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Impact Through Stories – A Personal Experience by Sue Powell

Do you ever finish your working day and say, "Wow, that was a good day"? I don’t just mean you met that tight deadline or your boss was in a good mood (although that is good), I really mean WOW.

For the past few months I have been part of a small team working at Do-Well (UK) Ltd developing a new Leadership programme for young people around the ages of 14 – 16. The programme is designed to support them in finding their voices and is based around the Systems Leadership and Public Narrative work which Do-Well has been delivering now for a number of years, which itself is based on academic pieces of work by Professors Marshall Ganz and Keith Grint.

We put everything we had into this. It was new, it was different, we had to get it right. So we planned and planned and planned again. We wanted to make sure that we used the right language which would land with the students and we didn’t want them to see this as just

another lesson, but something different and exciting that really would give them a voice.

Despite all this planning though, we didn’t know what to expect. We knew nothing about the young people who would be on the programme other than they were year 10 (14/15 year old) and a mix of genders. Therefore it was important that we arrived with a supply of different tools with us so that we could switch and adapt the programme if needed.

So Monday morning arrived and we were ready to deliver the programme for the first time. It all felt very strange. Not only am I not a teacher, but I had not physically been out to work for nearly 15 months because of the pandemic and on top of that, the day started with a 2 1⁄2 hour drive to get to the school.

For different reasons, 2 of the young people couldn’t make the sessions so that left us with a cohort of 8 for our first ever delivery. What were they going to make of us? Did they have any idea why they had been invited by the school to take part in the programme?

Well, judging by first impressions we had our work cut out but we were up for the task. In traditional Do-Well style, we checked in with them and talked about them being pioneers of this programme and that unlike a maths test there were no right or wrong answers. You could feel them relaxing and their interest increasing, it looked like we had hit the right notes with them.

Over the next two days we got them talking about their passions and we shared with them techniques for how to tell their story. Why did it matter to them? Why should it matter to others? Who did they want to hear their story and how could they get them to listen?

It was an amazing experience to be part of. To see them developing their narrative, each at their own pace, and supporting each other so that they were ready to stand up and tell us their story on the final day.

So have we helped to develop leaders for the future? It would be wonderful to think so, and certainly I could see how some of them would use their newfound skills in story telling to influence others.

But the programme for me was much more than that. The impact of some of those stories of very personal struggles will stay with me for a long time, if not for ever. For the first time since my son was a teenager, a 14 year old boy made me cry as he told his story to the camera. And if we have made a difference to the life of just one of those young people all the work that we put into this will be worth it for me.

What the young people thought about our time together...

Sue is a consultant with Do-Well. You can find more about her here and through her Twitter: @SuziPow_

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