded the idea in our collective psyche that this is all our fault.

    That feeling you set aside earlier, it has been done to you. If you feel hopeless, powerless, guilty. If climate action feels intimidating, overwhelming, onerous, that is by design.

    The scale of our guilt and sadness are not measures of how well we live the responsibility and privilege of being ancestors to all who will follow. So, can we make some changes please?

    Which brings me to art and culture.

    The Paris climate agreement takes us to 2030, by which time we need to have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45%. There is scientific consensus that for us to achieve that goal requires a total renaissance of all global systems, policies, technology, and society.

    You and I are about to live through perhaps the most dramatic period of change in human history – it touches EVERYTHING. It doesn’t matter what your cultural practice is, where or how you work – the climate crisis offers us an incredible lens for prompting our best, most expansive, most energetic and optimistic work. Social justice is climate justice, and there is no more fertile creative ground than these ideas and changes reshaping our world.

    So, I want to offer you 3 provocations which I hope will open new avenues for your practice. I hope that by reflecting on these, we can help softly embed climate activism in our every-day work, and that of our clients and communities.

    Here are my thoughts for you…

    1. We happen to be alive during the 7-year window that will shape the lives of all future generations. What does that mean for our ideas of privilege, heritage, and justice?
    2. The scale of change needed globally requires a fully human, democratic response. What do our organisations and institutions need to look and be like, to facilitate such change?
    3. Surely, soon, almost all people will be experiencing their own individual climate anxiety? What does that mean for our work in understanding and serving our communities? 

    We are unknowably powerful and privileged to be alive in this moment. My personal way of honouring that privilege is to embrace climate hope, to immerse myself in the possibilities of climate justice and the creative excitement that brings me. The result of my immersion has been Threads in the Ground, the new climate hope organisation. I will wait in anticipation of what yours will be.

  • Fundraising Options: Beyond NPO support

    Written by Kirsty Falconer | Head of Fundraising and Programme Development

    Future-defining decisions are being made on how – and if – many NPO disappointed organisations across England can viably continue with a funding model untethered by ACE NPO support.  I wanted to share therefore, a few considerations I’ve been talking through with organisations facing this decision to help in understanding if replacing NPO with other fundraising offers a realistic alternative for your financial model.  

    Firstly and fundamentally, there are thousands of funding options out there and with some level of certainty I feel able to say that if you have previously successfully made your case to ACE, whatever the scale of your current turnover or the percentage NPO historically contributed to this, there will be alternative funding options out there for your work. However, while for some organisations this will be a case of upscaling or expanding an existing funding base, for others it will require a more fundamental repositioning that embeds new processes and new priorities into the heart of how you plan, position and resource your work. 

    Phase 1: Research and Realism

    Taking time to scope the landscape of alternative funding opportunities and practicing realism in identifying which are right for your work sits at the foundation of any achievable fundraising plan. 

    Depending on what you do, who you work with, and its scale and impact, striving to quickly realise a fully diversified fundraising model including philanthropy, grants, and sponsorship may not be right for you. Understanding which income streams will have the highest chance of success for your work will allow you to focus your energies and resources in areas where returns are most likely. A researched review can also point you in the direction of the handful of funders who are beginning to think about accessibility in fundraising processes, opening out more equitable application pathways geared to smaller, lower-resourced, and/or diverse-led organisations.

    Initially, prioritising best fit quick-wins and building your base of support rather than trying to meet all opportunities at once or channeling resources into high value, high competition funders will ensure your transition is lower-risk and can sustainably support a longer-term turnaround. 

    Different approaches require different timelines. Individuals and some Corporates can make decisions quickly, however, building networks to make these asks is likely to take longer, and returns are often initially lower. Trusts and Foundations have (mostly!) clearer routes to connect to the funder, but the application process can be resource intensive and long – while all trusts are different, allowing 6-9 months as a guide (depending on a 1 or 2 stage process) from application to decision helps understand how long it might take to see results from fundraising in this area.

