I recently came across great a leadership course. It’s run by the Open University’s Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership.

I must confess that I started out on this course with a large dose of scepticism. I have done leadership courses before and very often they struggle to move on from the general and the banal!

But Collaborative Leadership in Voluntary Organisations was very different. Ok, so the title maybe doesn’t do too much by way of inspiration, but just wait until you get going on it.

I relished how it was packed full of really useful concepts. In particular I valued the focus on the importance of good conflict. I try to take this approach when I am building a theory of change. And it is full of real life and topical case studies.

The best bit for me without question was ‘Ellen’s story’, which runs through the course. It is basically an audio diary of a new chief executive, and the issues and challenges she faces stepping up into a leadership role. I wished I could have listed to that when I was starting my first leadership role.

There is also an accompanying course – Developing Leadership Practice in Voluntary Organisations – which is also well worth a look. In particular I thought that the chapter on narcissistic leaders was courageous and important for all of us working in this sector.

So if you are looking for some professional development, I recommend these great leadership courses. And they have the added bonus of being free!

Recently I got back in touch with a colleague of mine now working out of Berlin. While we were catching up with each other, he suddenly said to me, ‘you know what? I think we are both network entrepreneurs!’

I hadn’t come across this concept before; of course I’d heard of a social entrepreneur but not of a network entrepreneur.

So, he sent over to me a link from an initiative in the US on network leadership. I was very taken by this approach – exploring how can you lead in a network as opposed to an organisation.

The authors set out four principles for network leadership:

  1. Focus on mission before organisation
  2. Manage through trust, not control
  3. Promote others, not yourself
  4. Build constellations, not stars

I think these are great principles – what do you think?

I was running a campaigning webinar recently with colleagues across Bulgaria, and I was asked – how do we get the credit?

The point was expressed that you can do loads of campaigning work, develop evidence and policy, build support and get policy or practice change. But how do you get your target, for example, the government, to acknowledge your work and give you credit?

Interesting question. And one that I have heard raised many times. I think key to answering this question is why are you doing your campaigning? Is it to achieve change on your issue or is to raise the profile of your organisation? If it is the former, then you will be relaxed about a lack of credit.

But my view has always been, you will probably not get the credit you seek from your target. That’s life! It is rare that you build a big campaign to pressure say a politician to change a policy, and then that politician gives you attribution.

What I think is more important is that your key people know the impact you are making. So while you may never receive credit from your target, you can let your supporters, allies and funders know what you have been doing to bring about change. If these people know, then surely that is enough?

So maybe for a campaigner this is the wrong question? The critical point surely is how do we bring about change? What do you think?

I’ve recently started doing some work exploring how adding a campaigning twist to leadership can enhance a leader.

What do I mean by a campaigning twist? Well, for a long time I have been intrigued at the inter-relationship between campaigning and leadership. And I have now begun to set out more explicitly how the application of some campaigning skills can encourage people to develop their leadership potential.

I call this application of campaigning skills: adding a campaigning twist. Now, I’m not saying that all leaders should be campaigners (although that would be neat), but that aspiring leaders can benefit from applying some campaigning skills.

And with the increasing focus in the voluntary sector on management skills, I’m also interested in how this campaigning twist can help to make managers better leaders.

If you’re interested, do look at my summary paper or webinar. And I’d love to know what you think. Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss.

I have just put a new webinar on my site on 1832 and all that. Well, to be a bit clearer, it’s about the development of Parliamentary Democracy in the UK.

This short webinar offers a simple introduction to this important topic not just for campaigners. It was developed from my experience as a campaigner, Parliamentary candidate, history teacher and student.

I have delivered this content in different forms to audiences such as the Bond network and City of Sanctuary’s Sanctuary in Politics course. I am always interested in how many of us living in the UK as well as people further afield have little idea about how the UK moved to being more of a Parliamentary democracy.

It is a compelling story of change without a revolution. Much has happened, but certainly much more needs to happen to continue the development of our democracy!

I’ve just added a couple of new webinars to my site. At the beginning of the year, I published a new pamphlet which sought, in a very simple way, to explain how a theory of change could be used to drive a campaign forward.

And recently a colleague of mine recommended Loom to me. If you haven’t come across this free educational software, I think that it is well worth a look.

