Enthusiastic participants of a “Leadership course for Emerging Leaders” have re-named the programme “Leaders for the People”. 

A Te Pou Consumer Leadership Development grant funded this course, which was organised and run by Dunedin Friend-Link. The training aimed to give 11 participants the opportunity to develop their leadership skills to a higher level. Most of the participants were already involved with raising issues with the boards of their respective services, or with making submissions or lobbying with People First Dunedin. 

How did the programme of learning work?

Learning activities incorporated a range of teaching approaches and techniques. The topics were broken down into small components, with a group session providing an introduction to a topic at the beginning of a four-week cycle. Then, over the next three weeks, the facilitator met individually with participants to review the learning information. A second group session enabled additional peer interaction.

This cycle was repeated across 12-months to cover a range of topics including attributes of leaders and leadership, roles a leader might take, maximising advocacy opportunities, and building confidence for speaking and contributing. Printed course material was prepared for each topic, which included both words and pictures. The course design allowed for regular reviews to ensure participants were keeping up. Adjustments were made if necessary. 

Providing ‘real world’ experience

All 11 participants were offered the opportunity to experience the role of chairperson or secretary at one of the fortnightly seminars. The chairperson was responsible for running the seminars, including making sure everyone in the group had a say, keeping the discussion and questions on track (via the agenda) and generally keeping the peace. One participant who volunteered for the chairperson role used a communicator with pre-recorded messages. Two ‘sheets’ were devised for him; one with the names of all group members and another with phrases such as “someone has a question”, “someone is being left out”, “this is not on the agenda” and so on. This way he could simply point at the appropriate person’s name and/or response without having to spell everything out in full. 

The secretary was responsible for contacting members of the group to remind them of upcoming seminars and ensuring copies of the agenda were received. 

Guest speakers also presented on different topics to demonstrate leadership skills being applied in the “real world”. The speaker from the Health and Disability Advocacy was a hit with participants. One participant said she,

…gave me ideas of where to go to. Before the course I would have been really lost”. Other opportunities for participants to apply their leadership skills to the “real world” included a seminar on voting processes in local body elections.

Role-modelling and mentoring encouraged

The importance of having mentors or role models to look up to and who “show the way” was reinforced in this course. Some group members had more leadership experience than others, and were able to mentor those with less experience. During seminars, participants were encouraged to answer each other’s questions and give advice (where appropriate). The course also linked participants with potential mentors. 

Initially, the individual sessions for embedding learning were effective, especially when discussing the concept of leadership. However, as group members became more comfortable with each other, the catch-up sessions became less necessary for this purpose because they were able to ask questions and raise issues themselves. 

Celebrating positive outcomes

A graduation ceremony ended the programme and celebrated the successes: 

  • One participant left a job in a workplace for people with disabilities which she had had for several years and requested extra hours in a job she enjoyed. Her hours were increased.
  • Several participants are more confident in contributing as representatives on the CCT Advisory Board. This has been observed by CCT governance.
  • One participant has taken on a voluntary role to assist a young disabled man to learn the rules of darts and assist him to join a local darts league.
  • One participant decided to join People First and has just been elected the Regional Chairperson. 
  • One of the participants presented at the 2014 ASID conference using the short film about the Leadership Course which the whole group took part in making (copy available). 

To view some of the participant and trainer feedback, watch the leadership video.