Tackling future challenges and opportunities with the Excellence in Place Leadership programme

10 December 2021
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As we approach the start of cohort three of the Excellence in Place Leadership programme, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the first two cohorts and why Amey and ADEPT created the programme for Place thought leaders.  

Place based services are critical for a successful economy and touch the lives of every person in the country every day. We have to reflect on how much impact we have on people and our ability to truly transform lives. But, that also brings a lot of pressure to make the best decisions while juggling numerous conflicting factors. 

This dynamic alone often means we spend our time reacting, rather than reflecting. We respond to situations and circumstances, becoming the product of our environment rather than our environment becoming a product of us (to quote Jack Nicholson in The Departed!). 

The Excellence in Place Leadership programme gives current and future Place leaders the ability to do just that. To tackle the ‘wicked problems’ they face – the really difficult ones – and to openly collaborate with others to create and catalyse fresh thinking. But all in a safe space – one where no ideas are too preposterous, and challenge is welcomed. 

Two years later, the programme is becoming well-established. Thirty Place leaders have been part of the programme and are now advocating it to their own teams and colleagues. This has meant this year applications were higher than ever, and it was incredibly difficult to choose the cohort. 

All of the outputs that have been delivered by the first two cohorts are publicly available. These are a mix of summary outputs from each session, useful toolkits and blogs from the cohort members – all available to the sector. It’s been great to hear stories from the cohorts about how they’ve shared these documents within their own organisations, so others have benefitted from the learning.  

Harnessing these thoughts gives people the time to explore the feasibility of their ideas with their peers, and also with the external speakers who take part. These are usually individuals who work outside of the Place sector but have challenged their own organisation or sector to think differently. Creating this open environment enables the creativity to flow and builds an atmosphere where ideas are discussed and refined, pragmatism woven in and new suggestions thrown into the mix. 

And this collaborative approach is at the heart of the programme. Organisations, roles and hierarchy are forgotten as people get together to debate and learn. What has come through the cohort feedback is the recognition that collaboration between the private and public sector is needed to tackle the complex challenges we are all facing.  

Thought leadership creates a platform for thinking differently about these threats, such as how do we reduce our carbon emissions or enhance our services for local communities. We’ve all grown up with the advances in technology which enable us to change how we work and behave to try and overcome these challenges. However, we need to take the time to combine these elements and change our approach – creating the space to think differently while embracing technology. 

Working together is key for change. Every organisation brings something different to the table – knowledge, skill, capability, resource, budget, time – so if we can combine these together, our impact will be greater. 

It’s a difficult, in-built mindset to overcome but hopefully initiatives like the Excellence in Place Leadership programme can help change our mindsets further.  

From Amey’s perspective, it’s been brilliant to work with thought leaders in the market who have great ideas, challenge the norm and push us to think differently. It certainly means we have to be creative when we’re developing each session of the programme! But it’s also exciting to be supporting new talent, shape future thinking and play our part to change the industry. 

We tackle some huge topics – navigating Covid recovery, achieving our climate ambitions, exceeding customer expectations, utilising Green Finance – are just a few. But for each one the cohort get stuck in to create bold solutions for the future, while building their own personal network. Networks who stay in touch and use each other to work on issues that are affecting them locally when back at the day job. 

This week, we welcome cohort three to the programme. We’ll be making introductions and building the foundations for what we all want to focus on and get out of the 2022 programme. I imagine there will be some hot topics that we’re all grappling with that will likely form the outline structure that we can build on during the year, reflecting on further social, environmental and economic changes we’re all expecting. 

Did we know or plan this is how the Excellence in Place Leadership programme would turn out? Probably not. But are Amey and ADEPT delighted to see the passion from the cohorts and the difference the programme is making…absolutely! 

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