Thursday, 4 December 2014

This is what 2015 looks like - a letter from the IFLAS founder

IFLAS director Professor Jem Bendell

Good theory predicts the future, good practice creates it. With such a turbulent hyper-connected world, I’m not going to offer predictions, but here is what we plan to bring you in 2015, as our Institute grows and diversifies to promote sustainable leadership.

In January the IFLAS open lectures kick off again, and for the first time in our London campus. Famed African journalist Funmi Iyanda will be speaking about the future of black British leadership.

In February we deliver our first short courses, offered in partnership with the consultants Impact International. The first series runs through to the end of May and features skills development in areas like Leading Creativity, Values-Inspired Leadership and meeting Environmental Challenges.

If you can’t make it to the Lake District, then also in February we launch our first ever Mass Open Online Course (MOOC… not my acronym!). This free online course is on Money and Society. It’s also the pre-course work for our Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange, which takes place over 4 days in London, starting March 18th. If you are interested in bitcoin, local currencies, the sharing economy, and innovation in that field, this course is for you. I’ll be teaching it along with our Doctoral Researcher, Leander Bindewald.  Click on those links to sign up.   

In March, the IFLAS open lectures move back to Ambleside, with Mark Cropper, who is transforming electricity generation across the Lake District with micro hydro. He might even make us happy when it rains! These lectures coincide with our MBA residential weeks, and in 2015 we have three new online MBAs with RKC now taking students, focusing on Finance and Sustainability, Energy and Sustainability and Media Leadership. Check out for more info on our RKC MBAs.

Learning about sustainable leadership in
the stunning Lake District landscape

Teaching these MBA residentials and the short courses will keep the team quite busy through to the summer, when we will flourish into festival fun with the Leading Wellbeing research festival, for 3 days from midday on July 16th. We hope you can join us at Brathay Hall, where we are convening some remarkable leaders from around the world, to experience research sessions, workshops, great speakers, music, dancing and outdoor activities, all on the shores of England’s largest lake. Check out the speaker list to see how we are busting paradigms to make this a unique adventure. If you want to submit a paper, then the deadline for abstracts is February 3rd.

Just before the Research Festival, our Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership begins again, with a 6 day residential. This can be taken as a stand-alone course, to gain a certificate, but the full PGC is also very flexible, as you only need to do one further residential week. If you take the course, you can then stay on for the Festival at the student rate, and also meet the first cohort, who are saying nice things about it, such as "this course was profound and life-changing. It has informed my practice, relationships – even my way of being" and "This was the most in-depth, conscious, and profound course I have ever participated in.”

By September we will be further complicating our lives with two new exciting masters. First, the MA Sustainable Leadership Development will begin students, including many of the lovely ones from the PGC.  Second, we will be teaching modules on leadership and sustainability in the MSc Strategic Policing. The University of Cumbria is a national leader in policing education and we see a great role for the Institute in supporting courses for the police. Both these Masters can be done at distance by people with full-time employment, as we use a mix of online and intensive residentials. If interested in the MA, email me. 

We are launching the new BSc (Hons) Social Enterprise Leadership
We are also launching in September a new BSc (Hons) Social Enterprise Leadership course, offered in the Lake District in partnership with the Brathay Trust. Led by Charles Dobson and Caroline Wiscombe, it builds on the successful Aspiring Leaders programme and seeks to provide education relevant to people working in the voluntary and social enterprise sectors. September is also the deadline for papers to be submitted to a special issue on leadership of the Sustainability Accounting Management and Policy Journal that I’m editing with Richard Little (Impact International) and Dr Neil Sutherland (Bristol Business School).

A bunch of other things are in the pipeline, but too early for us to announce now. In the final quarter of 2015 a few of our publications will also be appearing, including the stuff I’m writing right now on leadership, and the work Im doing in the new year with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). That’s why for the first half of 2015, IFLAS Deputy Director, Dr David Murphy, is the Acting Director, so please direct any new ideas for engagement to him.

Acting IFLAS director Dr David F. Murphy
David joined us in March 2014, a year where we also welcomed Dr Grace Hurford and Dr Ian Chapman into the teaching team for the MBAs with Robert Kennedy College. We continued working with Jonathan Bowyer and colleagues of Fiona Reed Associates, to provide top-quality facilitation of the residentials, with our office manager Martin Pyrah providing key logistical support. Our Institute Manager, Philippa Chapman was therefore able to focus on our business development, including bringing the short course programme with Impact to fruition. I’ll now recap on some of what we achieved in 2014 where there are links videos and published resources which you may find educational.  