    Phase 2: Reflection and Regrouping

    Once you have defined who your “Case for Support” is best made to, it is essential to review how you articulate what you do in alignment to a new (or optimise to an existing) set of priorities. This requires strength and relevance of vision and mission and evidenced articulation of some key points – consider how you are consistently communicating these points in all funding conversations and applications even if the questions you are answering do not directly ask them .

    Why is your work needed? Why is your programme or approach the best response? Why are you best placed to deliver? Why now? Who are you reaching? At what scale? What is the journey with or through your work? How do you use data to tell this story? What are the short and long term impacts and legacies?

    Keep in mind that not all funding decision-makers have expertise or interest in arts or culture – thinking about how your work intersects wider social issues or outcomes is important in broadening the scope of who might feel compelled to support.

    Phase 3: Resourcing and Embedding

    Developing an internal culture of fundraising is essential to effective and efficient delivery of a fundraising strategy but can mean a realignment in the way your team thinks individually and collectively about fundraising. 

    Giving clear and defined roles to everyone in your organisation – including your Board – that integrate fundraising processes as part of every team member’s priority shares the resource requirement and energises fundraising activities. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to start working to income targets, writing applications, or going out and making approaches to their networks (although, in some cases, broadening out the above to members of your team and Board might make sense!). 

    For some teams, this might mean sharing the ability to articulate your 3-5 top organisational priorities to anyone they’re in a relevant conversation with – from members of the public to local councilors. This instantly amplifies your key fundraising messages to a much broader network of potential supporters and possible funders. 

    All of this can feel like a lot to quickly adapt to and get right in the timeline of the NPO transition – with or without the 7 months of ACE transition support. Hopefully the above phases give a sense of what the task and timeline of this process could look like and help sharpen prioritisation. 

    People Make it Work are offering free support sessions for organisations facing this challenge – do get in touch if you’d like further support in thinking through how these phases might relate to the specifics of your organisation.

  • What is a ‘well’ workplace?

    Written by Zara Rush and Becca Pelly-Fry | Co-Founders of IMPRINT

    If you google the definition of wellness you get:

    “Wellness is the act of practising healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving.”

    This definition places emphasis on the individual but what if we could support each other in wellness and thriving? How could workplaces build healthy habits to better support their people to feel well and bring their vital, unique energy to fuel a thriving work ecology. 

    To update the famous 17th century John Donne poem, “No human is an island, entire of itself; every human is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Despite the currently pervasive Western cult of individualism, the scientific reality is that we are not bounded, separated entities; we are porous. Molecules and microbial beings pass in and out of our systems all the time, through the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat; everything breathes everything else. We exist in a living ecosystem, where all life depends on all other life to survive and to thrive. Human beings exist in community, in relation to our surroundings, our society, our colleagues, our inner and outer worlds. When we take this interconnected mindset, we become more aware of the impact of our actions on others, and their actions on us. 

     Diagram: S. Lehmann, 2010

    The holistic view of wellness encourages an awareness of this interdependence, citing eight dimensions, or pillars, of health and well-being: physical, occupational, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, financial, and environmental. As this diagram below suggests, all the pillars overlap like the petals of a flower, influencing each other and the sense of the whole:

    The challenge is that we are currently living in a set of intersecting systems that are in crisis (economic, ecological, societal and philosophical); constant exposure to these stressors forces our nervous system to dysregulate, making one feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. Ever more people are recognising the fight, flight or freeze response in themselves and others; we are almost having to work against all odds to retain balance and to thrive. The outcome, as Matt Haig puts it, is that we are living on a ‘Nervous Planet.’ We know from psychologists and scientists that frequent exposure to stress has adverse effects on our mental health and causes an overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol which in turn can hinder important bodily functions; lack of focus, disturbed sleep, frequent headaches, weakened immunity, memory loss – to name a few.

