Last month, Common Purpose launched January, an experiential leadership programme hosted by Google Digital Academy. Senior leaders from business, governments and social sectors across the world came together for three days to deepen their understanding and widen their perspective of the rapidly changing world.

Originally intended as a face-to-face session in London, the first part of the programme moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a short span of time, the team had to quickly adapt the curriculum to the online platform.

“Initially, I was so disappointed with the changes as a result of COVID-19 but my disappointment didn’t last for long! The interactions, discussions, debates and learnings were amazing! I could even “feel” the energy of the team. It really was remarkable!”
Cathy Haldane, Owner, Consultant, HalVita Consulting (Pty) Ltd

The team adapted the curriculum to suit digital learning – including briefing speakers, contributors and visit hosts. They built in various opportunities for group interaction as well as individual learning and reflection. They used the online platform to share content with the participants beforehand, especially around speaker sessions, which was useful to pivot to very interactive speaker sessions.

Claire Piela, our Global Programmes Director, shares more about the transition process to virtual:

“Our decision to pivot January Global Leadership programme from face to face to online felt tough at the time. However, we were all in agreement that the opportunity to convene and connect a group of senior global leaders at a time when the world felt more divided and disjointed than ever before was unmissable. We applied our leadership framework, Agile Creativity, developed with Google Digital Academy, to creating the virtual programme. The result was incredibly special.”

The challenge: 'How do we develop innovative approaches to healthcare that support access for all?'

We asked the leaders to tackle a global challenge – one that is complex and unfamiliar. When the challenge was decided last year, the team couldn’t have anticipated how relevant it would be. As the whole world struggles to understand, adapt and thrive amidst the pandemic, the challenge became more than a challenge; it became a pressing need.

A contributor from the health sector said that she hasn’t lived through a genuine global health crisis before but the opportunity to connect with leaders globally and discuss this health challenge is unmissable right now.

“We could not have been thinking about a challenge more important than this right now. With participants from all across the Commonwealth, we shared, we connected and we learnt from each other in our own homes in a way I have never experienced before. Thank you Common Purpose for not postponing the human connection and learning. It is such an important tool for dealing with worry and anxiety amidst global uncertainty.”
Katrina Webb-Denis, International Speaker and Personal Mastery/ Leadership Consultant, Newday Founder and Director

Some thoughts that emerged while looking at the challenge through a systems and organizational perspective included:

  • While responding to a crisis, it is necessary to bring everyone to the same level of pace and action. Some people can create momentum and urgency faster – we need to find a way to get everyone to respond quickly
  • Pull together a crisis management team quickly – don't leave a leadership and decision making vacuum. Select people who respond and take ownership irrespective of hierarchy and grade
  • A digital health system should be priority because we don't have enough carers in the world to take care of the sick. We need to extend and augment our workforce dramatically.
  • At times of change, we need to think differently of our short, medium and long term priorities

In addition to the challenge, January participants also explored how leaders foster Agile Creativity, the ability to adapt and innovate at speed, and Cultural Intelligence (CQ), the ability to cross boundaries and thrive in multiple cultures. One participant shared that “It feels like we need more Agile Creativity than ever before – we all need to adapt fast and innovate more if we are to survive and thrive after the uncertainty.”

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the need to develop skills to adapt and adjust in these unprecedented times is more important than ever.

“This was not only a mentally stimulating programme, but so enriching connecting with the group, especially at this current time, that was a rare and extraordinary privilege.”
Emily Death, Head of Programmes, Global Partners Governance
“The programme was so thought provoking and so powerful. You could not help to be energized and motivated to make a difference. The team that is involved in the January 2020 programme have unique gifts, and I believe it is these gifts coupled with Common Purpose that will help create a better place. We have real momentum now and must not let it slow up. We each have a responsibility and accountability to each other to help be the best version on oneself that you can be.”
Michael Pemberton, Chief Executive Officer, BEC