For the past few months, I’ve been toiling away with a great team of thinkers/practitioners at LSE and beyond, developing a new training course on influencing (as close followers of my occasional tweeted requests for extra references may have noticed). Now it’s being launched, as part of the Global Executive Leadership Initiative, so I can go a bit more public. Here’s the promo bit (more requests to follow).
First the blurb from the leaflet (full text here)
‘Influencing for Senior Leaders: Analysis, Strategy, and Practice: Regional Training Programme
This course is for leaders that regularly participate in the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and/or United Nations Country Teams (UNCTs) or other similar leadership fora, and for leaders that are seeking to become more effective influencers. It will sharpen your ability to exert influence over a variety of stakeholders in your operation, including national and local authorities, non-state actors, donors, political actors, even your own headquarters. You will understand context and the network of stakeholders relevant to your influencing goals. You will explore how impactful influencing strategies combine public and private communications techniques, humanitarian diplomacy, media engagement, and creative responses to the challenges you face.
The course also focuses on the changing humanitarian and development influencing landscape, contemporary operational concerns and intractable ethical dilemmas. Case studies will help you work more effectively with diverse internal teams and external stakeholders at different levels, including multilateral organisations, donor and host governments, non-state actors and affected populations.
The course follows an 80:20 split between practice and theory. It is primarily informed by real life case studies, experiential learning and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange; and is supported by theories and frameworks. Topics are explored through insights and case studies from academics and diplomatic, humanitarian and development leaders, who candidly share the challenges and dilemmas they face in the field. You will be supported to develop a personal project that tackles your specific and immediate career challenges and goals.
A Bespoke Curriculum
The curriculum consists of core and optional learning topics and associated materials that make up the influencing cycle:
Analysing the context, power dynamics and stakeholder relationships in a given humanitarian or development situation, HCT or UNCT, and how they drive or block change.
Crafting an overarching influencing strategy based on an understanding of the communications ecosystems, actors, and outcomes faced by the HCTs and UNCTs, and the dilemmas leaders may confront as they seek to realise their objectives.
Deploying appropriate and complementary private and public influencing tactics to maximise the chances of impactful change whilst understanding the risks involved in each.
The course begins with a four-day regional residential workshop. You will gain knowledge of core influencing skills through a series of case studies and a group simulation exercise, and craft your personal projects with the help of facilitators and your peers. Experienced ‘guest leaders’ will also be invited to share their insights during talks and after dinner chats.
Weeks 2-5 move online. You will be asked to select your preferences from 13 optional topics and associated learning materials (see table). Facilitators will create a bespoke curriculum for the cohort based on these preferences, with an emphasis on small groups following similar learning paths.
Each online week will require 1-2 hours of preparatory work made up of recorded presentations, videos, podcasts and short readings, and a 1-2 hour online participatory session with facilitators and your peers. You will also be able to have 30 minutes per week of one on one time with a designated coach.’
With my LSE hat on, this has been a fascinating exercise in adapting and developing the course on influencing I teach with Tom Kirk, who’s also at the heart of this new one.
We’re working with some great thinkers and practitioners in the humanitarian sector and strategic communications, which is teaching me a lot (my background is mainly on policy advocacy and long-term development).
We’ll also be working with a very different set of participants – senior leaders in UN, INGOs and national NGOs, rather than Masters students.
Working with leaders means we’ll have about 500 years of additional experience in the room for each 25-person course, and so need to move to a much more facilitatory/peer-to-peer approach (also, big cheeses won’t put up with wall-to-wall powerpoint, apparently…). I’m particularly looking forward to the day-long simulation of a crisis response in the fictional country of Gelia.
With my Oxfam hat on, I’m keen to get leaders from INGOs and national NGOs signing up in numbers. It’s not only a great learning opportunity, but a chance to network with people from across the aid sector. The good news is that GELI will cover accommodation and (for national NGOs) travel, as well as the course itself.