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Sync: e-bulletin March 2011


Sync thoughts

[Sync] is one of the most valuable career development initiatives that I have ever engaged with (... I am a Cambridge graduate and veteran of a national graduate training scheme and numerous leadership development courses). It has had a profound and unexpected impact on my personal life in addition to my professional life. (Member of Sync Intensives)

a picture of the Sync Thinking event by Robin Meader

The next few bulletins will be given over to reporting on our Sync Thinking event that we held on the 9th March at the Wellcome Collection in London. It was a great opportunity for us to gather some key Sync players together and really consider the impact that the programme has had to date.

We wanted to document the day extensively, so that those people who couldn’t be there could still find out more. This month we are bringing you some of the presentations on the background context to Sync – why it is like it is and what underpins it. Next month, and the one after, we’ll have videos and transcripts from some of the key presentations, measuring the impact of the programme itself and reflecting on some people's journeys.

So here are some edited highlights from the day – and just click through on the links below each section to go through to fuller, edited transcripts to find out more!

Diversity in CLP

The Culture Leadership Programme has prioritised diversity. There isn't really an organisation in the public sector that will tell you that it's not prioritising diversity, to be honest. So, for us it's not as much about whether or not you prioritise diversity, but how... For us it's essential to, we call it, ‘live out’ the practice, be living out the aspiration... If you make that happen, if you make that visible, then I believe it actually goes further and deeper than a thousand policies

a photo of Hilary Carty

The Cultural Leadership Programme closes on the 31st March 2011, formally ending 6 years of innovative focus and attention to the development of leadership thinking and practice in the cultural sector. Hilary Carty, Director of CLP, will be leaving at this time, ending over sixteen years of continuous employment at Arts Council England in various roles since October 1994, when she was appointed Director of Dance, London.

At Sync Thinking, Hilary set the context for Sync by explaining how diversity had been developed within the work of CLP. Rather than only offering specialist 'diversity' programmes or only pushing inclusion within the mainstream, Hilary developed a new way - that of 'both / and'.

"You have to do both things, in my opinion. So we have had discrete focused programmes where we prioritised women, BME and disabled leaders. I think there is value in what we have called 'safe spaces', where people can cluster together and just check in... What you are wanting to do [with those safe spaces] is to get the energy and enthusiasm to go back out there, recharged, and continue to deliver... What we try to do at CLP is to create the safe spaces, to allow that nurturing to happen, let people get their energy, get their resources and head back out there. At the same time we support the mainstream routes."

Hilary spoke of the success of that approach and her delight when presented with statistics that confirmed that 30% of those leaders supported through CLP had come from culturally diverse backgrounds or were disabled people. Personally, she reflected on her own practice of 'pulling people through windows'. When she sees a gap in the infrastructure, a new way through, she goes for the gap, but puts both hands behind her to pull at least a couple of people with her. Throughout her time at CLP she has typified this approach and certainly, we at Sync, feel we've been 'pulled through' to a new place, to a new level of influence.

Hilary spoke with pride about Sync, which is one of only a few CLP programmes to be continuing into 2011/12.

"Sync is one of those programmes that I absolutely adore. Thank you so much to Sarah and Jo and also to Diane [Morgan at CLP], for crafting something which is absolutely special. It’s absolutely a model of how you can work well in the leadership arena, work inclusively and actually open doors to let people come in, and support them as they move through. It's not about holding on to people, it's actually about reaching out, pulling in and supporting them as they go forward."

To read an edited transcript of Hilary Carty's presentation…

Validity of voices

Before I came here today, I did think about bringing a ginger bread man with me, to show we didn't all want to look like cookie cutter versions of leadership, that difference makes us who we are, it's the most important thing about all of us and for me the most important thing about this programme (Stephanie Fuller).

a photo of Stephanie Fuller

Stephanie Fuller has worked at Arts Council England, South East, for ten years in four different roles, and is currently Senior Manager, Regional Planning. She spoke about the impact Sync has had on her own leadership development. For Steph, one of the most fundamental benefits of the programme has been the opportunity it has given her to truly find out more about her own unique approach to leading – by working with both her impairment and her values.

