Better Way Cells
A Better Way is different from many other leadership networks in that it does have an overall agenda. Our aim is to understand, develop and communicate the founding principles so that they can be better put into practice both by members in their own spheres and more widely. It is not a leadership or personal development programme nor an action learning set, though we hope that, as with other networks, those involved will also gain mutual support and inspiration from each other.
A Better Way is therefore in some ways experimental. We recognise that practices may develop over time and welcome the fact that each cell may evolve slightly differently. But because it’s a national initiative with specific goals it’s important that we are able to share our thinking across cells and remain joined up and focused on the principles. The success of a Better Way will be down to the goodwill, generosity and energy of everyone involved, and it’s also important that the meetings are both purposeful and yet flexible enough to best fit the different needs and specific interests of those involved.
So we are offering guidance on what we are finding works best across the country and some ground rules to ensure that the national as well as personal objectives can be met.
Membership of the Cells
The Better Way cells are for people who make things happen – social activists in one way or another who are excited by Better Way thinking, want to share reflections with others and take back ideas into their working life as well as help develop a national agenda.
Cells should consist of between 6 and 10 people. We believe that’s a good number to have worthwhile discussions, generate trust, build connectivity, and take collaborative action.
If there are more than 10 people in an area who want to join – no problem, encourage them to set up a second cell!
We don’t want echo chambers. Diversity is important. The ideal should be for a mix of people who make you think outside your particular box and bring different things to the table. That will probably mean different sectors (voluntary, public, private and sub-sectors of the voluntary sector), ages, ethnicity, gender and sexuality and people with different faiths or beliefs and politics – and also people who work, think and act in very different ways. This is not an elitist initiative – everyone has the potential to be leaders in their own way. In the beginning, the majority may come from the voluntary sector but we hope that will change over time as members bring more people into the conversation.
Above all, the cells will succeed if they are populated by people who will both respect and challenge each other, and are excited and invigorated by spending time together.
Purposeful cell meetings
We suggest the cells meet every two months, at regular times over a meal, in a venue with private space. This could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, whatever people prefer, with everyone paying their way. There should be enough time for people to enjoy each other’s company as well as do some productive work together.
The meeting topics should be determined by the cells themselves. All that we ask is that the cells select topics for each meeting which relate to one or more of our propositions and that there is a record of some kind, ideally a blog, that can be shared across the network. That way, across our network new insights will emerge and over time the propositions will gather strength and momentum.
At each meeting, someone should briefly presents the chosen topic or topics, and someone else should act as a facilitator, helping the discussion flow productively, avoiding any tendency for some to dominate over others, or for the discussion to get caught up in the detailed agendas of individuals or organisations.
Where possible, one or both of the co-organisers of a Better Way will try to attend to help ensure that the learning from different cells is shared across the network and to contribute to the discussion, but as the network grows this will become more difficult.
You may sometimes want to invite someone as a guest, to provide additional insight or challenge for a particular topic. And of course that’s also a good way to help build a wider network of allies.
It is important that the meetings create a safe space for people to talk openly and honestly, and so ‘Chatham House Rules’ apply (ie information shared during a meeting can be communicated externally, but the source of that information must never be explicitly or implicitly identified).
Finally we ask that each cell has a named Cell Co-ordinator, who can ensure that there is a forward schedule of meetings, venues, and topics, and acts as a first point of contact to the wider network. (This may or may not be the same person facilitating meetings). To help get things going, one of the organisers of the wider network may take this function initially.
Connecting across the Network
If you hear about something another cell is up to, or a relevant project elsewhere in the country, and want to arrange a visit, or if you need a small amount of funding for some other activity which relates to the Better Way propositions, we do have a small fund which may be able to make a contribution – just let us know.
We intend to arrange periodic national gatherings, where cell members from across the country can come together – we will keep you informed of forthcoming events. A first meeting in June 2017 is our aim.