Innovation

Innovating for the future

What happens when a crisis hits and it stops you doing your core activity and you don't know when it can return? Louise Obi-Drake, Managing Director of Clore Social’s National Development Unit shares how we have approached this challenging situation in the hope it might provide some insights for you and to hear what you have been doing to innovate in your organisation.

Well, like many of you 23 March was a day to be remembered. It was the day the British Government announced it would be asking anyone who could work from home to do so and would be entering a lockdown. A month on and at the time of writing we are still in the lockdown situation and all mass gatherings have been banned.

This is a problem for Clore Social Leadership as a training provider of programmes that are valued for their transformative face-to-face elements. In the space of a few weeks we have gone from hosting face-to-face events with Covid-19 disclaimers to a complete lockdown and no sight of when venues would reopen.

To set some context, like many training and development organisations our work has cycles and February and March always seem to be months where we start a number of programmes. We had some blended (face-to-face and online) programmes that had started and some due to start. We were in a situation like many people of making decisions with very little information or evidence on which to base them.

We're going to explain how we have approached our challenges using example skills, attitudes and behaviours from our own social leadership capabilities framework.

Courageous Changemaker

At the heart of the courageous changemaker are the skills of identifying solutions to problems, taking calculated risks and taking actions to create foresight about what the future might hold. The attitudes and behaviours include being curious, decisive and responsible.

The courage to pause all operations and take stock of the situation was the most sensible thing we could do. With the information we had and the daily changing situation we had to take decisive action and pause all activity whilst we understood the immediate impact on our organisation and the people we work with who participate in our programmes.

We needed to understand what the future entailed and how we could use this information to innovate for the future. Our approach was human centred and focused on our current programme participants to ensure we could offer them the best experience possible.

Passionate Advocate

We work in social change so being a passionate advocate is all about putting the needs of those you serve at the centre of everyone you serve. For us that meant putting the people on our current programmes at the heart of our decisions and asking them to be honest about what was in their best interest, no matter the outcome.

That looked like we might have to stop running all programmes. We knew this was precisely the time social leaders needed what we offered, the learning, reflection and peer support to deal with the current situation, but we also knew that many of them were under severe pressure and dealing with multiple challenges. It is exactly at times of crisis that the attitudes and behaviours of social leaders are so important, the ability to have a strong moral compass and make decisions that might not be in your own best interest.

It is exactly at times of crisis that the attitudes and behaviours of social leaders are so important.

Generous Collaborator

The best people for us to collaborate with and decide on the best course of action were, of course, the current people on our programmes. We needed to move quickly but respectfully to understand the best course of action being mindful to not burden them with additional work or decisions. In fact the Covid-19 crisis has enabled us to open up the opportunity to build even more collaboration into our programmes and to work with the participants to codesign elements of the programme and contribute their own knowledge and expertise.

We are at the early stages of this process as we paused the programmes for consultation, but we are excited to be able to build more peer-to-peer learning and even more knowledge sharing from programme participants into our reimagined programme offer. Generous collaborators are focused on building trust, fostering open and honest feedback and inviting inclusive contribution. One outcome we hope is that all our 2020 participants can say that they have been a collaborator and co-creator of their whole experience.

One outcome we hope is that all our 2020 participants can say that they have been a collaborator and co-creator of their whole experience.

Empowering Enabler

It's well researched in adult learning theory that the more you enable learners to take responsibility for their own learning and empower them to take on real-world challenges the more likely they are to be motivated to learn and to fully engage in the journey.

We hope the process of building in even more peer-to-peer learning, will in turn create opportunities for the programme participants to be role models to one another, to cultivate an environment where others can excel and foster a growth mindset amongst the whole cohort. We hope to find the cohorts empowering each and every participant to make the most of their experience.

Where will our cohorts be in 2021 if we have been able to further increase the peer-to-peer empowerment amongst our cohorts? It's an exciting question to return to in 2021!

Inspirational Communicator

There's no doubt you will have learned the importance of communication during a crisis. We believe social leaders not only communicate well but they are able to inspire others with their communication. They do this by being authentic, clear, and responsive to their audiences.

Our greatest lesson in the initial stages (based on feedback from our participants) was little, often and specific communication was most helpful. At a time when everyone was dealing with a variety of challenges and we wanted their input we needed to also be agile and responsive whilst sharing all the information we had.

Focused Strategist

This is the one area that many of our participants highlight as the collection of skills, attitudes and behaviours they would like to spend time developing. It's because at the core of a Focused Strategist is delivering on what you set out to achieve, being reflective and continually improving. A Focused Strategist's laser skills are being able to take a vision and turn it into tangible actions and thinking through the most effective way to achieve the goals.

What happens now?

We are entering our phase of being Focused Strategists, making real the courageous visions we have shared with our participants and our hopes of continuing to work with them collaboratively throughout their experiences to cocreate their learning journey.

We will share our insights on our research and foresight activity with leaders and providers of training and development for social change so we can be generous in supporting others to make the courageous changes they may need to make. We know that our plans for online learning will need to executed faster than our original strategy to continue to offer development to social leaders at a time when it is needed the most.

We know that in such uncertain times our ability to be agile and respond to the needs of our participants will have to be at the centre of our innovations approach. We will share more details and insights into this.

Our ability to be agile and respond to the needs of our participants will have to be at the centre of our innovations approach.

Here is some initial feedback from our 2020 Women and Girls Emerging Leaders:

“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for all your hard work and dedication in recrafting the whole Programme and also in providing these additional [online] events. I feel very fortunate to be part of this cohort and take much comfort during these turbulent times knowing that my learning process is being supported so well by all of you at Clore Social.”

“Firstly, thanks so much for all of your efforts to redesign the programme so quickly – no mean feat! ...I have to say that my leadership skills have really been tested in the last few weeks and I already feel that having done some of the Discover work, I have been more confident in decision making and that I have already massively benefitted from the course. For that, I am really grateful! Thanks again for all of your work in this redesign.”

We send our gratitude and appreciation to all of the participants and funders who have been a part of the collaborative problem solving over the past few weeks and who have shared their ideas and visions for the future. We can't wait to restart the journey with them in 2020 with the reimaged leadership development programmes.

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