On the 10th of March 2021, participants on the Lead Positive Change programme were given 60 seconds to pitch their projects to a panel of experts; like something out of Dragons Den.
The panel was one to be reckoned with: Including the founder and CEO of the Ubele Initiative, Yvonne Field, the founder and CEO of BUD, Georgina Wilson, and Anita Thorpe, founder of Diverse.
The pitches were a celebration of an 8-week long programme helping a group of individuals turn an idea into an enterprise. They were a collection of empowering stories which demonstrated how a group of individuals came together and supported each other in developing their individual ideas.
They were also probably, the shortest 60 seconds of their lives!
"BUT THIS ISN’T A STORY ABOUT THE END RESULT. IT’S ABOUT THE GROWTH BEHIND-THE SCENES"
Lead Positive Change is BUD’s signature programme, a social enterprise which provides leadership coaching and consulting to organisations looking to make positive change.
It is designed for people of colour who are passionate about making a positive change to the community.
And it’s free!!!
It began on a bleak Wednesday evening in January. Twenty four nervous, yet excited participants met on the programme for the first time to begin their journey to becoming fearless leaders.
With the course introduced and the ground rules set, the participants began with an ice-breaker activity, buddying up so they could socialise, share empowering stories, and begin to bounce ideas off each other.
Little did they know how much they had in common. One participant was surprised to learn how “so many people felt the same way” about creating life-changing projects. Another mentioned how “fun” and “nice” it was to start creating a network on their journey to building positive change.
With encouragement from our enthusiastic facilitators, Sharon Brooks & Mel Vidal, there was a sense of achievement , empowerment, and great vibes amongst the group as participants left the meeting “feeling very positive,” “deeply, deeply grateful,” and “energized.”
When the lights went down, the action started
Between the weekly check-ins, the Lead Positive Change programme facilitates an active learning experience for participants, providing a workbook, online learning modules, networking opportunities, and an online interactive whiteboard.
The online learning programme includes video tutorials introducing key terms and concepts, quizzes to consolidate participants’ understanding, and tasks to prepare ahead of each weekly check-in.
Following on from the ice-breaker activity, participants were put into pairs as part of a Buddy System. Each pair would then meet up with their buddy at least once before the next check-in session.
This was an aspect of the programme the participants loved! Many used the Buddy system to gain positive “feedback and encouragement,” others set up Zoom and Whatsapp calls, whilst one pair used the session to go through homework tasks together.
The tasks are accompanied by a workbook which is a colourful, joyful space for participants to structure their ideas clearly and create a foundation for their project.
One of the most ambitious goals of the programme is to create a culture of reciprocity.
Using an interactive online noticeboard through Miro, participants are able to engage in a skills exchange where they can offer their expertise in return for help in other areas related to the project or wellbeing.
WEEK 2: THE 'WHY' MOMENT
The online noticeboard became a core part of the Lead Positive Change programme for participants.
At the second weekly check-in, participants discussed their ‘why’ moment.
Why had they joined the Lead Positive Change programme? Why did they want to create an enterprise? Why might something stop them from acting on their idea?
"BEING IN THIS TOGETHER"
Reflecting on the module tasks through the online noticeboard, participants unanimously agreed that one thing was stopping them from acting upon their ideas: Procrastination.
One strategy discussed by the energising facilitators was peer support. As participants buddied up again, many of them highlighted how the Buddy System was making them “accountable,” encouraging “feedback,” and giving them a sense of “being in this together.”
Another strategy was developing clarity of thought. One participant, Charles Olorunfemi, mentioned how Lead Positive Change helped him take that step towards creating his project by narrowing down the range of ideas he had into one coherent plan.
Week 3: Gaynor, Marley, and Beyonce
With a mixtape of empowering songs ringing in the participants’ ears, the participants’ motivation was through the roof for the third check-in.
At the centre of the conversation was wellbeing and mindfulness, as participants discussed ways to connect with their senses and surroundings using the Take 5 method.
Using the Miro whiteboard, the conversation became a recurring theme as participants took turns to share self-care tips such as positive affirmation, taking short, regular breaks, and being at peace with saying the word no.
At this relatively early stage of the programme, participants had already begun to take steps to put their projects into action.
One participant, Caroline Ada, had even received funding from Arts Council England and Global Fund for Children for Swallow Wings Puppetry CIC, for her multimedia puppet show celebrating Afro Caribbean culture.
And this took place weeks before funding had even been introduced in the programme…
WEEK 4: MARKETING
To get our participants in a sales sales sales mindset, participants were asked to record 90-second long videos to share with their allocated buddy for that week.
The videos were a starting point to discuss market research as facilitators encouraged participants to put themselves in the shoes of their target audience.
Participants were particularly drawn to the sales funnel concept and consolidated their learning through a market plan-sharing activity.
With another buddy to pair up with for the week, participants were also assigned personal mentors who they could ask specific questions related to their project.
The 45-minute-long sessions enabled participants to receive expert advice from professionals, start-up founders, and community workers, many of whom boast over 10-years’ experience.
Week 5: FUNDING: GETTING IN THE EMPIRE STATE OF MIND
To help participants get in an empire state of mind for funding, Lead Positive Change brought in several experts for the money module.
The online modules included videos about budgeting and funding by Lisa Newton, an accounting expert, Paris Petgrave, an award-winning businesswoman and founder of a workplace tool, We Love Work, and a live Q&A session with Helen Samson, founder of the consultancy Forcera CIC, who answered questions on funding and accessibility.
Many participants expressed how their communication skills were improving whilst on the programme. The programme nurtured these skills by giving participants plenty of opportunities to practice pitching.