    In the ancient Indian modality of the Vedas there is the principle of Sattva, the quality of goodness, positivity, truth, serenity and balance. In nervous system language we call this the ‘green zone’, and in this zone a person can communicate well in their truth, be present, feel resourced, connected to others, engaged, curious, at ease, grounded, safe and able to cope with complexity; in other words…. THRIVING. In this zone all the petals of the diagram above work smoothly together as a whole, and the wonderful thing is that we can actually co-regulate each other to be in the green thriving space by tending to and befriending aspects of wellbeing which are being diminished or often get neglected. 

    It’s important to remember that everyone responds to situations and challenges differently; not all brains or all bodies are the same. While one person might have a set of responses that follow a typical pattern (such as the Kubler-Ross Curve that Richard Watts talks about in his blog here), others might have a different set of responses. Being aware of our differences and being compassionate towards each other’s needs helps build trust and a sense of togetherness; co-regulating to survive and thrive. 

    So how can we build healthy, supportive practices into our workplaces that make it easy for the Sattvic, green, thrive zone to exist?

    Today for the purposes of this blog we are offering a top 10 of tips and tools to support building a well work ecology, but the call goes much deeper than this. At IMPRINT we are dedicated to supporting organisations to integrate holistic wellbeing into workplace culture. We believe it is people that make organisations and that collective care goes a long way to creating happy, sustainable and ‘well’ workplaces for the people that work in them. The key is practice, practice, practice, so it becomes integral.

    10 tips for a well workplace:

    1. Start each meeting with sharing something from your life beyond work, opening a space for everyone to be truly human, e.g.:
      • Talk about your name, the meaning of it, how you feel about it 
      • What was the best/worst thing that happened in your life last week?
    2. Take your meetings on a walk (no phones, no pens, no notebooks)
    3. Create space for just BEING (without the DOING): 
    4. Bring plants into the office – share your space with non-human beings; they will rely on you to care for them, and in return they will take care of the air quality and the environment for you.
    5. How are you creative in your working day? What space can be made for creative (non – ‘productive’) meandering? Away from your desk? 
    6. Have a dedicated quiet space with soft furnishings, blankets, warm low lighting, tissues, a set of headphones. Anything that supports comfort and calm. 
    7. Offer incentives for mindful and physical practice (ie link up with gym / fitness offers, regular wellbeing workshops, a company Headspace subscription)
    8. Put up visual or written prompts around the workspaces that encourage mindful, heautiful practice 
    9. Create a shared community board – to share titles of podcasts, articles, books and more 
    10. Leaders within the organisation can find ways to creatively involve all staff in early stage plans, proposals and organisational direction, creating a listening and responsive environment. This toolkit provides guidance and a framework.

    As a team, come up with your own list of ideas to make your workplace a well place to be.

    And here is a free well-being resource from us to you:

    Click here for five freely available hour-long well-being sessions, curated and produced by IMPRINT for people make it work and Freelance : Futures.

    The sessions include sound healing, meditation, yoga and astrology. 

    Zara and Becca are working in partnership with people make it work to develop bespoke holistic programmes for the cultural sector. Get in touch with us if you’d like to know more: https://www.peoplemakeitwork.com/holistic-programmes/

  • Feeling Empowered During Turbulent Times

    Written by Vicki Igbokwe | Director of Empowerment

    What a time to be alive! The last few years globally have seen us collectively experience some of the most earth-shattering moments that I for one could have only imagined would form the foundation of a Hollywood movie script. The knock-on effect of this today is still being felt globally and of course closer to home for each of us.

    As you continue to experience this rollercoaster ride of turbulence, your confidence and ability to make decisions and lead can feel compromised. You begin to doubt every single thought, idea, and choice that you make, because your foundation (quite rightly) feels rocky and unstable.

