"Thinking with your hands" and leadership

One of our student groups' designs: 'ordinary leadership' to them looks like a supportive community encircled by a low wall to keep people safe, and bridges to bring others into the community. 

One of our student groups' designs: 'ordinary leadership' to them looks like a supportive community encircled by a low wall to keep people safe, and bridges to bring others into the community. 

In November we ran an awesome hour-long leadership workshop at one of our schools, involving 17 Year 9 students and about 2,000 pieces of Lego. A huge thanks to the school and to my friend Ann who is a qualified Lego facilitator (yes, that is a real 'job' for all of you who are asking!) for helping to run the session, and supplying all the Lego for us to use. 

The theme of the "thinking with your hands" workshop was "Ordinary Leadership". After some activities, students first built their 'support crew' in Lego, and we talked about each as a group. It was great to see some really creative insights coming through! 

Then, we asked the students to build themselves as leaders into the picture... and everything changed. A deeper level of insight and some great commentary! Well done everyone! 

And of course, kai to finish off... the banana cake I made was gone in under 30 seconds flat.  

Closed loop systems, engines and Upwards

Some very exciting news in August - after nearly three years working on the puzzle, I've finally worked out how to make the business model a closed loop. This means that all the parts of Upwards (multiple workstreams/sub-brands) work together to help the organisation become self-sustaining after a few years. 

It also explains why it's so complicated! I'm grateful to those people I've talked to a LOT about value flows, economic theories and models, and complex systems - you know who you are. :) 

No wrong door: how do we link Upwards to other initiatives?

One of the areas we're exploring at the moment is how Upwards fits into the wider complex system of youth work in New Zealand, and strategic approaches to the systems issue. During my time co-running a national programme for Government, I learnt a lot about how to make changes in a complex system. Understanding and working with the full ecosystem is key.  

So with complex systems in mind: it's not enough to simply deliver a programme, no matter how effective, without thinking about, "then what? What's the wider impact on all the areas they touch? What do people do next?" 

We want to act as a 'funnel' to offer Upwards participants further opportunities once they've completed the programme, including scaffolding them to mentoring or courses that they might not get access to otherwise. This will both amplify the impact of Upwards, and offer our young people a next step in practicing the skills they've learnt in our courses. 

We're well-placed to do this as we sometimes get asked whether we can recommend a young person for a certain course (because there's funding available for that course but the people don't know any suitable young people). To do this properly we need to be linked to, or at least aware of, what other opportunities are out there across the country, and what the criteria are. This is then coupled with a process for helping our young people work through what they'd like to try out, and then matching and directing them to these opportunities (and working with other people to follow up and make sure they get there).  (If there's anyone out there doing this already, please let us know! We'd love to partner with you.) A mentor yesterday used the concept of 'no wrong door' in relation to this, which I really like. 

This is going to need us to have a pretty good list of the other people out there doing cool stuff, so we can start building relationships with them - better dust off the list I made a year and a half ago....  

What we're up to: April/May 2017

"Are you a not-for-profit, or a business?" This question (which one of our advisors asked in April) has been key to the learning of the past few weeks and months. The answer right now feels like, "both". (Which probably sums up the social enterprise problem in a nutshell!)

A lot of learning, as well as some blocks - we had hoped to run Upwards in Term 2 but unfortunately this wasn't to be. However, we've been progressing in other areas - looking at potential partnerships with other organisations, and other potential business models. 

We learnt that if we're struggling to raise funding, based in Wellington with a strong network, then it's likely also going to be hard for our faciliators in remote parts of the country (and the world) to raise funds to run Upwards school courses themselves. This means we've reshaped how we run this part of the organisation. 

We're also looking ahead to the upcoming changes in how schools are funded - this will mean we have to shift a part of our model there too. 

The focus for May will be on better understanding our business customers and what they need, and building some new courses to meet that. We're also hoping to interview the young people from the first two pilots, and see how they're getting on.  

What we're up to: Feb 2017

I've decided to do a quick and regular update as to what we're working on. If there's anything you can see a way to help with, get in touch! 

So right now we're working on (in brief):

  1. Schools:
    1. Identify suitable schools for this year's programme (get in touch with us if you're interested!)
    2. Reworked course materials, including concept development for the Upwards games (we're partnering with an amazing musuem exhibit designer who makes interactive games!)
    3. Reports from both pilot programmes
  2. Business
    1. Create course content and learning objectives for a team-building course
    2. Test the market for the specific customers 
  3. Funding
    1. Identify and secure sources of funding for the schools we want to subsidise costs for - we need to close a funding gap of about $500 per young person for each course (10-12 young people per term-long course) so we're looking for sponsors. 
  4. Partners: 
    1. Talk to other community organisations who have funding and people already in place and would like to buy our course materials and run Upwards.
    2. See what's going on in Govt in this space (e.g. Health, MYD). 

I believe that the best success for Upwards long-term will be providing awesome course materials which others in the community can pick up and run. Communities already know what they need - and they already usually have people in place, and existing relationships.    

Upwards taking registrations for Term 2 - talk to us now!

We've started working on the new Upwards programme for this year, and we're now taking registrations for Terms 2 - 4. We've refined the programme based on our experiences last year, and what our young people said they liked the most. 

We're also partnering with Juliet at InTouch Design to revamp a couple of our games. Juliet has many years' experience designing interactive museum exhibits and games, so she's the perfect person to help us make Upwards' course materials even better. 

Game On - Caltex Fuel your School funding

Caltex Fuel Your School funds leadership programme Upwards at Wellington High

Caltex has granted Upwards Leadership Programme funding to help our WHS Students to find their roots and make 'a place to stand' on the marae at Taraika.

Upwards is a term-long leadership program for high school students designed by educationalist and digital instructional designer Christina Curley.

Upwards aims to empower, uplift and equip students with the skills they’ll need to become more resilient adults, and become the heroes of their own lives.

Starting with a pōwhiri to formally open the programme, it gives us a place to stand, a turangawaewae on our marae. Sessions are held in the Wharenui on the marae to further foster connection and a sense of belonging.

Upwards uses a tikanga Māori framework of leadership, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and the principles of education program Te Kotahitanga. Leadership, self-knowledge and communication skills are interspersed with practical life skills to prepare students for life after high school and beyond. Sessions use a mixture of kinaesthetic and auditory learning to engage and meet the needs of Māori and Pacific learners, though the programme is open to all.

Upwards aims to meet students where they are, and create a promising future together. We are grateful for the support of Caltex Fuel Your School Grant for this programme.

See images here