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East African communities find hope in Sunderland leadership programme

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Published on 20 June 2017

Inspiring with Place-Based Transformational Leadership Development
Inspiring with Place-Based Transformational Leadership Development

It’s the kind of programme you’re more likely to find motivating the boardrooms of big businesses throughout the western world, yet the model behind a Sunderland academic’s leadership development research is having a profound impact on two Kenyan towns blighted by violence, corruption and poverty.

Dr Rob Worrall introduced his innovative pilot programme - Place-Based Transformational Leadership Development (P-BLD) - in Nakuru and Naivasha Municipalities, based on his doctoral research at Anglia Ruskin University, to empower leaders in those communities to tackle urban violence and bring political and social stability, as well as protect human rights.

The sessions brought together selected leaders from Nakuru and Naivasha’s civil society, local government, the police and the private sector.  By identifying and working with the tensions and dilemmas the leaders were facing it was possible develop their leadership capabilities and professional identity for the common good, working towards non-violent conflict resolution.

The project is supported by DIGNITY – The  Danish Institute Against Torture and is now an integral part of its Intersectoral Urban Violence Prevention programme in East Africa, where DIGNITY works with the Kenyan partner organisation MidRift Human Rights Network (MRH). Both organisations will continue to work with Dr Worrall, developing his programme over a three-year period in both Kenyan towns.

Dr Worrall, Principal Lecturer - External Engagement at the University of Sunderland, designed and led the two one-day workshops on P-BLD for violence prevention earlier this year, he said: “The idea initially was to run a couple of pilot projects to discover if my thinking and research were relevant to the violence prevention context. These were so successfully received that Dignity & MidRift decided that the P-BLD programme should form an integral part of the three-year ongoing Intersectoral Urban Violence Prevention (IUVP) programme, working with intersectoral leaders from multiple agencies and from multiple professional backgrounds to help improve their leadership capability.

 “However, this is not about telling people how to lead, it’s about facilitating a dialogue among the leaders. It’s very much a collaborative approach, designing and developing the programme in ongoing collaboration with the participants themselves, as well as communities and other agencies, both from the public/ private and not-for-profit sector, that are involved.”

Finn Kjaerulf, DIGNITY’s Urban Violence Prevention Programme Manager, who recently attended a series of seminars at Sunderland’s Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s to highlight the impact of the collaboration said that  “Drawing on our considerable success in Latin America, we are trying to merge the good, positive and creative approaches of intersectoral urban violence intervention with P-BLD.

“In these Kenyan areas we want to create a safe space for work, play and sharing life between all people, so conflict resolution becomes non-violent between police and local citizens. Part of that work is to create coalitions of leaders that work together from different sectors, police, health, human rights and private business, to eradicate violence.

“We want to connect the different sectors so they work together; enlighten them as to the ground rules of good dialogue and collaboration. We create networks of leaders and their constituents from different sectors, so they can work in a better and more coordinated way in a specific recognised locality like a city or a town – so it is place-based.”

He added: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work with Dr Worrall and the University of Sunderland, especially because his ground-breaking PhD data brings in new knowledge.”

To support the programme’s ongoing development and continuous improvement, as well as better understand P-BLD’s impact the team will be collecting data at the beginning and end of every session.

From this work, a number of research papers are under development for forthcoming conferences and journals. In addition, Dr Worrall has recently submitted a number of research funding bids to extend the scope and impact of this work. He is also involved in place-based leadership development research in relation to health and policing with collaborators in the UK, the United States and New Zealand.