Exploring the meaning of the word LEADERSHIP in movements contexts

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Aspiration Digital Policy Leadership initiative at EU

Three main objectives:

  1. Deepen leadership mentoring knowledge, sharing and peer networking.
  2. Diversify the policymaking landscape (currently white, privileged men)
  3. Broaden sense of solidarity across movements (climate, racial, social justice). Bring people to the space and meet them where they are.

Initiative is kickstarting. Meeting people to understand their needs and explain what we’re offering. Starting with a small cohort of leaders. There are gaps and needs which are willing to be addressed in the pipeline of the initiative. Begining with civil society.

Make people feel that they belong. Sometimes digital rights space can be hostile.

Unpack: What leadership do we need? What does leadership mean to you? Which qualities are appreciated more and less from leaders?

  • Always non hierarchical. Cooperative, leaving spaces. To give and take. Making something together. Feeling of never having a leader. Repelling.
  • Different typer of leaderships. ‘Grab’ types for power for themselves. People want to go there, and I want to help them. Popular power. There is a gap.
  • Idealising certain power. Unlearning toxic leadership.
  • Inspired by people to help find their own way to get the solutions.
  • Get people’s mindsets to the point, to solve their own problems. Within themselves or organisations, then you step back. For example, how to build equity into data practices. Helping them to do so, building that mindset that stays with them.
  • Empowerment piece. Help them have that power. ‘Empowerment’ sometimes misused.
  • Feminist leadership. Unlearning toxic male. Iterative process to include minorities, being aware of privilege.
  • How do you approach difficult situations to inspire others. This can be stronger than CV credentials.
  • Assumptions by leadership. Male qualities of leadership. Not wanting to be confrontational, then I am not a leader? Maybe it can be a quality. Often women and minority backgrounds. On non profit sector there is more flexibility, for example with cooperatives.
  • Expectations of what a leader is. Especially if you don’t identify as a traditional leader. Maybe this holds back people taking leadership. Lack of representation too, for example amongst black women in the European Parliament. They often feel they are representing their people, which brings about another layer of complexity. Expectations, the initiative wants to showcase that there are no stereotypes for leadership.
  • Confrontation combined with unlearning. Confrontation is speaking truth to power. Women going to unlearning leadership and that can be dangerous. Women experiencing this as an emotional journey. Role modelling pressuring too. Systemic oppression works that way, makes small steps difficult. Listen and find a solution, models that we want to be.
  • Courage comes from somewhere. Creating spaces and opportunities. For example, youth policy spaces, learning vocabulary and encouraging so then be better prepared for job interviews and professional development.
  • Implicit skills to become policymaker/leader.
  • Open leadership qualities, such as asking rights questions, supporting others in what they can do. This implies having a crew to support you. Popular education, asking the cohort of leaders what do they think of leadership.
  • Initiative tailoring and supporting to each person to be successful. Bring more underrepresented voices in a space that is still hostile. How to navigate power structures.

How do we build the programme so that it is community oriented/based?

  • Having a supporting community that you can always go to for advice. To have confidence is important too.
  • Asking people what brought them to be willing to be part of the space. Reflecting upon reasons for leadership breaking down, especially amongst minority groups.
  • Europe not having the conversation of race. Smuggling the problem, stating their diversity is represented within their cultures.
  • Having an open call for one or two cohorts. This could develop into a broader community and fellowship programme. Career prospectives in the Commission. Stop having policies that do not reflect the people that will be affected by it.
  • How do we set up leadership to succeed. Be clear about expectations. Knowing classical pitfalls and help them.
  • Communication is majorly underrated.
  • Leader amplifier programme.
  • Speaking about pitfalls or leadership journey.
  • Accountability key to trust leadership. “What happened, did and failed in this, this is what we learned”.
  • Leaders can help you contextualise their communities and needs.
  • Co-design as significantly important.
  • Trauma-informed from the beginning. People to talk about their experiences. Being honest about your personal gaps and biases.
  • Cohort as a community, learning from each other. Sharing reflections of doing leadership. Does this amendment matter? Why are you here?
  • People presenting themselves as leaders for communities when this is not the case.
  • Expertise and leadership. What role expertise plays in leadership? Impostor syndrome. Be intentional with the leadership background you want to mentor to avoid tech layers.
  • How to write the programme to avoid assumptions? People think they don’t have the qualities if not they are not techies from the 80s.
  • Asking communities who they would candidate as their own leaders. Many people don’t self-identify as leaders. Subverting. Not top down.
  • You’re not the leader unless you are risking something.
  • Recognition of contributions from groups or sectors unseen.