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How the Northern Power Women community is responding to the pandemic

Simone Roche MBE, Founder Northern Power Women

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced people, leaders and organisations to respond, re-evaluate, and, in many instances, innovate. There’s a shared and tangible sense of reflection and renewed purpose – the feeling that real change is more possible than ever. Our Northern Power Women community has used this time and opportunity to really up the ante with solid plans to support our regions.

Pre pandemic, we held ‘power circles’, with representatives from our growing numbers getting together, in person (remember that?), to discuss local issues and develop plans to tackle them. Trying to coordinate dinner with 20 women was hard. Home commitments, work diaries, plus travel and venue challenges meant we were lucky to meet twice a year.

Now, with everyone at home, over 150 of us across Liverpool, Lancashire and Cumbria, Greater Manchester, the North East, Yorkshire and Tees Valley have been able to meet virtually, on a monthly basis. From these more open and energised conversations, focused on the current situation, we’ve noticed clear themes merging. Common themes that our members see as the priorities to address, both during and post pandemic.

Our six post-Covid priority themes:

  • Defining the new leadership

I think it’s safe to say that everyone has learned something about effective (and ineffective) leaders and leadership during the last few months. What kind of leadership has not just ‘dealt’ with such a huge and challenging event, but has thrived?  And what can leaders do, moving forward, to create a new and better ‘normal’?

  • Promoting regions and talent

The key to recovery and prosperity in our regions is supporting and investing in local talent – and spreading the word about that talent and its potential. We need to seize opportunities to share skills, collaborate and co-create.

  • Innovating to build forward, better

There are some amazing examples of organisations switching and diversifying, quickly, to adapt to the current situation. And many are asking ‘why go back?’. Old business models are being ripped up and those who haven’t upped their game risk being left behind in the new world.

  • Supporting each other

Supporting each other and the community has always been central to our network, delivering local projects, volunteering, mentoring and celebrating success. We’re here to make a difference to individuals and their personal and professional groups and to deliver what matters. This is now more important than ever.

  • Employability for our future

A recent report by the Resolution Foundation confirmed that young people will be the hardest hit in the current crisis. Our Northern Power Futures programme already works in partnership with schools, further and higher educational establishments. The under 25s we’re talking to in our power circles, and through our podcasts, are worried. We all need to take responsibility for their future and wellbeing.

  • Telling the story

At times like this it can be hard to find the positives, but there are many local inspiring stories to tell – and learn from – about resilience and recovery. Stories from our past, but also stories about what’s happening right now.

And we have post Covid regional projects already underway

A phrase we use a lot is ‘cracking on’. We don’t just talk lofty plans, we put them into action and we definitely don’t hang about. A point supported by Dame Julie Kenny DBE DL, who is part of the Yorkshire Power Circle: “The Northern Power Women community is just that. Not a talking shop, but a community of proven leaders and tomorrow’s leaders who want to make a difference, not just in their world or work or place, but in the wider community. Working together and supporting each other means the ability to make a difference becomes a reality.  Times are a-changing and we will drive that change.”

In Liverpool we’re launching the Future Tellers project, starting with students. We’re asking them to create their own campaign and content and connecting to mentoring networks and platforms to tell their stories and share their concerns, to uncover areas for research and present their work at the Liverpool Good Business Festival.

In Greater Manchester we’re focusing on supporting female and BAME led organisations, connecting them with investors and with other businesses, as well as members of our network from the finance sector, the development community and diversity organisations, such as the 6% club. Sharon Amesu, Chair of the Institute of Directors, North West, said: “The power circles are so important to drive the rules for the new norm – and particularly the BAME community, as allyship is invaluable right now.”

Linked to this, we’re expanding our existing scaleup programme for women, part of Lancashire’s Two Zero project, which supports women-led business in Lancashire to scale up and innovate.

Our Tees Valley members are looking at defining a new kind of leadership, starting with a survey, which will be available on the Power Platform, our networking hub, and I’d encourage everyone to take part in shaping that research.  As Professor Jane Turner OBE, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Teesside University, put it:  “Catalyzed as always by Simone,  Northern Power Women is collaborating and co-creating to address the challenges we are confronted with. The power circles are a positive force for good, enabling senior women to engage in honest, debate and discussion, while pushing for actions and outcomes. We’re just scratching the surface of opportunity and it’s pretty energising and exciting.”

And our Yorkshire cohort will also be using the Platform to look at what the new post Covid ‘rules’ might be when it comes to, for example, employability, place and culture. What are the recipe cards for the new world?

‘Covid-19 has changed everything. Power Circles have been an important way for me to stay connected, draw strength from others, make a difference in the world and have some fun. We discuss challenging subjects, take action and find a human connection.’ Emily Cox MBE, Group Head of Colleague Relations, Lloyds Banking Group

All of these projects can be run remotely, and replicated or extended to other regions. That is what we’re all about after all. Sharing ideas, working collaboratively, supporting each other and making a difference – powerful principles that are at the heart of all our plans.

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