“I think for me I was quite stuck in a number of ways when I started on the programme. I didn't really know what I thought, and how I should be. I've been able to explore that and find that out… That's been really, really important. It was all about finding out where my own kind of authentic version of doing this stuff lay. Now I'm really comfortable with being me - you know, I am myself, at work. I'm myself all the time. I do my job in a way that's about how I am.”

Steph was on the original Sync 20 programme, the precurser to 2010’s Sync Intensives programme. In her presentation she spoke movingly about the validity Sync has provided for her, and the responsibility it has enabled her to take – for herself and for others.

“… I worked it out for myself. I think that's the magic of Sync for me, really, more than anything else. I remember saying to Sarah, actually you know what, I solved all my own problems. It's true, I was only able to do that because of Sync facilitating that to happen.”

To read an edited transcript of Stephanie Fuller’s presentation…

Equality of access

Some of it is to do with the access provision. I think that has been done in a really holistic way, it just kind of happens. It should be happening on all mainstream leadership programmes but it isn't. I've certainly been to events where the problems with access have been the things that I really remember about that experience, which probably isn't the legacy they were trying to leave. When access works it's invisible, but it is incredibly important. (Stephanie Fuller)

a photo of Jo Verrent

In Stephanie’s presentation she spoke about the importance not just of what access is provided, but of the way in which Sync provides access.

For Sync, access is a fluid rather than a static thing. It evolves, as our needs change, our knowledge grows and our situations alter.

Jo Verrent spoke about Sync's approach to access, and the growing confidence around access shown by those we interact with.

'Quite often in Sync we are working with people who might say to us "there is nothing in particular we need." Then throughout the programme we get to know people and they do develop the confidence to say, "Actually I can sit down for 20 minutes and I need a stretch. Actually if you bring a pillow I can lay down during the break. Actually the heat, the temperature in a room is really important to me." Those kind of things are just as essential as ramps, just as essential as interpreters, it's bringing all of that into the picture that we have been able to do within Sync.'

For Sync, part of providing access is also about reaching out to different groups of disabled people who may find themselves specifically excluded from certain processes and programmes. In the case of leadership development, often learning disabled people become excluded by language, by a lack of information and also by wrongful assumptions that learning disabled people are passive recipients rather than leaders and influencers in their own right. As Jo said,

"both Sarah and I, the backgrounds we have, we had found we have learnt a huge amount working with our learning disabled colleagues and couldn't envisage any kind of disability programme that then alienated and excluded a particular type of disabled person. It seemed absolutely essential to us that no disabled people were specifically excluded. We put out easy read materials, which are materials that are shorter, have shorter words, shorter sentences within them, and we were pleased to find that a lot of people in a hurry read those first, and then go on to read through the other material. Although we provided them originally for our learning disabled members, they are not just used by a small minority of people. We’ve found this often to be true - when you provide support in one way to one person it ends up supporting a much wider range of people."

To read an edited transcript of Jo Verrent's presentation…

Dialogue with self – Sync coaching

Sync was the call to ourselves and others like and unlike us, to consider ourselves in a new light, with different emphasis. Syncopation as we know means an emphasis on a usually unemphasised beat. For Jo and myself, this meant a real shift, moving away from the deficit model of ‘let us in', away from ‘the barriers are in society and not within ourselves’ to a ‘what inside ourselves is stopping us getting what we want?’ or ‘how might we harness what comes naturally to us ....'

a picture of Sarah

At the event, we felt it was really important to explore the approach and importance of coaching within the programme in more depth. Coaching isn't just present within the one to one coaching sessions offered to those on the intensive elements of Sync. As an approach it underpins the programme as a whole, flavouring it in a unique way.

Sarah Pickthall, who leads the Sync coaching element within the programme, spoke passionately about her route into coaching and the transformational power it can harness.

"For me, as someone with very limited energy and extreme pain levels, coaching was key to taking responsibility. I had to do something different around the knowns and unknowns of my impairment experience and others. The first being energy and this is where Sync coaching proved to be so fortuitous. Coaching by its very nature is not about colluding with the other, it’s an equal relationship and if done well, can be extraordinarily energising for both parties. Coaching also challenges very deep seated beliefs, beliefs that are buried deep down inside each and everyone of us about what we can and cannot do. For me, the person who trained and worked as a dancer and puppeteer was lost and I grieved for my former identity and how my body used to move, but I realised this was all about an inner dialogue I was having with myself about what I could no longer do and how destructive this was. Through Sync and aspects of other CLP programmes I took part in, I was able to flex this thinking and work with others to do the same."