It’s just so easy to be able to record webinars with either slides and audio or slides and video. You will see that I have used the slides and audio format for these webinars.

In the past I had thought about using podcasts as a way of conveying some of my information. But for some of the content, which I want to share, it just feels better to be able to share some slides as well as an audio of video feed.

I just love how the advent of this new technology is aiding teachers, who want to communicate and share learning but to be able to do so in ever more engaging ways. My plans now include more such webinars to convey other key messages. So watch this space!

Over the last two months I have seen a dramatic surge in demand for my online campaigning courses.

I like to think it is all those people at home around the world at the moment, using this time to sharpen up their campaigning skills. As we emerge out of the global crisis, we’ll have all these people ready to campaign!

At the time of writing, there are currently 3,584 students studying on my two courses in 134 different countries across all continents.

My two courses are a free introduction – what is campaigning? – and a paid for course – campaigning for change (based on my book of the same name). So most of my students are on the free course – but I love how far and wide these campaigning ideas are spreading.

I am now beginning to work on my next online project – so watch this space!

Last month I saw my book sales reach 400! I was amazed, and even more so by that fact that it continues to sell around the world.

When I wrote Campaigning for Change: an Essential Guide for Campaigning around the World, I realised that it would appeal to a small, niche audience. So I am delighted now to see so many book sales.

Shortly after publishing it, there was an order from Australia. And last month there were copies sent out to Germany.

I love how it has been used by Helvetas as part of their global support to advocacy training. And nearer to home by Places of Sanctuary Ireland and City of Sanctuary UK for their Sanctuary in Politics courses.

My favourite story came from a woman in Central Asia. She was doing some influencing work and kept getting stuck. And when she did get stuck, she said that she would turn to ‘that little green book.’

Just that story alone is enough to convince me that it was worth writing this book!

This week I faced the challenge of running a meeting on Zoom, not for 7 or so people as I’ve done in the past, but for 33 people!

I’ve written in the past about how I much I appreciate running a meeting on Zoom for campaign training. A few years ago working with a Spanish NGO, I helped them to build a theory of change with colleagues in various locations across their country. But there were 7 colleagues, which made it relatively easy to manage.

Zoom for 33 people

This week we held a quarterly meeting of the Detention Forum. We were expecting around 25 people – and we got 33 in the end! We realised that this had all the ingredients for chaos, so in advance of the meeting we shared some suggestions on ground rules.

So we suggested that only one person should speak at once. But also we encouraged people to use the hands up icon to indicate when they wanted to speak, and use the thumbs up/ applause icons when others were speaking to express support.

As the meeting progressed, it struck us as organisers that you needed more than just one person to manage this process online. But three of us could scan the participants’ list for hands up. We could also monitor the chat function and use that as a way to invite people to speak.

Invaluable chat function

I was fascinated by how useful the chat function was in the discussion – as people were speaking, colleagues were adding notes and links to articles/ websites. And once people had finished speaking they could also add a note with some links for more information. Whilst we couldn’t see each other, the chat function helped to make this online discussion more interactive and free flowing.

And then I shouldn’t have been surprised at the request of some participants for a copy of the chat history as it contained such useful information. I am sure that there is still so much to learn. But at this time of global challenge and national lockdown, it is exciting to see how we can use technology to continue our collaboration to further our collective mission!

‘Your stuff is so simple’. This was the stark feedback from a colleague recently, who had just read my book: Campaigning for Change – an Essential Guide for Campaigning around the World.

I am not sure that this statement was made as a compliment, but I took it as such! I make no apologies for my writing and approach to campaigning being very simple. I want to encourage people to campaign. I want to remove the barriers to entry, and I hope to inspire people to see that they can campaign for change.

One of my favourite pieces of feedback was from a community leader in Ukraine. After listening to me, via translation, she told me that she now realised that she had always been a campaigner. She just hadn’t felt that this term applied to her.

When you get into campaigning, you will find all the complexity you might be looking for in terms of opposition, framing messaging and responding to internal blockages. But as you start campaigning, I think it is critical to make campaigning as simple as possible.

Offer a simple definition. Show that it is within reach. Suggest that campaigning can take many forms. But above all, seek to inspire people to care and to campaign for change.

So, your stuff is simple! Yes, but isn’t that the best way to get people going and motivated to campaign for the change they want to see in the world?