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Leading change through teams and networks

27 Oct 2021 | Dr Dom Jackson-Cole Dr Dom Jackson-Cole, Advance HE Senior Adviser – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Advance HE, introduces the second quarterly theme for the Connect Benefit Series 2021-22

Leadership, change, teams, networks – these words are spoken by many of us on a daily basis. But can we safely assume that we have a share understanding of these concepts? More importantly, do we really know how they work? For example, contrary to common thinking, recent research shows that a constantly changing team can actually be conducive to more creativity and success.

Leading change through teams and networks.... That’s the name of this Connect Benefit Series project through November 2021 to January 2022. But what does it mean exactly? Well, in preparation for this theme I asked my colleagues, peers and friends inside and outside of Advance HE about what they understood this title to be about… And everyone had a different answer.

Some concentrated on the meaning of change. They asked, if this theme was about change - a defined process that has a beginning and an end – or about transition – which recognises the psychological coming to terms with change. Given how volatile our sector has been not only in the last 18 months but in the last decade, it makes sense to talk about constant changes AND transitions.

Other colleagues thought it would be pertinent to concentrate on the differences between teams and network, and then between official and unofficial networks and the role of social capital that underpins these networks.

Another colleague took a liking to the word ‘leading’ and considered various types of leadership, questioning if compound-noun leadership - inclusive leadership, democratic leadership, people-oriented leadership - can even be a type of leadership in the first place or is it tautology. After all, can we speak about leadership if it is not inclusive, people-centred and democratic?

One colleague even questioned what was meant by “through” in the theme title.

To me, all of this shows just how crucial it is to develop an in depth understanding of how teams and networks work, how they can be managed and used to support the success of institutions and how important this theme is. Therefore, we have designed this theme, building on the latest research, empirical evidence and good practice to support a wide range of our members.

Exciting benefits 

I’m really excited about the range of benefits we have prepared for our members in this Connect Benefit Series project.

The first event “The role of social capital in the success of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students is an interactive workshop on 24 November 2021 at 14:00-16:00 GMT and will support our colleagues who work to improve student outcomes for diverse student communities, be it lecturers, learning and teaching coordinators or student services colleagues. In this interactive workshop we will interrogate the role of social capital in building networks of influence and success for minoritised students. Interestingly, debates on social capital of students are often based in a deficit discourse, concentrating on how students may lack such social capital and putting the onus on them to improve their networks. This workshop will do the exact opposite. We will look at the research which demonstrates various forms of social capital available to students and how institutions can change in order to embed the development of these forms of social capital and networks in their core activity.

Another benefit of this Connect Benefit Series is ‘Supporting Inclusive Boards community which will convene governance professionals from small and specialist institutions in a series of developmental, online sessions (four session in 2021-22) to enhance and share thinking, noting the importance of the role of the governance professional in implementing change. Using Advance HE’s Board Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit (to be launched to Advance HE members on 2 November) as a guide, the community will work through a range of topics from preparing the board, creative solutions to generating diverse board candidates, to successful recruitment, induction and retention in the small specialist context as well as explore future community needs. They will be expertly facilitated by Tesse Akpeki, Advance HE Associate, inclusive leadership expert and Fellow of the Chartered Governance Institute, with Kim Ansell, Advance HE Senior Adviser in Leadership and Governance. Invitations to join the community is offered in conjunction with GuildHE and will be sent to small and specialist institutions. Register your interest here.

Our last output of this Connect Benefit Series is ‘Building a successful team or network to transform institutions: a discussion panel with change experts’  taking place on 18 January 2022 at 14:00-16:00 GMT. This will support project managers, institutional change-makers and leaders who wish to better understand how they can use the power of teams and networks to create successful institutional change and/or transformation. A panel discussion with change veterans who have created institutional transformations will share their experiences, tips and know-how with Advance HE members. We have an exciting line up of speakers. Professor David Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, will speak about various teams and networks he managed in his work to fight harassment. Maryane Mwaniki, head of EmbRace staff network at the London School of Economics and Politics, will talk about the role of the network in changing LSE’s understanding of race equity. Another confirmed speaker is Dr Meera Sabaratnam, Reader in International Relations, SOAS University of London and a founding member and former chair of the SOAS decolonisation working group. Meera will talk about the influence of the network within the School and the wider sector. We will confirm more speakers soon.

The diversity of topics, speakers and audiences that this theme speaks to is bound to create fascinating debates, spark food for thought and instigate institutional learning, which will support change through teams and networks.

Connect Benefits Series on Leading change through teams and networks

This project will take place over November, December and January with outputs including an invitation to join the Supporting Inclusive Boards community for small and specialist institutions in conjunction with GuildHE, an interactive workshop and a discussion panel. Find out more here

More information on the 2021-22 Connect Benefit Series thematic projects can be found here.

  • Dr Dom Jackson-Cole, SFHEA (he/they) is a Senior Adviser – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Advance HE. Dom’s specialism is in race in higher education, LGBTQ+ equality and dignity and respect. Dom has worked in higher education since 2007 and, among others, was part of Universities UK’s advisory board on tackling racial harassment, led network of Dignity Advisers at SOAS University of London, and was part of the EDI team at Kingston University working on closing the racialised degree awarding gap.
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