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2018: a year in review

You might argue that the moment for “year in review” pieces has passed. Let’s be honest as most of these now ping into our inboxes between Christmas and New Year designed to get our chilled-out attention they are mainly written before the year is even done. I was tempted to agree and move on through the year but the launch of the #GM4Women 2028 Pankhurst-Fawcett Scorecard last week has galvanised me to share some of what we learnt at Happen Together last year that we take into our work in 2019.

The Pankhurst-Fawcett scorecard was born out of the beautiful and bountiful burst of energy that celebrated progress on women’s rights and sex equality in the UK within the #vote100 centenary celebrations. The data initiative is a case in point that few if any of these events and initiatives were only celebrating a landmark, most created dialogue about the nature of what has resulted, where we are now, what we can learn from how change has happened and what we need to do now for equality.

At Happen Together we were privileged to have the opportunity to take the best of our coaching, facilitation and research skills and tools to create spaces for this learning and dialogue in a number of centenary focused initiatives. These opportunities reinforced our learning on how we unlock the potential of individuals, teams and networks to create sustained change and taught us a host of new and important things. Lessons we think apply across the full range of structures by which people come together to achieve something.

A quick rundown on some of the main pieces of work we were (and still are) involved in collaborating on:

  • With the British Council Gender and Equalities team we engaged nearly 200 women and some men in a participative research project ‘Women, Power, Politics: what’s changed in 100 years?’ .he resulting report has been well received and continues to spark further dialogue and energy both in the UK and internationally.

  • With The Pankhurst Trust we are leading on Rise Voice Vote, youth engagement project. A centenary cities funded initiative connecting Manchester’s woman-led activism of past and present with local young people. Nearly 600 young people have attended events to inspire and support their political participation and community activism through shared stories, learning and celebration. With more than twenty local and women-led organisations and activists engaged so far in the initiative.

  • With The Fawcett Society, Amity HCD and DivaManc we facilitated women in Greater Manchester as part of the Making Devolution Work for Women project to ensure diverse women’s voices are heard and that policy makers make decision to advance gender equality. Project continues, an interim report is available and responses to GM policy in a number of areas including the employment charter have been submitted.

  • With The Parliament Project we continued to deliver workshops for women getting into politics to #GetReadyToStand. After running and evaluating an innovative pilot programme of on-line Peer Support Circles for women pursuing political journeys our second programme starting in January was hugely popular and over-subscribed, more coming soon! Our Peer Support Circle model was also delivered with Girlguiding as part of the Action for Change programme.

  • For the Local Government Association we facilitated learning opportunities for women councillors as part of the inaugural Women’s Weekender and have designed a toolkit to support councils to be women, parent and carer friendly for councillors.

  • Alongside these projects we continued to deliver coaching and facilitation designed to help people be at their best and work well together in social entrepreneurship, start-ups, community networks and family businesses. This included working with Street Support, GM Homelessness Partnership, Healthy Investment, Just Fair, Zaptic, For Me & For You and the Pankhurst Trust Some Women Coach initiative.

What did we learn about unlocking potential and agency to make sustained change possible through cooperating, collaborating and collective action?

  1. Start with self: we need to connect with our own experiences, intrinsic motivation and purpose to be change and collaboration ready. As well as knowing and building on the strengths that we bring it matters that we can share our vulnerability, know what we need support with and be in spaces where we can ask for help to be at our best.

  2. Intentional spaces to connect: where we can listen and share with generosity and compassion, valuing the experiences, skills and expertise of others and recognising the complexity of our systems. Building trust enables the meaningful dialogue and critical sense-making required to find a place of shared purpose and agreement on how to take action.

  3. Make visible: we need to understand and promote both the data about the change needed and the stories and narrative of change. Understanding the importance in “dusting off”, appreciating and learning from the stories of many women over the last 100 years who have led change in their communities, sectors, nationally and internationally was an incredibly important part of the learning of 2018.

  4. Be open to new and different: knowing what has worked matters but so does being open to trying new things and being creative in finding solutions. It requires courage to try, to ask and to make mistakes and a deep understanding of how others may be seeing things differently than you are. It’s often also where we find the fun is in making things happen!

  5. We all need accountability: be that for our personal goals or the responsibility we take to show up and play our part in the collective endeavour. Honesty, trust and openness in high quality feedback loops are critical if we’re to know what’s working well, what’s not working so well and what we need to be doing differently.

None of these are “lightbulb” moments. I’m not suggesting that we encountered new and revelatory learning but we did consolidate our approach and knowledge that through POW(er)ing up our self-development, collaborative skills and having the courage to try new things we can all POW(er) up the achievements of our organisations, movements and other communities.

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Happen Together CIC

For you, for your work, for social change

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