One of the key events for me in 2014 was my Inaugural Professorial lecture, which I delivered at a Literature Festival, making it little scary. The video of the talk, where I discussed what sustainability means, is available online.  In it, I discuss some of the ideas of my latest book ‘Healing Capitalism’, co-authored Ian Doyle, which also got be invited onto Abby Martin’s TV show on RT.

I’d had some prior TV practice, as last January the University became known for being the first public University to accept bitcoin for payment of fees. I discussed it on BBC Breakfast, as did our Director of Finance, Kate Maclaughlin Flynn on ITV. The story was fairly ‘viral’ so in May one of our PhD students became the first to pay fees by Bitcoin, which generated further interest, including a profile in the Daily Mail.  We don’t take an uncritical view of bitcoin or other currency innovations, as the Institute is looking at currency innovation in terms of how it shapes positive social and environmental outcomes. Therefore, Leander Bindewald hosted a Complementary Currency PhD symposium for us in London in July, attended by over 20 researchers, including the author of a briefing on currency innovation for Parliament, and Professor Nigel Dodd from LSE. Leander also presented his critically constructive views to thousands of bankers at the SIBOS conference and I spoke at the first meeting of the Guild of Independent Currencies in Bristol.  

We also shared our insights on leadership at events in the UK and around the world. I attended World Economic Forums in Davos, Switzerland and in the Philippines, presented at the Ouishare conference in Paris, World Cities Summit in Singapore, Guardian Activate conference in London, Womensphere Leadership conference in New York, Learnfest and the Cumbria Development Education Centre in Ambleside, and ran a day of leadership development with Futerra for the senior management of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Institute Manager Philippa Chapman presented on leadership development at the International Leadership Association in California, and Dr David Murphy presented at the Institute of Directors with Impact International. Thanks to Impact, Learnfest was also the venue for our first advisory board meeting, who we are delighted are really engaged with the aims of IFLAS. We were also delighted to host the first northern conference of the Transition Towns network, at our Lancaster Campus, welcoming Rob Hopkins and the Transition team. We also hosted a leadership retreat of not-for-profit research and campaign organisation Positive Money, for a weekend of team-building, training regional coordinators, and developing their strategy. 

We also shared some insights articles in popular publications and our Sustainable Leaders discussion group which grew to over 900 participants in 2014. I shared my thoughts on leadership in the Guardian, on the role of the ‘sharing economy’ in promoting sustainable cities in Just Means, and on the far more challenging agenda that the latest climate science suggests, for Open Democracy.  

We welcomed over 200 senior students from around the world for the Masters courses we run. The success of our partnership with RKC was recognised by the teaching and administration team, including Raye Ng, Philippa Chapman and Martin Pyrah, winning an award from our Vice Chancellor. In November we began Alumni activities, offering an additional event attached to their graduation ceremony, with educators from the University of Cumbria, Brathay Trust, Impact International and RKC. The response from our 1st cohort on the PGC that I mentioned above also suggests we have something to develop with our new MA in Sustainable Leadership Development. We are grateful to Professor David Costa for his sponsorship of two of the places on the PGC, which enabled wider participation. 

In July we were delighted to see the first graduates of from the Aspiring Leaders programme, which we run with Brathay Trust.  Funded by the Francis C Scott Trust, it gives young adults the opportunity to achieve a foundation degree in Professional Practice for Business, receive leadership training, and benefit from 1:1 mentoring.

Funmi Iyanda speaking at IFLAS

The IFLAS open lectures grew in popularity during the year, and you can read great write-ups on our blog by Bob Hart. In March we heard from Sean Ansett, the Chief Sustainability Officer of Fairphone,  on how his new electronics firm has created a smartphone with ethically-sourced components. Then in April, award-winning broadcaster, journalist, and columnist Funmi Iyanda spoke on the importance of creating kinder media organisations that are more responsive to the needs of the communities they serve. That month we also heard from Ryan Heath, European Commission spokesperson for digital issues and a former speechwriter to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. In May, Cumbria Recycling’s director Dave Bowden shared his story as a social entrepreneur in reducing waste and promoting a more circular economy. Then in June we heard from Richard Little, senior consultant with Impact International, an organisation offering a wide range of expertise on behaviour change and leadership development, and also from Jane Burston, head of the Centre for Carbon Measurement.

