A former Channel 4 and BBC film-maker is bringing the power of team learning to 16 unemployed women with Make It Happen, an innovative ESFA-funded programme delivering economic regeneration in rural Dorset.
Kate Saunders completed UK Team Mastery in 2017 and was keen to use her new coaching skills to make a difference in the community.
“My purpose as a social action film-maker has always been working collaboratively to create change and team entrepreneurship is a powerful process for creative teams.”
Kate started as a film editor, working on Channel 4 and BBC arts documentaries in London before becoming a lecturer in film production. While she was passionate about working with young people keen to enter the industry, Kate became frustrated with the narrowness of the curriculum she saw as failing to develop the necessary skills base.
“Students were not industry-equipped, and I wanted to support them to develop their capacity, build confidence and learn to navigate the world of work.”
Through author and consultant Sally Bibb, director of Engaging Minds, Kate heard about Team Academy in Finland and was fascinated to discover a different way of delivering education. She was put in contact with Akatemia CIC and found that they were offering an experiential training programme for aspiring team learning practitioners in the UK.
“Talking with Alison Fletcher I experienced a way of communicating that was supportive, enabling and energising, something I just hadn’t ever felt in my experiences in education. We came up with the idea of an exchange of skills; I would make a film about Team Academy in Finland and in exchange Akatemia would offer me a place on Team Mastery.”
So in 2012 Kate and her young team of director Mike Howard and cameraman Jim Birkett joined Alison at the very first UK Team Mastery session in Finland to document how academics from three English universities were learning the skills and mindsets of team coaching.
“Team entrepreneurs from Jyvaskyla Tiimiakatemia worked with us as fixers, drivers and local tour guides and everyone I met had that same enabling attitude – it was all about opening doors and thinking through problems rather than being demotivated by setbacks. I realised I had a long way to go in my own ability to work in professional teams, and that really was the start of my journey.”
Kate then suffered a debilitating illness so it was not until 2016 that she was able to take up her place, joining the fourth cohort of UK Team Mastery. She found the year-long programme both energising and tough.
“I experienced personal and professional challenges in a way that was deeply uncomfortable, but the safe space created by the programme managers and participants gave me the support I needed to reassess how I work and contribute in teams. It was a very concentrated learning process.”
During her illness Kate had been fortunate to have peer support from an inspiring businesswoman who was also facing health challenges. Getting back to work wasn’t easy; her self-esteem had taken a significant knock but she found the support she needed in a community venture which opened the door to a return to work.
“I realised I was lucky, but many people aren’t. I wanted to make a difference for women who are struggling with unemployment, often compounded by other issues; health, mental health, educational or social deprivation.”
Through the Government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency, Kate discovered that community training grants were available to provide development programmes for unemployed or economically inactive participants in areas of deprivation. With Rosie Russell from Arts Development Agency, she submitted a bid to the charity Groundwork, which administers the scheme, and they succeeded in securing £20,000 for the project.
Working with experienced coaches and mentors Rosie (Leadership and Social Lead), Philiy Page (Creative Women International) and Sally Bibb, they have put together a team learning programme called Make it Happen for 16 unemployed women on the Isle of Portland, one of the most economically deprived areas of England. The participants are put into teams and given a series of real-life challenges to work through. As well as one-to-one mentoring and strengths development workshops, the teams are organising arts and social events in the community and supporting each other to recognise and apply their skills in delivering these events and use their skills for future employment.
Kate is evaluating the programme against a number of criteria – well-being, resilience, evidence of learning – and using a calculator developed by the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust to measure the social impact of community investment. The programme is supported by the JobCentre Plus and aligns with its return-to-work strategy.
“The DWP embraced this project to help our customers who have lost confidence, aspirations and motivation”, says Amanda Buttle, their regional Employer and Partnership Manager.
“Working in partnership with Make it Happen has addressed some of these barriers. For us this course was ideal as we have customers we can signpost to this initiative.
“By encouraging participation out of their normal environment this can have a very positive affect and peer-to-peer support is one of the ways to make the biggest impact.”
But it is the words of the women themselves that are most compelling.
“I wanted to come to find like-minded people – women who want to do something against the odds.”
“This gave me the courage to stand up, speak out and get results. It’s the first group I’ve been in for 20 years and I’ve joined an IT course, Maths and now English.”
“It’s a bubbly group of women and everyone joins in.”
“I’m intrigued to find out more about my strengths.”
“I found out about the group and asked how I’d fit in and now I realise I do have ideas, a brain and a mouth!”
Kate believes Make It Happen could be rolled out in other parts of the country and would like to work with other team coaches and Team Academy graduates to create programmes which benefit more communities.
If you’re interested in getting involved, Kate can be contacted through Alison Fletcher at Akatemia CIC.