    When you reach this stage, it is important to hit pause, so you can take a moment to be still and silent. In doing this you create much needed space, time, and distance for you to breathe, ground yourself, explore what it is you need and take the steps necessary to get these things for you.

    Feeling (and being) empowered is a spiritual daily act of kindness to you…Yes, YOU. It is about giving yourself permission to care for yourself daily BEFORE you show up for those around you. I know this can sometimes feel like a luxury, even more so during turbulent times. Please, with love, hear me when I say to you… it is not. In fact, it is a necessity. It is a must for you to nourish your mind, body, and spirit as you experience this temporary turbulence.

    It is important that you understand this too, this turbulent time you are currently experiencing will not last forever, it is temporary, just like the other turbulent times you have more than likely faced in the past. And if you take 10 mins to reflect on that right now, you will be reminded that you were able to come out of those previous times to see another day, stronger, wiser, and better equipped to continue living your life.

    If you need some support with checking in with yourself, invest time in actioning the following.

    Focus on YOU… take the time to explore and identify what it is you need DAILY to ensure you feel as good as you can. This could look like, a morning walk, exercise, journaling, cooking a meal from scratch, listening to music or a podcast.

    What is your daily gift to you?

    Gather your support team… know the people in your life that make you smile, that you can turn to when things get a little rough, that you can be your true authentic self with, that you can receive encouraging words and support with helping you make decisions that your are faced with.  This could be your partner, best friend, a family member, colleague, coach, or therapist.

    Who are those amazing people in your life that bring joy, peace, love, and clarity to you?

    Continue to trust your gut… practice listening to you again. Practice trusting yourself, your thoughts, your ideas, and the choices you make. Know that you have the best interest of those around you (and you) at heart. Your amazing ability to listen to you has got you to this point in your life and it will continue to do so.

    What does it look, feel, taste, sound, and smell like when you trust you again?

    Whatever happens you are covered… in this thing called life you will either win or learn. So, knowing that whatever choices you make you are covered is key. Even if you make a choice that doesn’t go the way you expected 100% you will learn so much from that experience it informs and positively influences your next move. This is where you restore and rebuild your empowerment muscles.

    How do you ensure you are empowered to be the best YOU; you can be? What is it you need?

    Ultimately feeling empowered during turbulent times is about coming back to you and asking yourself what and who do I need to be the best ME?

    When you have figured this out:

    • prioritise you and your needs daily
    • practice gifting yourself daily
    • and give yourself permission to receive all you need daily too.

    When you feel good, you do good for you and those around you. You are empowered to continue, even through the most turbulent of times.

    How has this resonated with you? It would be great to read your comments below and do share any of your own tips too.

    Remember if you feel like you need support with any of this people make it work are here to help… Contact us to book a complimentary 1:1 call to explore what it is you need and how we can become part of your support team to ensure you get there.

     By Vicki Igbokwe | Director of Empowerment at people make it work

  • Our principles to shape positive engagement with change and transformation

    Hi, it’s Richard from people make it work. 

    In this video blog I am sharing people make it work’s change principles – ideas we have learned are essential to create organisational change that feels owned, driven and easeful.

    The principles that I am sharing and talking about in the video include;

    • Successful, owned and motivated change is a SOCIAL process (explore, imagine, decide, act) not a PROJECT process (define, implement and enforce)
    • People don’t resist change, they resist being changed
    • People are amazing
    • Change is done BY people, not TO people
    • Change happens in a context – it’s more like a GARDEN and less like a FACTORY.
    • Love resisters, they make you strong, cause you to expand your reach and give your ideas definition
    • Change Management is about creating a context in which change is INEVITABLE. Releasing the forces for change rather than driving them

    Hear me expanding on these ideas and their importance for collaborative, effective organisational change and transformation in the video below.