Learning about leadership through tango
The third series of talks began in a different way in September, with leadership coach Sue Cox hosting a participative session on Leadership Lessons from Tango. Then in October we heard from Dr Raj Thamotheram, a thought-leader in the field of long-term, sustainable investing, who explored why positively deviant leadership is needed with London’s financial district. That month we also heard from the experienced public sector leader, politician, and campaigner Laura Willoughby. Founder of Club Soda, which helps people to change their drinking, Laura spoke about how she has become a social entrepreneur to scale behaviour change for health and wellbeing. In November we heard from author and consultant on climate change Mike Berners-Lee, who explored why efficiency, green technology and carbon targets helped so far in combatting emissions. We also heard from Dr Rebecca Calder, technical director of the SPRING Initiative, about why alliances are so important for adolescent girls' empowerment, and why empowering adolescent girls is so important for the challenges facing the developing world today.

Executive Dean Prof Robert Hannaford, Vice-Chancellor
Prof Peter Strike, IFLAS manager Philippa Chapman
Prof Jem Bendell and Dr David F. Murphy 
More information on what we do is on our website and in our Inaugural Report. Looking back on the year, I’m grateful to Philippa for keeping all these activities together, David for hitting the uneven ground running, and the wider team, now including Principal Lecturer Caroline Wiscombe, who is working with us on new programme development. Commitment from our Dean Robert Hannaford, Head of Department Caroline Rouncefield, Head of Partnerships Elaine Flowers, Business Development Manager Sarah Stables and Vice-Chancellor Peter Strike has been important for us to continue to grow. Outside the University, I’m grateful to Professor David Costa, Richard Little, David Williams, Sam Carey, and Katie Carr who have been really helpful to our efforts.

Well, that’s a bit of what 2014 looked like to us, and what 2015 looks like in theory… now we hope to create it! A Chinese proverb came to mind as I was writing this review…

May we live in slightly less interesting times?

Thanks for your interest in IFLAS!

Jem Bendell
Professor of Sustainability Leadership
Founder, Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), University of Cumbria.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Money and Society MOOC - now available with rolling start

A free online course at Masters-level will enable you to understand the past, present and future role of money in society. You can study at your own pace. Enrol here.

Are you concerned with the banking system? Bemused or fascinated by bitcoin? Starting a local currency? Whereas most courses on money are intended for people with an economics background or banking future, this course is for people who are interested in understanding money from a social innovation perspective – it prepares the ground for answering how to create a better future by reshaping money and currency.

The course is therefore highly interdisciplinary, drawing upon anthropology, sociology, history and heterodox economics. It is designed by Professor Jem Bendell PhD (IFLAS) and Matthew Slater BD (Community Forge), with additional tutoring by alumni of the course (some of whom have gone on to launch their own ICOs).

Typically 50 to 100 people complete the full 4 lessons, and many then continue to interact in the Alumni Forum. Over 20 have progressed to attend the full certificate course in London, which is taught in one week, once a year.

The course has four lessons:

Lesson One: An introduction to money: functions, forms, and fallacies
Lesson Two: The history of money and its discontents
Lesson Three: The problems with mainstream monetary systems
Lesson Four: Alternatives

Each lesson begins on a Sunday, consisting of a audio-narrated slides of less than two hours (which you can listen to when you want within the following days), followed by two hours of personal reading and one hour to prepare a written assignment of around 500 words, which must be submitted by the following week.

Participants can view and comment on each other’s assignments in the forum, and can interact as they wish, with tutors commenting on assignments in the forum.

At the end of this MOOC you will be able to:

  • Critically assess views on the form and function of money and currency by drawing from monetary theories
  • Explain theories on how social, economic and environmental problems arise from mainstream monetary systems
  • Explain alternative forms of money and currency and the theories on how they can support better social, economic and environmental outcomes.
On the MOOC you will be joined by participants on the Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange, which is a credit-bearing module offered by the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability at the University of Cumbria. Four days of classes in person at the Docklands Campus in London explore the wider issues of currency innovation and the collaborative economy. There is a fee for the certificate, not the MOOC. You must have started the MOOC in order to enrol.

The Tutors 

Matthew Slater is a software engineer who specialises in open source software for community currencies. Co-founder of Community Forge, which produces software for and hosts over 100 local currencies, he is a regular commentator on grassroots initiatives for community control of currency and credit.

