A learning programme for leaders

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Boosting Resilience: a 2-year learning programme for leaders – in the arts

The startup and scaleup world has seen a dramatic explosion, but there has been little or no support for the development of entrepreneurs and leaders of innovation. This is one such programme.

This is a programme – in a sector whose very essence is innovation – that aims to enable senior staff from England-based arts and cultural organisations, music education hubs, museums and library services, faced with difficult times (‘the new norm’), to develop new approaches to their work.

It is one of four new flagship projects supported by Arts Council England with the aim of inspiring and supporting the development and piloting of new approaches to ‘making the most of Creative Assets and Intellectual Property’.

It is being conceived and delivered by the Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice at Cass Business School, the Culture Capital Exchange and the Centre for Enterprise at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The programme is working with a cohort of 27 leaders, such as Directors or Chief Executives, from a diverse range of organisations across England. It aims to help participants to: recognise and seize opportunities, to deploy resources more strategically and imaginatively and to identify and mitigate risk, focusing on developing organisations’ thinking on their creative assets, their existing and potential intellectual property, and on their abilities to maximize these through working with wider sectors.

The longer-term aim is also to benefit the wider sector, creating materials and methods to anticipate and withstand economic, social, environmental and technological change.

The programme aims to create a unique environment in which to nurture approaches to resilience and leadership in the arts and culture sectors. It consists of three residentials that bring people together to develop skills and knowledge as well as to network and engage in peer-to-peer learning. It includes action learning sets, partner evaluation groups, peer-to-peer learning, walking, mentoring, bespoke workshops, one-to-one support and an online learning environment.

Participants’ interests and aspirations, derived from their applications, together with ideas generated in three ‘ideas pools’ each in a different part of the country, provided the themes for the first residential, just completed. It concentrated on established foundational knowledge and learning approaches. Four external speakers shared their expertise – of insights on creative assets, of problem solving styles, and intellectual property.

A combination of active and digital learning enabled individuals, small groups and the whole group to work collaboratively on individual’s issues; and material was regularly made available on the website.

The taught content consisted primarily of short briefings and debriefings around hands-on activities, introducing them to current learning methods while working on topics specific to their own interests.

Participants were also supplied with custom-designed reflective journals to keep during the event, and there is also a personal secure reflection space available digitally.

It was evidently a very inspiring week-end. The subsequent residentials take place in March and November, 2018. In between residentials, participants will have opportunities to meet individually with experts and programme staff and to take part in Action Learning groups – to help develop their ideas and plans.

John Whatmore, November 2017.

 

 

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A purposed accelerator – in public services

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Making use of external expertise to deliver innovations in public services. Innovationeers in the public sector have not shared the same raw enthusiasm for startups and scaleups as the private sector: they have come much later to the game.

I wrote last about Village Capital in New York, whose modus operandi is upside down, in that it starts with the identification of major issues and only then builds teams and finds resources to tackle those issues. In the UK, CivTech’s young programme is now doing likewise.

CivTech’s mission is simple: it is to support innovation in the public sector by creating an environment in which issues can be identified and new products and services developed – thus contributing to more effective and efficient public services.

Its second programme, just launching, aims to offer opportunities for entrepreneurs to ‘solve a challenge, build a product, develop a relationship and build a business with public sector benefits’, by engaging with a major public sector organisation.

This year’s programme has identified nine challenges provided by their public sector sponsors, of which seven will be tackled by the seven teams that have been selected for the programme. These include:

  • how to create a better booking system for outpatient appointments
  • how better to understand citizen data
  • how to provide better [internet] access to public services.

Applicants could be existing companies with relevant material, graduates, a digital team or just someone with insight or a good idea.

 Three potential solutions to each sponsor’s challenge go through to a 3-week Exploration Stage – to develop their idea further, to engage with the CivTech team and the Challenge Sponsor, to participate in some workshops, and then to make a final pitch – for which each team receives £3,000.

The CivTech Accelerator that follows is three months long (for which teams are required to relocate to Edinburgh) – of innovation, experiment, development and production; with workshops, talks and mentors; of team and business building; of product building; of developing real and lasting relationships with public sector organisations – for which each team will receive £17,000 (CivTech takes no equity nor IP).

The CivTech team provides specific advice about its approach to service design, product development, government standards and system integration needs.

 Sponsors are expected to set aside £106k for each challenge, of which £27k goes to the solution provider (as above), and the remaining £81k is for ongoing development of the solution. The Challenge Sponsor receives an in-perpetuity royalty free licence to enable the successful participant to further develop and test their work with a view to its exploitation in the sponsor’s services.

The website inviting applications is couched in very full and clear, and charmingly optimistic terms, though the exploitability of the proposals is uncertain.

Of the nine teams that had participated in Round 1, two had worked with the NHS and were confident of new business; two had worked with Transport Scotland, one with sales already and both with more to follow; and two of the nine reported that they were still working on future business. New businesses, a new platform, a new product and a new client were among the mentions in their final reports.

The small team that has conceived and evolved this programme sits in the Digital Directorate of the Scottish Government, which has not only backed and endorsed the programme but has recently doubled the amount of money behind it. And this work has attracted widespread interest.

John Whatmore, November 2017

For more see https://civtech.atlassian.net