My Journey into Leading Collective Impact

In addition to our flagship Open Programme, our Leading Collective Impact Programme runs over four months and supports collective action around a specific challenge. Meet Jacqueline, Systems Advisor, coach, strategist and our Collective Impact lead.

If you’ve any questions about She Leads Change and our upcoming virtual programmes, we are offering taster sessions during the months of June and July, more information can be found here.

“What is my place in creating systemic change in the world?”

This was one of many questions I began to hold after 15 years of “doing” the work – beginning as a social worker with young offenders, shaping policies for vulnerable children and then social enterprises, and more recently, working on social innovation and sustainability with business. 

At the start of 2019, I took a step from the more familiar terrain of “having a job” to pursue these questions, on my own terms and in my own time (and am grateful for the privilege allowing me to do so). I wanted to pause. To immerse myself in the questions rather than settling on any one answer. Go back to the basics of “why?”. My “why?”. And perhaps most of all, to find my voice in all of this – to be able to listen to it, and use it. 

I found the time to read again. To have deeper conversations with people. To learn. I have been inspired by countless thinkers and practitioners, including the work of the Presencing Institute, the International Futures Forum, the Organisational and Relationships Systems Coaching (ORSC) practice, the Finance Innovation Lab, the We Are Liminal network, the Systems Innovation platform and many others I’ve met along the way.

What I didn’t expect to find was community – redefined for me through my experience with She Leads Change (SLC). Here, I encountered community not simply as a place to exchange knowledge, network with “what do you do” as the starting point, or share new hobbies (although I have since tried paddle boarding with a few mates at SLC – fun is allowed too!). 

Instead, the community (and wonderful core team) at SLC has been a safe space for me to just “be”. To show up as me. A caring environment where I can step into my deepest ‘whys’, where there is space for me to thrive, to explore my potential. A generous place for relationships to grow. Relationships that are based on interdependence and support, and that are strong enough for difference to be worked through. 

First seeds of a movement

For so long, doing world-changing work to me was exactly that. It was about the “doing” – moving from project to project, job to job. Despite being part of wonderful teams, and even speaking on different stages about collaboration – the truth is that I primarily saw my work as an individual endeavour. To fix, to solve. To come up with the best ideas. 

Through community, I’m beginning to grow my appreciation and relationship with the “collective” at multiple levels (and this is still an ongoing journey): 

  • Me – bringing and engaging my whole self (including my head and my heart, and the feminine aspects of me) and becoming friends with the multiple, sometimes conflicting, parts of me.
  • The relationships that I am a part of – my family, the teams and organisations I work with, my community and beyond. Where I pay attention to the quality of my relationships here, that I try to reflect and work towards embodying the changes I wish to see out there in the world in here as well. Where I commit to listening (and not just speaking). And where I consider questions like “how might we thrive together?” and “what new possibilities can emerge here that wouldn’t be possible if not for us?”.
  • Our shared planet – the ultimate system that has modelled for us the beauty and fruitfulness of interdependence when nature is allowed to just be.  

I began to see each of these levels as essential to the work of any systems worker. That it is as much about the practice and process, as it is about the project outcome or success of any one initiative. It is not static, it is not linear. And it certainly doesn’t have a single destination point. It is an ongoing inquiry. 

And there’s no better practice ground for this work than being and learning in community. A safe space to exercise our voice, and grow in confidence doing so. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable – which gives permission to others to do so too. Learning to hold space for others, and to take space. Growing through differences with others. 

These were the seeds that the Leading Collective Impact programme was planted with just over a year ago. Our intention was to provide a space for individuals looking to deepen their leadership capacities and to increase their impact by working with others. A space where they can experience changemaking as a “practice” and as “community”, to learn and move forward through inquiry and action, and expand into new ways of working with multiple levels of the “collective”.

Voices from the field

In January 2020, our very first cohort of beautiful, talented and diverse changemakers came together. We survived a tumultuous first half of 2020 (including lockdown!), learnt that it was possible to continue connecting deeply virtually, and completed our 4+ month journey on the programme earlier this month.

It has been a tremendous privilege walking the path with this group, and it has also opened my eyes to the beginnings of a movement for a new type of leadership so desperately needed in the world. Despite the trying times we live in, this feels much more real and alive to me than ever before. And I am grateful for that.  

The image below captures some of the participants’ own words as they weaved together their collective story on the programme during our final session.

Last week, as I shared with a good friend about some of my experiences so far on this journey, she reflected this back to me – “it sounds like doing this work has really changed you”. I guess this is one answer (for now) to the question I started this phase of the journey with – that my place in creating systemic change in the world, is simply to keep practicing and inquiring, and to carve out new paths forward by walking with others.

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Join the journey with us?

We are looking forward to continuing this journey with a new cohort of the Leading Collective Impact programme in September 2020. If you would like to journey with us in some way – as a participant, a coach or mentor, or just to learn alongside us – get in touch, or join us at:

  • An inspiration and showcase event on 16 July 2020 hosted by our pioneer cohort. They will share about their experiences and how their respective areas of inquiry have evolved since joining Leading Collective Impact. 
  • One of several Taste of SLC webinars in the coming weeks for anyone interested in applying to one of our programmes, or getting involved at SLC in any way. All are welcome.

We are also excited to begin exploring with organisations and networks opportunities to use this programme as a facilitated space for groups to explore shared inquiries (including on race and inequality, the climate crisis, as well as on mental wellbeing) and unlock collective action. We’d love to have a conversation if any of this resonates. Get in touch.

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