See a bit of what the MOOC involves:

Friday, 17 October 2014

Webinar: Liberating circular economies through new currencies

Professor Jem Bendell

What has our monetary system got to do with greater sustainability? 

Could entirely new, independent, currencies enable businesses and communities to trade more efficiently? Could they help increase utility with less resource consumption? Could they encourage more local trade? Could currencies be the most important blindspot of the movement for sustainability and the circular economy? 

This session will explore these questions, and point to very initial research that suggests much could be achieved through currency innovation for sustainable development. First, watch a section of Professor Jem Bendell’s lecture, and then a video on the case of the Banglapesa in Kenya (both below). Then join Professor Bendell and other tutors from the ‘Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange’ in this webinar to explore this emerging agenda of sustainable innovation.

Professor Bendell will be joined by: 

  • Matthew Slater, who implements community currencies, from creating the open source software to advising on design to joining them together.
  • Tom Shakhli, who is a social entrepreneur working on disruptive currency innovations. He manages the Brixton Pound, a local currency in South London, and is a Senior Policy Officer at Lambeth Council.
  • Will Ruddick, who is founder of Banglapesa, a famous community currency in Kenya.  
  • Morgan Richards, who is a researcher on community currencies. 

Sign up for this event and find more information about the Disruptive Innovation Festival at

Video 1: University of Cumbria - Inaugural lecture by Professor Jem Bendell 

In this video, Jem speaks about the problem of money from 14 minutes.

Video 2: Bangla-Pesa - Empowering a Grassroots Economy

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The future of black British leadership

  • talk and reception with Funmi Iyanda
  • University of Cumbria, 58 East India Dock Rd, Poplar, London, E14 6JE
  • Friday 30 January 2015, 6pm to 8pm

Funmi Iyanda with Prof Jem Bendell,
director of the University of Cumbria's
Institute for Leadership and Sustainability 

London is diversity. By census, over 40 per cent of its inhabitants identify themselves as other than white. 

The University of Cumbria’s London Campus is in Tower Hamlets, on the edge of Docklands, in one of the most ethnically diverse parts of London. Originally it was founded to provide higher education to promote the advancement of local ethnic minorities. 

Today, almost 14 per cent of London’s population identify themselves as black. This diversity presents a major opportunity and responsibility for London to act as a crossroads for global understanding and cooperation. How is London accepting its role? What more could be done to encourage London’s ethnically diverse community to lead for the benefit of London, Britain and the world?

Funmi Iyanda will describe how Black British leadership can create a more sustainable, diverse and inclusive Great Britain and enable better relations with Africa and beyond. 

As a leading Nigerian journalist and entrepreneur, Funmi moves regularly between London and Lagos in her efforts to bring innovation to her media and humanitarian work. Funmi produced and hosted Nigeria’s most popular and authoritative talk show ‘New Dawn with Funmi’. She has been recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and was recently named one of Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa.

The new Black British Business Awards reflects the growing awareness and action on the importance of inspirational black role models – ambassadors who represent the very best talent in organisations across various sectors in the British economy. 

The Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) is pleased to engage this issue by working with Funmi. Funmi will be hosted by Professor Jem Bendell and a leading figure from the Tower Hamlets community. 

Participants will include emerging leaders in the Black British community and Tower Hamlets community leaders, as well as finance professionals from Docklands – a great mix for conversation in the drinks reception that follows the talk.

Her last talk with IFLAS was on media ethics, to the predominantly African class on the MBA in Leadership and Sustainability, and she explains her experience in the Premium Times

Having enjoyed the hiking in the Lake District, Funmi will also be keynoting at the University’s Leading Wellbeing conference in July 2015 on the shores of Windermere.

The London event on January 30 is free but requires registration and numbers are limited. Email:

Other talks organised by the Institute can be viewed at:

“I am championing a new initiative [Black British Business Awards] that will put future black leaders at the top table of our biggest companies. Working with Trevor Phillips, this campaign will get the balance in the boardroom right and encourage businesses to put ethnic diversity at the top of their agenda.”
UK Government’s Business Secretary, Vince Cable

Thursday, 9 October 2014

IFLAS public lecture: From political to social enterprise leadership

Laura Willoughby spoke passionately about the power of social enterprise
Politician, campaigner and now social enterprise leader Laura Willoughby has a huge list of "half-baked" ideas she has yet to put into action.

But she's confident that the knowledge and experience she has amassed in her years in the voluntary sector have equipped her well to make these ideas a reality as she enters the world of socially-conscious business.