    At people make it work our mission is your mission. We are committed to everyone’s culture being made for and by everyone. That means that we are also committed to supporting cultural organisations, leaders and groups in communities, regardless of the ability to pay.  Across our website, you’ll find a range of free resources as well as ways to arrange free individual surgeries if that would be useful. We’ve also got a load of programmes and associate colleagues who can support you professionally, if if that’s what you need. 

    Sending you strength and positivity!

  • Responding to negative changes

    Hi, it’s Richard from people make it work. 

    We support cultural organisations through lots of challenging situations, and witness teams and individuals managing through complex external and internal events… In this blog I’m sharing some strategies that we can all use to support colleagues, communities and family members through the experience of navigating change that is feeling negative.

    In the video link below I am sharing some models and ideas that you might want to explore;

    The Kubler-Ross curve and how this might help us understand our own reactions and those of others, as well as suggesting some helpful responses we might consider

    The Transitions curve and the implications of this insight for the process we might be going through

    The thresholds model and the steps we might take to build appetite for change

    At people make it work our mission is your mission. We are committed to everyone’s culture being made for and by everyone. That means that we are also committed to supporting cultural organisations, leaders and groups in communities, regardless of the ability to pay.  Across our website, you’ll find a range of free resources as well as ways to arrange free individual surgeries if that would be useful. We’ve also got a load of programmes and associate colleagues who can support you professionally, if if that’s what you need. 

    Sending you strength and positivity!

  • Strategies to help navigate challenging and uncertain times

    Hi, it’s Richard from people make it work. 

    With this being a particularly difficult time for us all in the cultural sector and beyond, I have created this latest video and blog entry to share some of my thoughts, learnings and experiences, which may be useful to you, your teams, organisations and the wider sector in general during these turbulent and uncertain times.  While I don’t imagine all of these will be universal and may not take in to account your individual circumstances, they nonetheless may provide some insight and tips, which you may want to embrace and consider as you begin to navigate through the changes and challenges you might be facing.

    At people make it work, we are a broad group of 65 cultural workers, who work together to support the cultural sector to change, develop and transform. The following strategies and characteristics therefore, Control, Options, Support, Well-being, Debate and Me-Shaped Change, are ones that we have identified as key to our working practice, and which have proven useful and applicable on an individual level in other areas of our lives and may be useful for you too:

