This brief focuses on the conditions that must be in place for local leaders to emerge and allow them to function.
I use an attempt by a local not-for-profit organization to create summer jobs for youth as a metaphor. As the story builds up, at certain points I stop and pose a dilemma that can help to answer our main question. Hopefully, putting these answers together enables us to enhance our understanding of core dynamics in play and the necessary sub-conditions that must be in place to foster development of a culture for Leadership Everywhere along with the necessary the structure and human resources.
The underlying assumption here is the fact that leadership is multifaceted. The domain of leadership is at the intersection of an organization with its changing environment. Presence of numerous variations of environments and organizations brings so much complexity into the picture that practically it is impossible to develop a conclusive discussion at once. Using a metaphor allows us to depart from on overwhelming complex situation to a simpler setup with just enough complexity to explore the topic to the extent that we can. This is at the expense of losing generality. Our findings may or may not be transferable directly to other situations. Still, metaphors are suitable to start our discussion. We first go to Dreamland where our story unfolds.
Dreamland is a vast country rich in natural resources and with a relatively small population, a national health care system, and an acceptable welfare system in place. The country is a leader in use of technology and internet. It is has moved toward a knowledge based economy from a manufacturing past although resource extraction still remains a major occupation. Thanks to a welcoming immigration policy, population growth has been steady over the past decades. Furthermore, the country has a British model of government where there is cohesion between the legislative and executive branches.
Dreamcity is the largest city in Dreamland. She has grown to a metropolitan with an integrated public transit system which has blurred the traditional city boundaries especially when it comes to daily commute. Downtown core has governmentbuildings, corporate offices, residential high rises, theaters, shops, eateries, and all other amenities of modern urban living. It is home to a large number of young professionals in knowledge jobs as well as immigrants, low income inner-city families, and some traditional families. Overall downtown core has a high level of income disparity.
Income disparity is moderate in surrounding neighborhoods and sprawling suburbs for working class families. Except in 13 small pockets, the quality of life in the greater Dreamcity is fine enough to bring meaning to the name. Basic necessities are available even to marginalized groups, thanks to a set of working public systems for housing, education, healthcare, welfare, and many charity and community groups such as food bank.
Charities, community groups, and other not-for-profits play a paramount role in Dreamland and Dreamcity. There is no shortage of recreational programs especially for youth year around. There are many reasonably equipped and well maintained soccer fields, swimming poles, basketball loops and tenniscourts available to the public in each neighborhood. The municipalities essentially act as a facility provider and care taker.
Most recreational programs are run by community groups formed by volunteers and parents. The culture of volunteerism is strong. These self-organized groups are usually governed by parents themselves. Program planning, bookkeeping, and financial statements and decisions are carried with various degree of formality but with mutually acceptable transparency. Disagreements are usually of minor nature and resolved by informal mechanisms other than by going to authorities,regulatory panels, or courts.
Many believe that Dreamland is the right place for being a child or teenager. The free mandatory public education up to age of 18 is available with acceptable quality. Youth are entitled to work from age of 16. Many of them take advantage of the opportunities that become available to them to work part time during school year or full time in summer. The society highly values work and strongly believes that not everything can be learnt in class rooms. Employment is a real life experience to develop youth.
Retail sector and not-for-profit are two pillars of youth employment offering low skill entry level opportunities. They rely on marginalized groups like new immigrants and youth s two groups to provide them with the human resources they need. However, market forces are not enough, especially if the goal is to engage them with work experience opportunities related to their future carriers. Furthermore, it is more practical for governments to be involved indirectly with any job creation program of this genre through measures such as training subsidy or wage subsidy.
Q1- Are these community programs in sport and arts an example of Leadership Every Where? If yes, Does the Dreamland have the capacity to spill over the concept and expertise from volunteer recreational programs to other sectors?
Q2 – Is it possible to draft a national plan for creating summer jobs for students while decision making and leadership is delegated to the front line of engagement with families at different locations across the country?
Government of Dreamland decides to design a program to encourage summer employment for students. The government neither wants to get involve with the employment process itself, nor wants to involved with any process which leads to choosing the winners or losers while maintain fairness across a vast country. The legslative arm has 350 elected members representing 350 electoral ridings strictly by the principle of first past the post rather proportional representations or other measures which eventually dilute affiliation of elected members with their constituents in specific electoral ridings.
Q3- Does it make sense for the government to act only at higher level and delegates decision making to local representatives to first decide on their local priorities and second, to choose employers who can design and deliver suitable programs to address local priorities?
Q4 – Can a tightly structured local employment program with strict performance matrices be a good candidate for “Leadership Everywhere “initiative? If no, then what can be the role of a local not-for-profit organization?
A small local community group designs a program to hier university students and asks them to run some local film festivals. The films are all produced by local elementary and secondary students. The organizers are responsible to recruit the film makers, collect the films, book a venue, and screen the films at local level to local audience who are mostly the parents of the filmmakers. The organizers’ wage is subsidized by the government; however, all other expenses should be covered by donations and sponsorships at local level. The hired staff have the certainty of their wages, but at the same time have to raise the funds from local donors and business owners.
The program is now in its second year. In the first year more than half of the hired students showed the entrepreneurial qualities. The organization later worked with these students to form a nucleus to lead the program in the second year. Meanwhile, the younger students who participated in the program by making films, found the process of filmmaking as a platform for communicating a vision as well as developing certain organizational skills.
The program is an example of diffused leadership at every level from the government to local representatives, to youth organizers, to young filmmakers. Several factors are contributing to success of this program, including but not limited to:
- Existing community programs have already created a favorable environment (culture, human resources, exposure, …) for programs run by local people for local people which are example of diffused leadership at local levels.
- The national plan for creating summer jobs has showed a genuine interest in deligating its authorities to local neighborhoods.
- The representatives at local neighborhoods have welcomed the challenge and showed leadership in determining local priorities and choosing the capable programs.
- Not-for-profit organizations with a mandate for human development are in a good position to show leadership in design and delivery of “Leadership Everywhere” programs.
Implementing diffused leadership is a reality in not-for-profit organizations. The challenge is in for-profit-organizations to learn and patiently create a favorable environment for similar initiatives before expecting a miracle.