Speaking at our Ambleside campus to an audience of aspiring local social entrepreneurs, students on the University of Cumbria's BSc Social Enterprise Leadership programme, and Leadership and Sustainability MBA students from the University of Cumbria and Robert Kennedy College, Laura described how her previous experience as a politician and campaigner has put her in a strong position to launch her new venture.

In these times of austerity we're always hearing about what politics can learn from business, but Laura offers an alternative view - what business can learn from campaigning movements and the voluntary sector.

A former Liberal Democrat cabinet member on London's Islington Council, Laura is now using the insight she gained to launch a new social enterprise which aims to help people change their drinking habits.

Club Soda has been created to give people the support they need whether they want to cut back on their drinking or to stop all together. The company organises events for people who want to socialise without the expectation to drink, and is working on creating an online service to support its members.

Describing herself as 'a natural campaigner' Laura told guests at October's IFLAS public lecture to have confidence in their ability to succeed in business using the skills that made them successful as volunteers and activists.

As she works on the Club Soda project, Laura draws on a wide range of experience gained in her political career and in grassroots campaigns like Move Your Money, an initiative that encouraged people to leave the big five banks and invest with smaller, more local and more ethical companies.

Any experienced campaigner will be able to tell you stories about their financial struggles. Conventional wisdom from the business world is that if you want your new start-up to succeed you're going to need cash from somewhere - venture capital funding, or perhaps a bank loan.

But experienced campaigners know that ideas can be turned into reality without having huge financial backing.

Laura said: "If you're from the voluntary sector, bootstrapping is at the core of what we do. Don't underestimate the knowledge that you already have.

"You're also good campaigners and communicators. You are natural community builders, whereas people who come into business afresh are having to learn to do that from scratch."

A background in volunteering and campaigning also builds great leadership skills - both in terms of working with fellow volunteers and in galvanising the support of the community. But this doesn't happen by accident, and it's worth taking the time to work on your leadership as you'd work on any other skill.

Laura said: "I do believe you have to put work into your leadership. You have to take responsibility for making sure that the people around you are the people you want and making sure they're on the same page as you.

"Work out what the idea is. Work out how you can pay for it. Work out how you can package it for your customers. And take time to reflect - don't look at it as wasted time."

Laura with (left) Helen Carter of the Brathay Trust, BSc (Hons) Social Enterprise
Leadership students Joanna Coleman and Andrew Lawson and (right)
University of Cumbria Business School Principal Lecturer Caroline Wiscombe
Although she is still finding her way as a social enterprise leader, Laura is already imagining new possibilities for the future.

She said: "The whole process of setting up a business and doing it in a socially-conscious way is difficult and challenging - and I haven't got everything right.

"But my list of half-baked ideas is getting longer and longer, because I can see there are many ways to create different solutions to problems we see. To me, they're all mini campaigns."

She told the students: "I hope through your networks and the course you're on, you'll be able to find those solutions too."

IFLAS director Prof Jem Bendell said: "It’s important our students hear from social entrepreneurs, so they can consider different ways of approaching their future careers."

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Leadership Lessons from Tango - it's not about the steps

Tango is more than just a dance – it’s an art form that relies on partnership and communication.

Leadership consultant Sue Cox visited the University of Cumbria’s Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) to share her experience of the dance – and how she realised it forms a rich metaphor for leader/follower relationships in the wider world.

Sue Cox speaking at IFLAS

For the uninitiated, tango is a form of dance with origins in Argentina and Uruguay. One dancer, (usually a man) is the leader while the second (usually a woman) follows. Tango absolutely rests on leading and following. But the dance can only reach the greatest heights of expression when there’s a non-hierarchical relationship between the leader and the follower. Communication, co-operation, understanding, intuition and versatility from both dancers is essential.

It’s not about the steps, says Sue: “Just doing the steps isn’t dancing. The 'magic' that turns it into a dance rests on other things. We talk about communication and leadership as a dance, so what can we learn from the tango that can relate to our experience of leading and following?”

Sue discovered tango around 12 years ago and her passion for the dance eventually led her to Buenos Aires to connect with it at its source.

She said: “I went to Buenos Aires thinking that after three months I’d have the tango nailed. But when I got there I realised very quickly that everything I’d been doing was wrong or at least unhelpful. And so I began a process of unlearning lots of different habits and ways of thinking. The question then became what am I going to put in its place?”

Many of the participants in the session were members of the first cohort of students on the new Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership offered by IFLAS at the University of Cumbria Ambleside campus.