    • Control:  For lots of us, creating a sense of control, even in situations which are beyond our individual action is really helpful. That doesn’t mean that we are going to seek to control the wider economy, organisational decisions, or amount of money that is coming in to our own households, but what we might do is think about what we might be able to control on one hand, and on the other what can’t we control and need to therefore adopt an attitude of flow and acceptance. For those elements we can control however, we might want to develop some personal strategies.  For instance, I might be able to think about ways of reducing my outgoings, increasing my personal resilience, getting fitter, getting better sleep.  I might be able to offer solutions or ideas in to a situation rather than wait for them to be delivered in my direction. In that way, I am creating a level of control that is healthy while navigating the change that is happening around me.  So, one of the things you may wish to do independently or with your colleagues, is have a think about the places where you can take some actions and create control, and the places where you may need to accept the lack of control. In those places where you can create control, map out what actions you can take.
    • Options:  For many of us, when we were placed in a situation where difficult things are happening, it can feel like our only job is to sit and let it all happen, but actually it can be really helpful for us to think about what are our options are and how we can affect the situation.  Many of those options might be really unpleasant and really difficult, but exploring and choosing them can still be a really useful act, even choosing amongst negative options. So for instance, if my income is reducing, which of the places am I going to decide to reduce my outgoings? It doesn’t mean that these are happy decisions, but by exploring options, setting those options out, and then making choices within those, it is a way of helping us to create a little bit of control, and that can be settling.  Some of us will need support to explore those options and for others it might be an easy action. Either way, having a think about what your options are is a good practice to have a go at. 
    • Support: Support is the third area that is really important at times when we are working within an unsettled environment.  During challenging times, it is important to identify what support we have around us: Who our support network is?  Who are those that we can call upon? What resource do we have around us? Who else can support us and is interested in our wellbeing?   It might also be helpful to think about what kinds of situations and thinking can be helpful to increase our awareness of the level of support around us, and to have started to signpost where we might want to go for what kinds of support.  So for instance, when do I have a conversation with my manager? When do I reach out to my professional network? When might I speak to my spouse or siblings? When might I think about having a conversation with my parents? My children? When might I think about reaching out to faith groups or other community groups that I’m connected with? For many of us, support networks are very often under-utilised, particularly if we feel under pressure, our reaction can often be to isolate or to hunker down rather than to reach out. So, I really recommend that we think a little bit about that in order to manage our own wellbeing in this context.
    • Wellbeing: Often, when we are feeling under pressure and when circumstances are difficult around us, strategies to support our own physical and emotional wellbeing can get ignored or under-resourced. So in these times,  we might want to increasingly think about eating well; about managing how much we drinking or other using substances that might feel useful at first, but can actually deplete our resourcefulness; about our sleep; exercise and activity; our relationships and how we maintain those in healthy ways to make sure that we are addressing tensions and bringing empathy and compassion to each other.  Thinking about connection to others during this time is also beneficial.  It is important to recognise that that we aren’t alone and that for most people of being part of a community is useful at times of challenge.
    • Debate and discussion support. For most of us, having a conversation about the challenges around us will be really fruitful, and that means creating an opportunity for people to speak, listen and think.  For lots of people, the ability to digest implications, think about those options, be supported through a process of exploration, identify their support network, unpack implications and ideas will be a social process.  It won’t happen in one bite, but it will be a series of conversations and activities over a period of time. So creating opportunities for debate and discussion, about the hardships and context that we’re working in, is useful in itself and doesn’t need to come with answers on a plate.  It can be a space where we acknowledge that each of us will have our own solutions, many of them will be unpalatable, but better than not addressing the challenges at all.  For many of us, supported discussion, structured, semi structured, regular discussion will be useful in terms of moving beyond the situation and enabling us to find answers that suit us and that are tailored to meet our own circumstances.  
    • Me-shaped change: This is about the transition from hearing about something to working out what is my version of that. For instance, how I might move from hearing that we need to work differently with communities in our cultural organisation to what does that mean for how I will work on that, how I will have conversations,  who I will reach out to, and how I will divide my time up and my resources? Me-shaped change is about accommodating, digesting and integrating the external change into something that I’m now able to drive and move forward. It doesn’t necessarily mean that these are all good things, but they are accommodations and ways of absorbing the circumstance that we’re working within.

    In discussing these above strategies, I hopefully have created a language and set of interventions and support for individuals who may consider themselves to be neurodivergent, as well as those who are neurotypical, while also of course, acknowledging that the best way to support individuals is to listen and connect with what they individually need. Some of the things that I have suggested here may not be applicable to you. If that is the case and you would like to chat about more tailored, individual support and advice, please get in touch, as I and the rest of the team would love to help!  

    At people make it work our mission is your mission. We are committed to everyone’s culture being made for and by everyone. That means that we are also committed to supporting cultural organisations, leaders and groups in communities, regardless of the ability to pay.  Across our website, you’ll find a range of free resources as well as ways to arrange free individual surgeries if that would be useful. We’ve also got a load of programmes and associate colleagues who can support you professionally, if if that’s what you need. 

    Sending you strength and positivity!

  • Curiosity is the renewable power-source for Dynamism

    Richard Watts, CEO at people make it work, one of the most established and effective organisations supporting the cultural sector to change and develop, explores why a dynamic culture is at the heart of a dynamic organisation.

    For me, dynamism is about who you’re listening to, what you’re noticing and what impact this data has on how you work. We are at our most dynamic when we’re in an active relationship with our environment – scanning, exploring, curious – seeking out and divining an understanding of the needs, perceptions and challenges of the people and communities that we exist to serve. I suppose we’re at our least dynamic when we’re listening to ourselves, referencing our own past, traditions and ways of making, or listening only to the trusty audiences whose passive acceptance and support for what we’ve been doing has kept us safe in the past.

