Thriving incubators of leadership in communities

By Chris Jansen

We have experienced an extreme range of experience since the earthquakes that rocked Greater Christchurch ,from fear, loss, frustration and anger on one hand, while on the other hand an immense and surprising renaissance of grass-roots community connections, initiatives and innovation.

Both the government agencies as well as residents are very aware that this community engagement and self-organised interaction has a vital role to play in the recovery of the people of wider Christchurch.  However, this prolific community level leadership that has emerged post-quake is also very vulnerable to collapse as the good will that has supported these efforts wanes.

During 2013 a conversation began around the following questions; “How can we be sure

that in 5 years, we can be even more proud of our vibrant, diverse and resilient communities across wider Canterbury as opposed to Do you remember how fantastic our communities used to be in 2013?”.  This lead to a needs analysis and design of the unique LinC (Leadership in Communities) Project that is facilitated by a collective called Leadership Lab and is supported by a strategic partnership of community leaders, NGO’s, consultants, philanthropic funders and government services.

This project was launched in late 2014 and is designed to run for 3 years involving three cohorts of 40 leaders including community volunteers, small NGO’s and government staff who work alongside communities.   The focus on the project is acknowledging this community level leadership with a view to supporting and growing their resiliency, skills and roles in their communities.  Each cohort is designed as a leadership incubator where participants connect with likeminded peers, share practices, explore frameworks and grow collaborative projects.

LinC website                www.lincproject.org.nz

Youtube channel         https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0FSxyIjAzG02C2yJDM-oYQ

The following are the emerging design principles that underpin this project and the collaboration that is central to its effectiveness.

Reflection 1: Determined collaboration around a compelling purpose ignites possibilities

  • an idea/concern/compelling need became a catalyst/ignition point for a growing conversation… attractor and emergence…..growing from nothing in June 2013 to a comprehensive project in June 2014
  • Multi- partner collaboration around one central compelling need and vision that we can all commit to and therefore negotiate our way through differences of approach, personalities and familiar frames of reference etc
  • People have been prepared to negotiate, compromise, put aside normal way of doing things if the purpose is compelling, urgent and engaging…..
  • Required tenacious determination at times, negotiation, compromise

Reflection 2: Co-creation and co-design enables both innovation and ownership

  • Learning as we go….– the ‘final’ shape of LinC cohort 1 is the product of many people best ideas and is continuing to morph into a more responsive approach at every step.
  • This leverages the idea of a Social Lab – where passionate and committed stakeholders come together around an issue of mutual concern with a view to creating a unique approach to address it.
  • Collective intelligence
  • Valuing people wisdom
  • Idea factory

Reflection 3: Focus on growing networks of leadership rather than individuals

 Reminder of twin objectives

    • Individual leadership and wellness
    • Collective leadership network capacity
  • Self-sustaining network
    • Best way to grow
    • Best way to be sustained
  • Shared leadership is much more important than individual leadership because it is self-organising, sustainable and multiplies impact. ie opportunities for growth of shared leadership between;

Reflection 4: Seeing, feeling, expressing and experiencing  is more important than words

  • Our values and objectives are modelled and ‘lived’ in every part of the programme
  • The way we interact/relate throughout the project is contagious/critical…… Has the potential to create a working example, an exception, a living experiment….this allows people to see, feel, experience rather than just talk about ideals and outcomes….
  • Values – these create the backbone or touchstones for all partnership relationship and design decisions. However we didn’t write these in advance – they are emerging as a way of being
    • Optimism and creativity (fostering hope)
    • Sustainability (long term impact)
    • Value (worthwhile and robust)
    • Growth (succession planning, understudies)
    • Authentic relationships (respect, trust)
    • Collective impact (building networks not individuals)
    • Diversity (age, gender, ethnicity, area…)
    • Generosity (sharing wisdom and time)

Reflection 5: Ripple effects are influential

  • cascading benefit – ie: we are focussing on impacting communities through leaders…..these leaders have colleagues and networks that we are leveraging through to impact a wider group
  • links back to theory of change “people need communities who need leaders who need support”
  • Ripple effect – having multiple cohorts allows people to grow into roles from one project to the next (ie from team members to the facilitation team)
  • System influence – ‘prompting the system’
    • New funding collaborations
    • New government collaborations
    • New facilitator collaborations
    • Potential to create a ‘living/working example’ of powerful collaboration and cross-system partnerships
    • Re-envision new models/ways of leading