Sue said: “Those of you on the course are maybe at the beginning of this journey of unlearning and relearning and making connections between unlikely things.”

Let’s spend some time immersing ourselves in the metaphor to discover what it can teach us about how we can connect to ourselves and with others as both leaders and followers.

Inhabit your own body

Gaining self-awareness is important to successful
dancing and to success in other leader/follower relationships

Sue told her participants: “Notice what goes on in your body in an unconscious way. The initial invitation is to become more mindful. One of the things that became really clear to me is that you can only do this dance if you inhabit your own body, rather than trying to copy someone else.”

Leader or follower, it’s crucial that you’re self-aware.

Use the ground

Guests focus on their relationship with the ground

Next Sue encouraged participants to focus their thoughts on the floor and to become conscious of the way they use it in their steps.

She says: “In Tango the floor is fundamental. It gives us length and power to our stride and allows us to move in more deliberate way.”

Back to the metaphor. What does the floor represent when you think about leader/follower relationships?  

Engage your core

Prof Jem Bendell (left) takes part on an exercise
designed to help dancers discover their core

In tango, engaging your core brings balance, poise, and the ability to move responsively while controlling your own momentum and direction. Typically we are lazy - we don't use our core and many of us don't even know where or what it is. It takes work and practice to change that.


Leading and following must be partnership to be effective

You’ve learned to inhabit your body, you’re aware of your relationship with the ground, and you’ve engaged your core.

Only now are you ready to connect with a dance partner. The sensation is one of 'embrace', not a stiff, formal hold. You're seeking to make a connection with the other person, bringing attentiveness to enable a flow of communication between you.

Sue said: "For followers particularly, this can entail a change of mindset; your job is to be responsive and involved, not to be a floppy weight hanging off your leader and using their momentum. For it to work, both leader and follower need to be fully present and responsible, with different but equal roles."

Project intention

Sue demonstrates the need for understanding
and co-operation between dance partners

In tango, unlike many dances, there are no set step patterns. The dance is completely improvised, moment by moment. It relies on the leader communicating their intentions to the follower, and on the follower responding.

Sue said: “It’s a mistake to think that the follower is passive. All the leader can do is to issue an invitation to the follower. The follower 'listens' and moves in response. The leader 'hears' and then in turn responds - and so on."

“Projecting intention is about an intensity, saying: 'We're going here'. It means focusing your energy and conveying that intention with your whole being.”

The partnership formed will produce unique results and the quality will depend on the success of the communication.

Express the music

When a pair connect and express the
music together, the results can be magical

Once you’ve connected with your partner, you’re able to listen to the music and express it together. That's the ultimate aim, finding your way around the floor with the other dancers and responding to what the music calls from you.

Meaning and metaphor

The thought-provoking session sparked lively discussion

So what does this teach us about leadership? The metaphor leads us to consider all kinds of issues, like the relationship between leaders and followers, the gender politics of leadership, the need for trust between leaders and followers, and how we learn through deeper connection with ourselves rather than mimicking appearances.

What can we learn from this and how can it influence our practice? 

Sue said: "Part of the answer is surely that we need to get beyond 'focusing on the steps', searching for formulaic patterns and easy solutions."

Keep the metaphor in mind to explore issues afresh, begin to make new connections and draw your own conclusions…

  • Prof Jem Bendell said: “Sue’s session on the tango fits in perfectly with the educational ethos of IFLAS. We believe in the power of experiential learning to help our students gain deeper levels of understanding of the concepts we teach. The insights that Sue has communicated could not have been taught in a lecture. This approach goes right back to our roots in 1892, when Charlotte Mason founded our campus in the Lake District and used this way of teaching and learning. It’s a tradition IFLAS is proud to uphold.”

