Calling All Volunteers!

Thanks for taking an interest in volunteering for the West Midlands Challenge, the Region’s biggest public sector leadership development event on the 19th September. If you’re still deciding, then hopefully the below detailed information on the event and roles will persuade you to take part. Or if you have already committed spread the word.

We will send you more detailed joining instructions 2 -3 weeks before the event, but the below should give you a snapshot of your roles!

Event Background

At the Challenge teams take on the role of a senior management team at one of four councils that together form the fictitious Isle of Linfolk. All four councils are failing (or have failed). The senior management teams have all resigned and days participants are their replacements. They have received the proverbial “hospital pass” which is the combined in-boxes of the previous senior management team. In there will be a whole raft of information and direction which they need to sort though and action where, and if, necessary.

Throughout the day they will meet their council leader who will pass on words of wisdom and guidance – these meetings are at the leaders request only and not vice versa. The teams will also be expected to deal with the media as well as handle any e-mails and telephone calls that may be routed through to them (each team has a mobile phone – this phone accepts incoming calls only!).  In order to succeed the teams will need to build partnerships with both other councils within the Isle of Linfolk as well as other professional bodies/organisations with which they share issues and matters of mutual interest.

Volunteer Roles

Leader

The role of leader is critical to the success of the event and ensures the participating teams are able to practice, and demonstrate, their partnership and negotiating skills.

The four councils each have a different political dimension (Conservative / Labour / Lib Dem and Green – to help you understand some of the early issues your teams may raise with you a profile of each leader is included in the background information. You may be asked to role play multiple Leaders all with a different political background.

You will meet each of the teams up to four times throughout the day. All meetings take place at the team desks and each meeting should last 10 minutes maximum. It will be down to you to keep track of this time. On the day you will be provided with a detailed calendar for your day as well as a guide as to how the meetings should flow.

As part of the assessment there are a number of politically sensitive issues that we would expect the CEO’s to highlight to you. These are listed on an assessment sheet. You tick them off when (and if) they are raised. There is also space on the assessment sheet to comment on each meeting (both positive and negative comments) and after the last meeting we ask you write both a ‘pen picture’ to summarise the overall performance of the individual CEO as well as grading them as to their ‘political awareness’ throughout their meetings with you – please note this grading should be judged individually – it is entirely possible that all your Chief Executives receives the same grade (either good or not-so good!) Once these forms are completed you will hand them in so we can start the ‘Best CEO’ shortlisting process.

Towards the end of the day the role you play will change. Each team is required to give a 10-minute presentation to a Performance Panel and you may be asked to be a committee member (for the scenario it is assumed you are the [backbench] twin brother/sister of the Leader!) You will be told where to be and at what time and given further guidance at that time.

Your role will be to watch the presentations and then to ask any questions during the 5-minute Q&A section. The questions can be as tough as you like and feel free to argue amongst yourself as much as you like! Let’s make it realistic!! The presentations are assessed by a separate assessor who is not part of the committee.

Cluster Leader

The role of Cluster Leader ensures the participating teams are monitored and assessed throughout the day therefore getting the most accurate developmental feedback possible.

Throughout the day Teams will have formal meetings with their leader together with up to five partner meetings with external organisations of their choice. They will also interact with the media on at least one occasion. These meetings are all assessed by the relevant leader or partner. Outside of these times the teams will be expected to co-operate, plan and work together (as well as conducting ad-hoc meetings with the other district councils within their county cluster – they may meet with these councils as many times as they wish).

This is where your role comes in. We would like you to ‘hover’ between the teams, listening in to their decision and planning processes etc. Think Nick, Margaret, Karen and Claude’s roles in the Apprentice series!

A lot of the assessment will be based on observation rather than ‘ticking boxes’. You will be rotated around all of the clusters so will get to see every team in action at some point or another. On the day you will be provided with all the paperwork needed to record your observations – we are looking for both the good and the bad!

Towards the end of the day the role you play will change again. Each team is required to give a 10-minute presentation to a Performance Panel, and you may be asked to play a role which can be either a committee member or an assessor. You will be told where to be and at what time and given further guidance at that time.