    We are in a changing world with pressing challenges of systemic racism, widespread social injustice, environmental emergency, inequality, economic disruption, and a global pandemic so the need for disruptive innovation and ongoing digital transformation is very real and present. Dynamism in this context is about being properly equipped to respond – an entrepreneurial instinct, an innovation instinct, an instinct to use our skills, assets, relationships and insight to meet the needs that we feel compelled to address. 

    Dynamism drives new responses, new creative interventions and new experiences. 

    At this moment, when so many of us are exploring our organisational strategies and the world is in such need of culture, what is our dynamic response? It feels like it has to be driven by an understanding of need, an awareness of the strengths and assets we can bring to bear on the problem and the powerful drive of a social justice mission. It means that at people make it work, our focus is changing, our programmes are changing our are changing, our partners are changing and the impacts we are committed to are changing too. 

    So, in this version of dynamism we are asking, how are we letting in the insights and experiences that will trigger innovation? How are we reading our environment? How do we connect with and understand the world through data, technology and relationships? 

    In this version of dynamism we are asking, how does our culture and the skills and behaviours we exercise make innovation insights inevitable (rather than really unlikely)? What is our default mindset, and how do we ensure we dial up curiosity, relentless refinement and the instinct to regenerate? How do we create a culture of confidence with change, refinement and modification?

    In this version of dynamism we are asking, is our mission or our model in the driving seat? How do we ensure that we prioritise our mission and beneficiaries over our own stability, over our relationship with ACE, over our own growth or security? How do we make sure our innovation and dynamism work in the service of our communities not at the cost of them?

    In this version of dynamism we are asking, how are we understanding our value? How do we ensure that we create what is valuable to others, not just what we value? How do we take the social impact we can have as seriously as health and safety? How do we find ways to translate our impact so that organisations outside the sector can understand our value as easily as they do other sectors?

    Our organisations can often be machines for maintaining the status quo, they form habits that repeat, proposing answers, rather than exploring questions. Cultures ossify, and as Peter Drucker noted, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, so a dynamic culture is at the source of a dynamic organisation. Dynamic organisations seek the risk of uncertainty, the reverberation of the unknown, the knowledge that curiosity is the renewable power-source that fuels dynamism.

    At people make it work, dynamism has delivered a shift in our strategy from a focus predominantly on organisations to a focus on the sector as a whole – we now see our role as to support the cultural sector to change and develop. Because we have come to understand that we can’t restrict our focus to those organisations who can afford to pay for our work. To our traditional work of strategic consultancy support for individual cultural organisations and cities, we have added free tools and resources accessible through our website for anyone to use, and we focus more on transformational programmes often delivered in partnership (Change Creation, Culture Reset, Coventry City of Culture Leadership Programme, Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries Development Programme, CEP National Leadership Programme). That shift in strategy means collaborative initiatives are at the heart of our future impact (watch this space for an Organisation Development programme with and for cultural workers of colour, which Suzanne Alleyne is devising in partnership with me, The office for Leadership Transition, developed with Sandeep Mahal, and a Transforming Governance programme with Anisa Morridadi and Beatfreeks) These feel to me like manifestations of dynamism – responses to (in this case, systemic) needs, built on data, with a focus on people and culture – being developed collaboratively so that insight and ownership is built in across our sector.

    Asking these questions about who we are listening to, how needs are changing, how we are fuelling our entrepreneurial instincts, what skills and culture we need to be able to read society and generate our essential response – these questions generate insight and suggest shifts in practice, culture, skills and process – changes that will in their own way regenerate your organisation by exposing yourselves to the case for change, and giving you the insights that imply innovations and shift your impact.