  • For more details of the PGC in Sustainable Leadership and other courses offered by IFLAS, visit  

  • Monday, 11 August 2014

    IFLAS public lecture series - Autumn 2014

    IFLAS has announced its guest speakers for the autumn series of public lectures at the University of Cumbria's Ambleside campus.
    We've assembled another great selection of speakers covering a wide range of topics - from success in social enterprise to the challenges of climate change an radical thinking on finance.
    To book a place at any of these talks, email
    Sue CoxLeadership lessons from Tango - it's not about the steps
    Sue Cox and Dr. Jem Bendell - Monday September 1, 5.45pm to 8pm
    This participative session draws on principles from Argentine Tango to explore an approach to leading that is purposeful, balanced and connected. An experienced development trainer and coach, Sue Cox works with leaders and teams. Her second passion, tango, led her to Buenos Aires to study the dance which she now also teaches. Great dance demands skilful leading and following. In this session, joined by Professor Jem Bendell (IFLAS Founder), Sue will share these core skills and draw insights for leadership practice. The session requires no prior knowledge of dance, simply the ability to move freely and a willingness to participate. You will be joined by participants in the Postgraduate Certificate of Sustainable Leadership. Places are limited to a maximum of 24 participants, so register early.
    Laura WilloughbyFrom Political to Enterprise Leadership: What Works?
    Laura Willoughby MBE, founder of Club Soda - Tuesday October 7, 5.45pm to 7.30pm
    An experienced public sector leader, politician, and campaigner, Laura Willoughby received her MBE aged 30 for her service to London and equality. She was a councillor in London and CEO of the Move Your Money campaign. Laura will explain how she has become a social entrepreneur to scale behaviour change for health and wellbeing, delivering a service on line to consumers and aiming to mobilise customers as a supportive and powerful community. She is founder of Club Soda, which helps people to change their drinking, through apps that track progress and nudge people in the right direction.
    Raj ThamotheranPositively Deviant Leadership in Finance
    Dr Raj Thamotheram, President Emeritus of the Network for Sustainable Financial Markets - Tuesday October 21, 5.45pm to 7.30pm
    Dr Raj Thamotheram is a thought-leader in the field of long-term, sustainable investing. He led the Responsible Investment team at Universities Superannuation Scheme and AXA Investment Managers. He launched the Institutional Investor Group for Climate Change and Enhanced Analytics Initiative. Previously he was director of the Ethical Trading Initiative. He is now CEO of Preventable Surprises, an independent adviser on “investing as if the long-term matters” and a columnist for Investment & Pensions Europe (IPE). His talk will explore why positively deviant leadership is needed with London’s financial district, how it is happening and what can deepen this trend. Followed by a drinks and buffet reception.
    Mike Berners-LeeBurning Questions for Leaders: The Climate
    Mike Berners-Lee, author and consultant on climate change - Tuesday November 4, 5.45pm to 7.30pm
    Mike Berners-Lee will explore the big picture on climate change and ask what we have not understood about the nature of the problem. Why is it that emissions have continued to rise exactly as if humankind had never noticed climate change? Why haven’t efficiency, green technology and carbon targets helped so far? In the light of this, what blend of politics, technology, psychology, sociology, economics, art and science could be more successful? What would effective leadership look like and where can it come from? What can any of us do in response to such a macro challenge?
    Rebecca CalderLeading Alliances for Girls
    Dr. Rebecca Calder, technical director of the SPRING Initiative - Tuesday November 18, 5.45pm to 7.30pm
    Dr Rebecca Calder is a thought leader and expert on the empowerment of adolescent girls. Her analysis underpinned the design of the SPRING Initiative which is a five-year UK Department for International Development, Nike Foundation and USAID funded programme that aims to stimulate innovation and investment in new and adapted products and delivery mechanisms for girls in up to 8 countries. To achieve this, the initiative will support the development of sustainable and scalable business models for products contributing to girls’ economic empowerment – and reaching them directly. In this talk Dr Calder will discuss why alliances are so important for adolescent girls' empowerment, and why empowering adolescent girls is so important for the challenges facing the developing world today. Dr. Calder has over twenty years’ of experience as a gender and social exclusion specialist, and has worked in Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with multilateral, bilateral, civil society, and private sector partners, as well as for academic institutions. She is highly respected as an international authority and her ongoing research into the inclusion and empowerment of adolescent girls continues to be on the cutting edge of gender-based development research.
    For more information on IFLAS, its work and the courses it offers, visit our website.

    Wednesday, 4 June 2014

    IFLAS public lecture: Time for business to put the planet before profit

    Jane Burston speaking at IFLAS

    The fate of our planet is in the hands of businesses – and they urgently need to kick their addiction to profit if we’re to avoid environmental disaster.

    That was the stark message from leading environmentalist Jane Burston, who appeared at our Ambleside campus as part of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability public lecture series.

    Jane is the head of the National Physical Laboratory’s Centre for Carbon Measurement, which works to improve climate data, develop measurement science to underpin carbon trading, and support developers of low carbon technologies.

    Speaking to an audience of members of the local business community and Leadership and Sustainability MBA students from the University of Cumbria and Robert Kennedy College, she outlined the dangers in current attitudes to sustainability and explained the threats they pose.

    The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it clear that human activity is the most likely cause of global warming.

    If we carry on as we are, the world could warm up by more than four degrees Celsius in the next 100 years. But if we take decisive action now, that could be limited to around one degree of additional warming.

    Jane believes that instead of waiting for governments to take the lead on reducing carbon outputs, businesses should be taking responsibility – and that’s where the profit problem rears its head.

    She said: “I feel quite sad when people talk about where the impetus for change is going to come from, and they look to governments.

    “That’s not where the power lies – the real power lies with business. Businesses need to act themselves, and make space for governments to act. What are they doing? Not enough. Take the latest report from the Carbon Disclosure Project for example: it tells us businesses aren’t doing great and there’s very little transparency around the biggest impacts - they’re not even telling us how great they’re not doing.”

    As long as profit is the primary motivation for businesses, sustainable practices will at some point be compromised and companies will inevitably end up doing something unethical.

    A new philosophy is needed, Jane says, where doing social good is the main objective and profit becomes a secondary motivation.

    She said: “Thinking about sustainability in the wrong way can be quite dangerous. If people think about sustainability being instrumental to getting more profit we’ll never get anywhere.

    “Not every situation is a win-win. When you get to difficult decisions, if profit is the driver you’re going to make the wrong choice.

    “Profit needs to become the means but not the end, and in most businesses it has become the end in itself.”

    Jane cites chocolate company Cadbury as a historical example of how a business thrived while making social responsibility its principal motivation.

    John Cadbury founded the company in 1824, selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate from a shop in Birmingham. He was inspired to offer the products as a healthy alternative to alcohol, which was consumed in high volumes because the city’s water supplies were often contaminated. 

    Later generations of the Cadbury family continued to act with social responsibility in mind, building Bournville village to house their employees and ‘inventing the weekend’ by being the first company to give workers half a day off every Saturday.

    The company’s socially-responsible policies contributed to its success – but were not devised with profit as the main driver.

    So how do we bring about change? Jane believes the answer lies in business leaders choosing to use their power responsibly.

    There’s a role for individuals too: together we can influence business leaders by investing our money in banks, funds and businesses that commit to ethical policies.

    Jane said: “I don’t think that we don’t need profit. To run a business where the aim is social impact you need to make a significant amount of profit.

    “The difficulty for business leaders, which I think is the one worth tackling, is about managing decisions where, for example, the conflict is between depth of impact and scale of impact, rather than how much profit you’ll make.

    “Despite the challenges ahead there are many opportunities for real systemic thinkers and leaders, and your leadership through these challenges is one of the biggest levers we can pull.”
    Scholarship awards
    Scholarship winners Tom Shakli and Emily Oliver
    (centre) receive their certificates from guest lecturer
    Jane Burston and IFLAS director Professor Jem Bendell.
    Following her lecture, Jane presented scholarship certificates to two new IFLAS students who will soon be starting postgraduate study with the university.
    The scholarships have been funded by the Robert Kennedy College, which is based in Switzerland. Together with the University of Cumbria, RKC jointly delivers an MBA in Leadership and Sustainability, which regularly brings executives from around the world for a week’s residential study in the Lake District.
    Emily Oliver and Tom Shakhli, both from London, have been accepted onto the Postgraduate Certificate for Sustainable Leadership which will be delivered at both Ambleside and the university’s campus in the capital.
    Tom Shakhli is co-manager of the Brixton Pound, perhaps one of the best-known community currencies in the UK.
    He said: “It is an exciting area of work to be in, because it feels like it’s the start of something bigger. There isn’t really a blueprint for success. That’s why I think it’s important that there are academic institutions such as the University of Cumbria that have departments dedicated to this area of work.
    “The Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership seems ideal because it can give organisations such as ours the requisite knowledge to take our initiatives and have them really make a difference.”
    Amongst other freelance projects, Emily Oliver has recently founded and currently co-manages FoodCycle Wandsworth and is keen to begin her studies.
    She said: “I'm aware that in order to further develop skills in organisational leadership, an understanding of sustainable strategy, and ability to nurture impactful results, I need to study them effectively.
    “As I learn best through practice, this course's experiential approach is an ideal opportunity to do that - as well as build a support network.”
    To find out more about courses offered by IFLAS, including the new Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership, visit