Development Monthly | #24 October 2023 | Black History Month Through the Lens of HE

Dr Peggy Warren She/Her

Education Consultant / Researcher / Certified Integral Coach

Author of Black Women’s Narratives of NHS Work-based Learning

Yvonne Field OBE She/Her 

CEO of the Ubele Initiative

We count it a privilege to write this short piece on the Elevate Leadership programme for ‘women of colour’ aka Global Majority Women. This double award-winning programme is built on foundational truths that ‘sisters of colour’ in employment generally and specifically in higher education institutions rarely enter employment deficient, or broken, yet systemic inequities often result in us occupying relegated positions which, amongst other things, erodes our confidence and wellbeing.  

Elevate creates opportunities for acknowledging and valuing similarities in our lived experiences as well as our plethora of differences, building and co-existing in community where ‘sisters are central’. Elevate’s approach to leadership development uniquely provides a consistent antidote to the false perceptions and narratives of ‘sister competency’ and creates context and opportunities for ‘sisters’ to individually and collectively, re-see, re-evaluate and reclaim our truths, powers, and positions. We feel incredibly honoured to have walked with the 89 sisters who have completed the programme to date, observing and celebrating our realignment to ‘sisterhood truths’; offering and utilising the camaraderie of sisters to rise to new positions because Elevate provides us with the experience and privilege of a context where we are not minoritised.

Elevate’s facilitation team are from the ‘sisterhood’ of the Ubele Initiative. https://www.ubele.org/

The programme comprises of seven modules, 4, (alumni supported) action learning sets as well as cross institutional mentoring support from university-based allies. This cross-university programme is delivered to sisters from Bristol, Exeter, Cardiff, UWE and Bath. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so check out our graphic art below and get an insight into some of experiences shared by sisters on the programme.

Dr. Waku Maboshe (She/Her)

Research Associate, Centre for trials research, Cardiff University

LinkedIn Profile

Cardiff People Page

In the spirit of Black History Month, we come together to celebrate the strength and contributions of our sisters, the unsung heroes who have shaped the world with their resilience and leadership. Among these remarkable stories lies my own transformative experience with the Elevate Programme. It served as the bridge from my past to my future, igniting a fresh perspective within me. It revealed the value of my experiences and the richness of my skills. This journey was not just about self-discovery; it was about recognizing the unique power within me to create change. 

During my time with Elevate, the concept of sustainable leadership through professional self-care, and empowerment of others deeply resonated with me. It highlighted the importance of nurturing oneself to effectively lead and inspire others. As we celebrate our sisters, it’s vital to remember that leadership begins with personal well-being, like securing your own oxygen mask before assisting others with theirs. I now understand the significance of leading with wisdom, empathy, and a commitment to continuous growth. I’ve embraced a morning routine to fuel my day and am passionate about mentoring and empowering those around me. Elevate not only transformed my thinking but also my actions, pushing me to be the best version of myself.

In these times of celebration, let us remember that our strength as a community lies in our ability to inspire and empower one another. Elevate has shown me that true leadership begins with self, extends to others, and ultimately uplifts the entire community. As we honour our sisters this Black History Month, let us continue to build a legacy of excellence for generations to come, driven by the spirit of unity and empowerment.

Kodi Andrew (she/her)

Wellbeing Practitioner, Student Support and Safeguarding

University of Bath

I found the Elevate leadership programme to be so worthwhile in more ways than one as it truly felt like a holistic experience developing the self professionally and interpersonally. It was refreshing to attend and develop as a person in regard to career and taking ownership of our skills and abilities, but also in terms of how we view ourselves as global majority women and how we take up space.

I particularly enjoyed the aspect of storytelling that was discussed within the programme, there is so much value and power in sharing our lived experiences to those within and outside of our communities. I felt empowered to be reminded of the importance of my journey as a woman of colour and how this has not only shaped the person I am today, but how my unique experiences can influence others to recognise my value. Within the structures and systems inbuilt within society, we can often feel as a ‘marginalised group’ that we are unheard, overlooked and undervalued and in turn we start to internalise and perpetuate these themes whether consciously or subconsciously and this filters into many aspects of our lives. Through the elevate process I was reminded of the importance of not allowing this to happen and through building confidence – challenging this narrative to prove otherwise. As professionals, so much of our identity is linked to our work, our accomplishments and our careers and we can place a lot of emphasis on this, naturally so, as we spend so much of our time at work. But we also have to remember to look after ourselves as human beings, women, mothers, and sisters too.

A unique aspect of elevate that I will take forward are the many rich and abundant connections that I made with other women on the programme. The power of community is something we can all benefit from, and I feel blessed to have met other likeminded, intelligent, and talented women that I will continue to grow with personally and professionally.

Chiara Singh (she/her)

Institute Development Associate

The Jean Golding Institute, University of Bristol

LinkedIn Profile

Recently I had chance to be part of a fantastic and creative personal and professional development programme known as Elevate. It is a development offering like none other I had participated in as it acknowledges and celebrates the culture, history, and diverse lived experiences of its participants. Throughout the course participants of colour who identified as female, from six different Higher Education Institute’s shared personal stories, experiences, tools and techniques to grow. This lead to the organic formation of a strong supportive sisterhood that exists long after the programme officially ends. 

I found it empowering, holistic, insightful, and motivating offering participants consistent opportunities for personal and professional reflective practice. For example, the self-driven, solution-based, collaborative Action Learning Sets provided safe spaces to share lived experiences whilst developing important skills such as asking critical questions and active listening. Some of the tools, which have had a significant impact on my work, and will continue to enrich my continued professional development are Eden Charles’s Bi-cultural Competency Framework and Margaret Wheatly and Deborah Frieze’s Two Loop Model, a theory of change based upon the ideas of living systems. 

Beyond the professional, something that has had a greater impact that has positively affected all areas of my life is the sense of community and mutual understanding with other participants. As well as expanding my networks the programme also motivated me to expand my comfort zone. For example, during my time on the programme, I led my first AHEP Conference workshop, facilitated my first data science themed workshop, wrote three funding applications, and joined a university level anti-racism working group!

Overall Elevate has enabled me to gain a greater understanding of myself, the strength in my ancestral roots, the narratives we tell ourselves VS those that are thrust upon us, the ways we work and communicate, institutional challenges, barriers but also the tools to navigate and overcome them. It has been an impactful transformational experience and I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned with my personal and professional communities of practice and beyond.

References

Charles, E. (2014) Bi-cultural Competency Framework

Wheatly, M. and Frieze, D. (2002) Two Loop Model: Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to Scale. The Berkana Institute

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