Lee Waller Research Fellow at Ashridge Business School writes about the Prince’s Seeing is Believing Programme. Ashridge Business School is working with Business in the Community to develop an understanding of the catalysts for responsible business leadership by exploring the role of experiential learning through the Prince’s Seeing is Believing Programme and the interplay with other corporate and personal factors.
Lee Waller Research Fellow at Ashridge Business School writes about the Prince’s Seeing is Believing Programme.
Ashridge Business School is working with Business in the Community to develop an understanding of the catalysts for responsible business leadership by exploring the role of experiential learning through the Prince’s Seeing is Believing Programme and the interplay with other corporate and personal factors. As part of this research I was tasked with observing one of the visits to get a feel for the experience of the participants and an understanding of how the process works.
I hadn’t anticipated the impact it would have on me.
8 am 23rd April 2013 Edgware Road Tube – As I climbed the stairs from the underground at Edgware Road on that April morning I was struck first by the noisy clanging of scaffold poles as stall holders set up a market then by the peculiar gloom. Despite the bright crisp April morning the street appeared grotty and grey. I felt suddenly conspicuous and attempted to look like I knew where I was going as I searched the shop fronts for Circle Sports the venue that would provide my safe haven on this busy high street.
I entered the brightly lit shop to be greeted by a large friendly group of executives who looked similarly out of place in their sharp suits. The cause of this incongruent gathering was The Prince’s Seeing is Believing programme on this occasion attempting to encourage these executives to second one or two of their employees as Business Connectors. Connectors work in their communities for around a year turning their business skills to building collaborations between organisations charities and community groups to tackle local issues.
A critical aim of the programme is to take executives out of their comfort zone and expose them to the harsh realities of life in this case for young people in some of the UK’s most deprived areas. And for me it certainly met this objective. What first gripped me were the truly inspiring talks by the shop’s Director Turly Humphrey and Project Manager Kofi Oppong. But the most powerful moment for me was meeting the young people who joined us to share their experience of the project and their stories of trying to find work in this run-down part of London.
Bringing me close to tears was the modest confidence of these young people many of whom had confessed to not being able to meet the eye of most grown-ups before they joined the programme. Whilst often still shy these young men and women held their own opposite a group of suited executives answering questions smiling cheerfully and entertaining us with their humour.
I left that morning feeling incredibly sad at the sorry state some parts of our society have found themselves in but invigorated and encouraged by the recognition that there are some extraordinary people out there who dedicate their lives to helping them. There is much that we all as individuals and corporations can do and I walked away inspired to find a means by which I could play my small part.
I spent the next week waxing lyrical about the experience to anyone who would listen including a colleague who is a trustee of a similar organisation. I put him in touch with Kofi – I made a connection. I was moved to action. And that is the primary objective of the Seeing is Believing programme – to inspire executives to use their position to make a difference in the community. So for this sample group of one the programme was a success. Its experiential nature immersing participants in the harsh reality of community issues does so much more than tell you or show you. It involves you and through this involvement comes understanding and inspiration to act.
To me this is the first piece of evidence from our research of the effectiveness of the Seeing is Believing Programme as a powerful catalyst for responsible leadership.