If you are allocated to the Committee, rather than assessing a team’s performance, your role will be to watch the presentations and then to ask any questions during the 5-minute Q&A section. The questions can be as tough as you like and feel free to argue amongst yourself as much as you like! Let’s make it realistic!!

Partner

Whilst teams can meet with the councils within Linfolk as many times as they like they will only have five pre-allocated appointments with external agencies – and this is where the partners role comes into play!

The teams have been pre-allocated their appointment times but not the organisation they wish to talk with. They must have confirmed at least 15 minutes prior to their meeting who they want to talk with and provide a rough outline of discussion points (in truth this will usually be little more than a one- or two-word explanation!).  The teams are limited to a selection of 10 key organisations that they should be seeking to partner with. At the start of the event you will be given your ‘diary’ so you will know exactly when, and which team, you are meeting. You will also be given details of your event e-mail account (accessed via a web-based e-mail host so no amendments to Outlook etc. required). The Diary Desk will e-mail the additional information you require for you meeting as soon as they have received it themselves.

At the meeting itself it is down to you to time this meeting and bring it to a close on 5 minutes. We don’t expect you to know absolutely everything about the partner organisation you’ll be representing as you will be given sufficient information on each of the 10 organisations to be able to role play effectively. This detailed information will be included in your Partner Pack on the day. The Partner Packs will also include a ‘hard’ copy of all the relevant information the teams will receive.

Because the meetings last just 5 minutes the team you’ll be meeting will (should!) do most of the talking, simply asking for your support or if they are brave enough, some funding. Our top tip for all your meetings – force the teams to make the proposals. Don’t allow them to just outline their problem and then ask what you can do to help them. Force them to make suggestions. It’s down to you to be as supportive or objectionable as you wish during the meetings as long as you are consistent!

Media Role

The role of media partner is critical to the success of the event and ensures the participating teams are able to practice, and demonstrate, their media handling and presentation skills.

Whilst teams can meet with the councils within Linfolk as many times as they like they will only have five pre-allocated appointments with external agencies – and this is where the media role comes into play!

We will ask you to play several different characters throughout the day.

Interaction 1 – Face-To-Face

Initially, we will ask you to role play a local news reporter and meet with a number of the teams. The teams are not aware of the timings or the topic for this meeting. They will get a five-minute warning that you are in reception waiting for them. The aim of this meeting is a mix of “getting to know you”, networking and a small amount of media “trickery”! You will have 10 minutes to probe and ask awkward questions and provide an assessment in 4 areas:

  • Partnership Building
  • Holding Statements
  • Personal vs Corporate View
  • Protecting the Council Reputation.

Interaction 2 – The LJ Awards

  • You will now reset as a journalist for the prestigious public-sector magazine “The Linfolk Journal”.
  • Early on in the Challenge the teams will discover that the submission their predecessors have put forward for the annual “LJ Awards” has been shortlisted and that they are now expected to deliver a 5 minute “pitch” to the awards panel. You are a member of this panel.
  • The subjects that the teams pitch may change at short notice to meet local requirements – you will receive a full brief on the day. However, for the scenario this will be a ‘listening’ role only and there will not be an opportunity for questions so an in-depth knowledge of each award is not essential.

Interaction 3 – Phone Call

  • Depending on the team’s performance and the time available we may ask you to re-engage with the teams, as the local news reporter, via the telephone. You will have free reign to ask the teams for comment on any of the issues that have been raised at a national level – in brief, look online through the partner pack and pick a storyline based on articles from The Sun, The Guardian, The Daily Mail or the BBC. This interaction is not assessed and is designed to be nothing more than a distraction at a time when the teams may be busy!

Volunteer Today!

So go on and show us what you are made of and accept the challenge!

Performance Panel

  • Towards the end of the day the role you play will change. Each team is required to give a 10 minute presentation to a Performance Panel and you may be asked to be a committee member or the assessor. You will be told where to be and at what time and given further guidance at that time.
  • As a committee member you will role play a backbench member, listen to the presentations and then to ask any questions during the 5 minute Q&A section.