The Transformative Leadership Programme: Participants tell their story - Shannon Downey, Groundwork NI Duncairn TLP Autumn 2019

Shannon Downey of Groundwork NI shares her TLP story here.

Shannon did the course in Autumn 2019, in the Duncairn area of Belfast.

I enjoyed making connections and hearing from people and seeing things from their point of view. I’d say the USP of this programme is bringing the sectors together.



What motivated you to sign up?

I was looking for training in the area of Good Relations and it was difficult to find. I hadn’t seen anything with this particular focus – there’s not a lot of training that brings other sectors together – this is ambitious and different and so it was attractive, as was the ILM Level 3 accreditation.

I’m working in North and West Belfast Primary Schools, and this was my first time working in North Belfast so I don’t have a lot of experience in this area. So I was interested to meet others working in the area to get to know what other work is going on and make connections with others with similar roles – networking and meeting others was the main motivation.

Experience and Learning

What did you like about the course? 

A high quality approach with good tools. I liked that there was a choice of topics. I thought the personal leadership bits were good, we tend not to think of this, so it was good to have the space to think about your leadership and how it affects change.

And there was a great bunch of people in the room – the course engaged people who brought a lot to the table. I enjoyed making connections and hearing from people and seeing things from their point of view. I’d say the USP of this programme is bringing the sectors together – it’s so easy to get into working in silos so promoting collaboration is really important.

What topics stood out for you?

I liked Collaboration and building relationships – this was very important. It can be difficult to collaborate with different people and communities, but nearly every project has to do it if you’re working for social change.  There were very useful tools for this that I will use in the future. And also Power and Systems – the course gave a new angle on this.

What are you likely to ‘take back’ to your life/work in the community?

I’d use the planning tools – we learned a tool called the planning pathway. I worked with kids to design an anti-bullying comic and I used this pathway approach. Also, much of my work is about identifying issues, community mapping etc. This course provides good teamwork tools for approaching this sort of work. I have also passed on the learning about communicating your vision to our fundraising person. I already use Social Innovation tools anyway.

What difference has it made?

Is there anything you could or would do now that you wouldn’t have felt able to do before?

Yes, thinking about leadership styles I use, and confidence that it’s OK to use different styles in different situations. As a young woman it can be difficult so it’s good to have the confidence and tools to reflect on my style and how to improve it.

Are there people/agencies you feel able to talk to and work with now that you weren’t before?

Yes, I now have connections in the Council and have more understanding of their work and willingness to work to make change in interface areas. Through the relationship-building on the course, I know I could lift the phone and we could work together. This applies to the Good Relations team in Council, Department of Justice and other groups such as Ashton and Cats Protection – people coming together under pressure with a shared purpose of wanting to make life better.

What difference will this make to how you engage in your interface area?

The tools around collaboration and relationship building will change how I’d approach this. We can go in with assumptions, but we’re not always right. This changes how you interact with people. The good tools and content around this changed how I’d approach it.

To what extent do you think these changes would have occurred in the absence of this course? i.e. would you have developed these skills and be motivated to do something new anyway?

I wouldn’t have thought of the leadership reflection and other tools if I hadn’t done the course. I had ILM accreditation down as a goal, but I wouldn’t have done that for a long time if it wasn’t for the course. It also allowed me to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise have met. The tools, content and facilitation are all relevant to what I do and of a very high quality. It’s hard to find courses like this.

What difference will the course make to the interface area overall? Especially in terms of relationships, collaboration and increased understanding in the area?

With the wider Transform for Change events outside the training there will be more relationship-building and networking and this could translate into more collaborative working. It’s very important that there is a mechanism for this to happen as people still work in silos so bringing people together is really important and we often don’t get the time to do this. The Collaborative Projects will also have a benefit, as will meeting people from other interface areas.

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