NHS NWLA Festival of Leadership

In summer 2017, as part of a wider repositioning piece, the NHS North West Leadership Academy were keen to deliver an event which brought together stakeholders and reengage them in a new narrative, direction and offer around leadership development.

At the time, there was a clear need for the NHS North West Leadership Academy to be much more visible, and live events are one of the most effective and powerful ways of doing this. They put a face to an organisation, make human connections and show values and personality, creating impact and buzz.

The overall purpose was to celebrate the activity of the North West Leadership community, with a call to action to raise the ambition for leadership in the North West. With that in mind, Cynergy proposed the NHS NWLA Festival of Leadership.

Approach
Following an initial discovery meeting with key members of their team, Cynergy worked to understand every aim and objective that the client wanted to achieve in order to come up with our first set of suggestions regarding the key aims, programme timings, plenary content, workshops, interactive hub activities, and potential keynote speakers. When pulling together these recommendations, Cynergy made sure to translate the vision and ambitions of the client, and keeping in mind the target audience of leaders within the NHS NWLA and across other pubic services (e.g. local councils, fire, police, housing, education), as well as the voluntary and community sector.

After feeding back our suggestions, Cynergy then collaborated further with the NWLA team to work on how we can make the event impactful and engaging to achieve its objectives. Working with the metaphor of a festival, the different sessions gave a platform for new acts, different themes and genres, and a different pace and feel.

Cynergy strategised and project managed throughout the design, planning and implementation phases, creating both a high-level planning summary, timeline of activity and an operational schedule to ensure the day ran smoothly. Throughout the entire process, Cynergy undertook thorough logistical planning to make sure all creative and innovative activities were executed to the highest level for the most impact.

We also carried out venue and speaker sourcing, and to take the pressure from the NWLA team, we were responsible for pre-event delegate management through our event platform. This involved creating the registration form, responding to any queries and cancellations via our dedicated events inbox and phone number, managing workshop selection, as well as providing the client weekly booking reports.

Action
In the first instance, after speaking with the client about how they envisioned the event’s look and feel, we worked with our Studio designers to come up with brand concepts for the ‘festival’ which would help to establish its identity for following Festivals of Leadership, that would become recognisable and signify the best of leadership in the North West.

With a clearer understanding of the type of content for the day, Cynergy then worked up an initial ‘skeleton’ programme agenda, which also required planning the logistics around how we could best use the venue space. The agenda was gradually refined as Cynergy managed speaker requirements and gathered information on what they needed for their sessions (i.e. AV, materials, max. participants etc). Once finalised, Cynergy worked with Studio to design a branded agenda and programme, of which would be populated with the delegate’s name and pre-selected workshops.

Throughout the day, the ‘Fringe’ workshop sessions provided interactive spaces for delegates to learn and share their thoughts and views on current topics such as inclusion, system leadership, talent and health and wellbeing. Cynergy also supported PechaKucha style presentations if speakers opted for this format, providing the license, PowerPoint template, coaching and presentation tips.

Whilst the core event ran throughout the day, a separate, parallel series of activities and sessions took place externally, enabling delegates to opt in and out of formal sessions and build a day that is bespoke to them. This was the ‘Support Act’ area which included a range of informal spaces for delegates to:

  • Explore the Memory Lane exhibition – This was a dedicated area which took delegates through the history of the NHS North West Leadership Academy journey, creating a physical timeline to walk through, so that delegates were fully immersed from start to finish.
  • Have a mini coaching session: When registering, delegates had the option to book in a 20-minute coaching/mentoring taster session, on a topic of their choice to explore with a qualified coach in that area.
  • Take time out in the creativity corner: This was a creative mindfulness area with colouring books, pencils and also paper so people can doodle, draw and colour, absorbing and processing thoughts and ideas prompted throughout the day.
  • Watch inspirational leadership films: A dedicated Cinema room was set up for delegates to come and go throughout the day.

The festival offered an immersive and interactive environment for delegates to engage with. As a result of the day, people reported feeling challenged, encouraged to think differently, inspired to share their learnings with their teams and workforce, and said they would use the materials provided in their own systems.

Excellent content, very interactive, great networks with interesting, motivated and skilled people.”

Following the success of the event, NHS NWLA held their second Festival of Leadership in 2019 with Cynergy onboard to support, design, plan and project manage. In terms of the interactive hub, the Memory Lane included Festival of Leadership 2018 and Leader article covers from the previous year to show what NWLA had achieved in the last 12 months. The day also featured a choir comprised of retired NHS staff to create a real buzz and burst of energy during lunch for delegates to enjoy.

“The event was an excellent opportunity to network and explore the resources available with the Leadership Academy.  The keynote speaker Jaz Ampaw-Farr was very inspirational!”

“Overall a great event. I was glad to be at it and it gave me some 'headspace' to think...”

Next steps
Plans are currently in place for the next Festival of Leadership event, and we are taking it a step further by looking into virtual options of delivery. By doing this, we can help spread the learning experience and broaden collaboration to a wider audience of stakeholders, who otherwise could not attend and can be a part of the event remotely, and in their own time. We look forward to continuing our work with NHS NWLA as we explore new and exciting ways to enhance the delegate experience.