Sarah summarised the key seven elements within Sync's approach to coaching, mirroring the process recommended by the Institute of Human Development - Choice, Talent, Passion, Values and Beliefs, Identity, Vision and Purpose.

Sarah finished by reminding people about the reflective nature of self development, and of Sync itself:

"Sync has always been about making the time, creating the beat, moulding the moment, having the dialogue with yourself and of course with others. We are part of a flock, we have all got different wing spans and different beaks and we're all going different places, but together we're stronger."

To read an edited transcript of Sarah Pickthall's presentation…

Ripples in the mainstream

I guess what I wanted to talk about was the fundamental impact that Sync has had on me as somebody that doesn't consider themselves to have a disability, and the fundamental impact Sync has had on the way I work and the way I run my business. (Mark Wright)

a photo of Mark Wright

Sync had a profound impact on many of the individuals it has been working with, and, as we said before, we will bring you more information on their perspectives and journeys next month. At the same time it has also aimed to impact on the mainstream - not just keeping disability leadership development in a ghetto, but looking at the positivity arising from the programme; the lessons we have to teach mainstream practice and practitioners.

Mark Wright, founder of People Create, was part of the creation of Sync. As a non disabled person working in the field, Mark spoke first of his nervousness, his fear of getting it wrong, his concern around the language, politics and separation that often surrounds disability.

So why did Mark get involved?

"I started to consider what has been important to me in terms of my thinking around leadership and all the other stuff that I do. What really interests me is the idea of diversity of thinking. I am interested in working with people who think very differently. So whilst I might have occasionally been asked to do particular pieces of work with, I don't know, accountants over here or artists here or people from the BME community here or people with disability here, what really interests me is what happens when you bring people together who fundamentally think differently from each other because of their experiences, mindset, culture, or their work context. To me it doesn't actually matter. I am not overly worried where they come from or what they have done. What I am interested in is the quality of thinking."

Mark has run a number of programmes for CLP. He developed and delivered the Leadership Development Days and the next level programme, LDD+; he created Leadership Unleashed - focusing on the cross over between the cultural and the commercial sector and the learning that exists from comparisions between the two, and he also formed Wayfarers, which focuses on the artist as leader.

Within his presentation, Mark spoke about the impact working on Sync has had on his general practice.

"... on a purely technical level its made me much more conscious about access issues, I kind of think about that much more early in the way I design stuff... The logistics of working with support workers, like sign interpreters and palantypists. Again don't always get it right, but I am much more comfortable now...What else? Silly stuff, sending stuff out as a word document rather than a PDF. I have the habit of just doing it as PDF, and now I realise that's completely inaccessible for some people - silly things like that. And the important learning is about not just doing that when I am working with people who I know have a particular access need, but actually just doing it as habit. This how we send information out; this how we work. When I am working with clients both in the commercial world and in the arts sector, this how I just do stuff now. Things like how we design the work, the pace of the work, the style, facilitation, all those kind of things are getting better I hope as a consequences of working with participants on Sync."


To read an edited transcript of Mark Wright's presentation…

What next for Sync?

So I couldn’t be more delighted to see that [Sync] is one of the programmes that is going forward when CLP closes at end of March. It’s a testament to the work you have done... But actually the message has got through. Here's a quality approach to really developing diversity that is worth holding on to. (Hilary Carty)

an arrow on the road

A few days before Sync Thinking we received the fantastic news that Sync wasn't to close along with CLP at the end of March, but had been chosen to move forwards into 2011/12 under the new Organisational Development and Leadership Department at Arts Council England.

Now we are not sure what this means for the programme exactly, or which elements will be taken forward, but you can trust that we are busy at the moment dreaming and planning and will bring you news as soon as we have it.

So that's it for this month, plenty to get your teeth into.

Do click through to the longer transcripts and watch out next month for more information from the event.

Take care

Jo Verrent

Sync Project Management

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