“If everyone has to think outside the box, maybe it is the box that needs fixing”
What are they?
Community projects bring together participants on leadership development programmes with NGOs or social enterprises for mutual benefit. They provide the opportunity for leaders to develop their leadership capacity and skills whilst helping a community organization move towards its goals. These projects are bespoke and time and care is taken to set them up for a win-win outcome.
How do they work?
These projects involve participants spending time with community partners as part of their leadership development programme and usually involve them either acting in a consultancy capacity or engaging directly with the client of the community organization.
For example, on a consultancy style project, an NGO might need some help to develop a strategic plan. The leaders would spend some time with them understanding the nature of the organization, its aspirations and challenges and then take some time to do some further research and brainstorm ideas amongst themselves. They would then put together some recommendations to present back to the community partner.
An engagement style project might involve the leaders meeting with the clients of the community organization (e.g. young people who are looking to make their first steps into the world of work). On these projects participants are likely to spend time with the clients exploring the opportunities and challenges they face and coming up together with ideas they can implement to help them succeed. These projects might also involve a creative element where the leadership programme participants and clients of the community partner work together to create a short film, performance or piece of art that explores the opportunities and challenges in an innovative way.
What impact do they have?
The impact of these projects will obviously vary depending on the type of interaction and the time spent. Some community projects last for 1 day, others can span across several months. The benefit of consultancy style projects is that they provide the opportunity for leaders to put into practice their learning on leadership whilst using their business experience and personal insights to provide value to a community organization. Engagement style projects require that leaders interact with people they haven’t met in a situation where they have no positional power and so must rely on their personal leadership abilities; for the clients the benefits of working with leaders vary and might include increased confidence, new insights into their personal situations, an understanding that business leaders are people too!
Example projects include:
- One-day project where leaders work with young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) to create a video on the ‘image of youth in today’s society’
- Half-day project where leaders on a programme facilitate a workshop with staff from a community organization to help them develop an action plan for promoting their services
- Three-day project where leaders work closely with leaders from the community partner to develop a 5-year plan
- Three-month project where leaders spend one-week with a community partner to understand their challenges and aspirations and then continue to support them with ideas and materials to develop a strategy over a further two or three months.