The Leadership Institute for Communities is an annual membership scheme which aims to develop and enhance the leadership, professional skills and the capacity of local people who work throughout the regions diverse communities. It does this by empowering them through discourse, learning, practical workshops and sharing best practice. Developed by the University of Bradford as a response to an identified gap in the District this scheme provides a professional network that is focused on leadership learning and development rather than business to business sales.
Through focus groups (which included a range stakeholders from key organisations and individuals) the following objectives were set;
1) To create a network of empowered people who lead not only their organisations but their communities to the best of their ability and who support the positive development of Bradford and the region
2) To create a positive network of leaders that are challenged and continually learning
3) To share the University of Bradford’s expertise and resources (staff, students and facilities) with local leaders from all organisations and communities
On development of the Leadership Institute strategies were put in place to appeal to our key target audience, which were identified as; small medium enterprises; public sector; third sector and community activists. For each audience we hoped to attract we broke down the elements that would appeal to that sector and developed a rationale which outlined the benefits of the Institute to that audience. This rationale was then used to communicate the benefits to each audience. For example, the specialist workshops are developed to benefit SME’s that if they paid individually for each event may be inaccessible due to cost; the network and leadership learning sets are an opportunity for third sector organisation to network outside of their sector in an environment created to share best practice and not engineer sales; the public lectures and programmes were included to attract active citizens that want to engage with the University to broaden their learning and opportunities.
The Leadership Institute for Communities is a relatively new initiative launched 1 October 2011 therefore the true impact of the Institute is still to be realised. During its development it used focus groups to capture and consolidate its key objectives, which in time will act as a measure of impact by using the same group to review progress of the Institute against objectives set.
However some early impact measures indicate the following:
Quantitative impact (Oct 2011 – February 2012)
Number of members 51
Number of people engaged in its events 60
Number of people engaged in the institutes online forums 26
Qualitative Impact (gathered through feedback forms following events which reflect the impact of the individual event and the scheme as a whole).
“The Leadership Institute event ‘Leadership in a Changing Landscape’ very much met my expectations. Very thought provoking session and an opportunity to think about leadership styles.” Chair of Bradford District Care Trust.
“The Leadership Institute offer is very comprehensive and relevant.” HR Director, In Communities (Social Housing Association)
"In a new world of changing challenges, new thinking and new ways of working, that need to be debated and thought out, the Institute allows the space to explore new ideas" Chief Executive, Holme Christian Communities
This feedback will shape the future direction of the programme by suggestions for programme direction and themes. Other to this the Leadership Institute for Communities was included in a case study interview conducted by National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) on behalf of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. This will be presented at a policy summit in April targeted at Government Ministers and could increase the impact of the Leadership Institute for Communities.
The University of Bradford considered the initial need for the Leadership Institute for Communities and through consultation have develop an innovative and unique scheme that allows for the organic growth of a network that does not replicate any other networks in the region. The scheme provides a safe yet creative space for practitioners, leaders, active citizens to meet to exchange ideas, share good practice and embark on new learning opportunities. It is the first of its kind and one that is attracting much interest within the region and nationally. It also provides an innovative outreach mechanism for public and community engagement at the University of Bradford.
Traditionally public engagement, particularly in the Higher Education Sector, has been free to access due to the funding of projects, which means it is only sustainable for the time the funding is in place. This chargeable membership scheme has been successful so far by encouraging members to understand the benefits of the Institute enabling them to understand the full value of the package and feel comfortable with the annual fee.
Upon development consideration was given to how to maintain the sustainability of the scheme and whether a paid membership model should be introduced. The consultation period indicated that this model would be feasible given the range of value driven benefits within the membership. The income generated through the membership fee covers the costs of running the learning sets and specialist seminars within the scheme. Alongside this the University of Bradford have invested in a permanent full time position of Community Partnerships Officer who leads on the co-ordination of the Institute to ensure its sustainability.
It is also anticipated that as the Institute develops the members take ownership of its future and support its sustainability through sponsorship or hosting of events, support to book speakers and in developing the programme. This will enable the group to drive forward the Institute and ensure it meets its objectives.