While one participant highlighted how the programme was helping her address her idea more “succinctly,” others described how they realised they needed to “be more specific” with their idea and “hone-in their target market.”
Another participant, Leroy, summarised the Lead Positive Change process as “refinement” as the pitching opportunities helped him “condense ideas down” and combine “emotion” with “ideas.”
Week 6: THE BUSINESS CANVAS: THE PARTICIPANTS’ TURN TO SHINE
The sixth check-in was all about developing a business model canvas. By this point, participants were taking more and more responsibility, as two participants put themselves forward to give skill-sharing presentations.
The first was by Samantha, who gave a presentation on using Canva to create effective branding, while Nya’s excel document and video illustrated how to create an interactive cashflow spreadsheet.
Participants also carried out personality tests to identify the ‘must-have’ qualities of leaders. Participants found that the test “resonated” with them, helping them reflect on why they make certain decisions and the difference between leadership and management.
At the end of the session, participants shared how they had developed a routine whilst on the programme:
1. Complete weekly check-in tasks.
2. Attend the check-in. Share some positivity whilst feeling motivated and empowered.
3. Go and do something that makes you happy. For the participants, this included getting outside, listening to music, and self-reflection.
The activities reflected Lead Positive Change’s strategy to instil resilience in its participants, encouraging them to become effective leaders by taking care of their wellbeing
Week 7: PITCH PRACTICE, LEGAL STRUCTURES, THE ONLINE COMMUNITY,PROGRESS, AND CELEBRATION (GOOD TIMES, COME ON!)
With the million-dollar pitch in sight, our penultimate weekly check-in gave participants another opportunity to rehearse their pitch deck, focussing on storytelling.
For many of the participants, the final pitch would be the first time they had officially presented anything. However, in a friendly, inclusive environment and with the facilitators’ backing, the check-in became a supportive space for participants to receive constructive pointers for improvement.
The check-in was supported by participant-led presentations as Karina Cuji gave a warm presentation about the BUD online community. The community is a system focussed around reciprocity where every month, members are connected via the leadership and entrepreneurial skills they want to develop.
If that wasn’t enough, participants were treated to another live Q&A session with Jacy Stewart – founder of For Business Sake. As well as providing 1-to-1 mentoring sessions and presenting some of the online learning videos, Jacy’s expertise helped participants answer legal and business-related queries including setting up partnerships and measuring impact.
The energy, empowerment, and confidence of the participants had demonstrably improved across the seven weeks. One participant, Janet Taylor McPherson, mentioned how she had set up a meeting with Credit Union Croydon BME & Croydon Wellbeing Centre to support her project providing financial community and sustainability in the area.
Another participant, Zaria, had used Samantha Ward’s presentation from the previous check-in to build herself a logo using Canva. Her proactive attitude, fostered by Lead Positive Change and her network, empowered her to attract her first client for her resume and Linkedin profile builder.
SO WHAT DID THE PARTICIPANTS GET OUT OF THE LEAD POSITIVE CHANGE PROGRAMME?
Some notable project mentions include:
Maths2Infinity – Alicia created a two-part service providing Maths tuition to individuals and groups from BAME and disadvantaged backgrounds. The panel and participants warmed to the personal story behind her project, voting it ‘best idea’.
Alaga Kita – Sarah’s recruitment consultancy not only helps migrants and people from BME ethnic groups find employment and improve their livelihood, but also reinvests its profits to the Kanlungan Flipino Consortium, a charity supporting the social, economic, and political welfare of Filipinos in the UK. The panel and participants particularly enjoyed the way Alaga Kita was pitched, as its “clear”, “coherent” message was voted ‘presentation of the night’.
The Soul Shack LDN – Shanelle Webb created a community providing cooking and business workshops and mentoring, as well as summer and holiday camps for young people. The panel and participants agreed Shanelle’s pitch had a ‘wow factor’ with a strong opening and “moving story.”
WHILST WE HAVE HIGHLIGHTED A FEW PARTICIPANTS, WE TRULY BELIEVE EVERYONE’S A WINNER FOR GOING ON THIS LEAD POSITVE CHANGE JOURNEY.
Out of those who have participated, all of the participants said they now have a clear idea of their project, while at least eight participants have either launched their idea, or are in the process of launching.
All the participants say they have unlocked a community that can help support them with their ideas, as the Buddy System enabled each participant to build at least seven natural connections, as well as being connected with their mentors and speakers.
All of the participants mentioned they now feel they have the confidence to be a leader in their community and they would definitely recommend it to others.
Of course, this 8-week long Lead Positive Change roller coaster would not have been possible without the support of the incredible leaders and change-makers.
First of all, the coordinators, and facilitators: Georgina Wilson, Sharon Brooks, Mel Vidal and Marilena Dyranis-Maonis for ensuring the smooth running of sessions and keeping an upbeat, positive vibe, especially during lockdown.
The team of mentors and online learning presenters.
Chris Gardner, Emily Lewis, Gayathiri Kamalakanthan,Jacy Stewart, Helen Sanson, Hanan Atmani, Lere Fisher, Lisa Newton, Mariama Njie, Melissa Vidal, Paris Petgrave,Timi Merriman Johnson and Vanessa Kanaiza for giving up their time to nurture talent, share knowledge and give the learning module slides some ‘value-added’ positivity.
The panel for providing their expertise and a platform for our participants to spread their positivity.
The Ubele Initiative for supporting the Lead Positive Change Programme, its values, and giving a voice to our incredible participants.
The London Community Response for funding this entire project.
And of course, the participants themselves.
START YOUR LEADERSHIP JOURNEY AND LAUNCH YOUR IDEA
We’d be delighted to equip, enable and empower you through the Lead Positive Change Programme. Find out more here: