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.

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