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28 July 2015

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Over the past couple of weeks, Thomas Lawson, CEO of Leap has been sharing a series of blogs about his study trip to America. Sponsored by the Harvard Business School Alumni Club of London to go on a study tour of other organisations after a week attending HBS's Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management, Thomas shares his thoughts on how learning can be applied back at Leap HQ, with many valuable lessons also for the youth sector as a whole!

Below is blog one in the series, but you can catch-up with further learning from Thomas' trip on the Leap website here.

Originally published on Saturday 11 July 2015

A Study Tour to Harvard Business School and then Pittsburgh and New York

Every year the Harvard Business School Alumni Club of London invites applications from social enterprise and charity leaders to secure sponsorship to attend HBS’s course, Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management. The sponsorship covers all travel and course costs as well as a trip to see other social enterprise leaders, academics and entrepreneurs following the course. I feel incredibly privileged to have won the sponsorship. Work at Leap is demanding and busy, so to have time to consider and reflect about its future is very valuable. Imagine doing that with some of the latest and evidence-based ideas about running a social enterprise, whilst also being surrounded by nearly 150 other leaders. Fantastic.

Before the course, I’m having a very short rest (a day) and seeing a little of Boston, so that I can disengage from work and instead engage with the course well. My friend Ken, who lives here, is putting me up and taking me on a tour. It’s old and beautiful (Boston, not Ken, in case that’s unclear). Boston has been the scene of so much momentous change at the start of the American Revolution, including the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party and the Siege of Boston. It’s also one of the most liberal areas in the states. In my preparation for the course, I read that until only a decade or so ago, most of the hospitals were either not-for-profit or public. Apart from world-leading Harvard Business School, there’s also MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); in Greater Boston there are 100 colleges and universities, with 250,000 students enrolled in Boston and Cambridge alone.

The CEO of City Gateway, Eddie Stride, is also here and we’ve chatted on the phone about the things we want to learn. Also, Jan Lawrence of the London Alumni Club encouraged me to meet with last year’s attendees to the course, Jo Rice of the Resurgo Trust, and Becky Booth of Spice Innovations. Along with Matt Stevenson-Dodd who attended the course a few years ago, they’ve given me great advice and furthermore, we may be able to work together to support young people better.

Along with the Leap Confronting Conflict team – staff, trainers and trustees, I have been turning over some key questions that I hope to find some answers to while I’m studying and meeting other leaders:

  • how can Leap scale – both the depth and breadth of its impact; how have others managed it?

  • whether we should stick to our knitting and only deliver training; if we do that, how do young people access support before and after our training – or do we begin to offer services either side of our training so young people can make better uses of their talent and potential? What are the benefits and risks of both scenarios? How do we document our model? How much of it should be standard and how much customised?
  • what high-quality and sustainable income models will support our ambitions to scale our impact?
  • how do we engage with new technologies to deepen and widen our impact?
  • what are the latest understandings around adolescent development and around conflict, social exclusion and violence?

In September, the Leap board will meet, as it does every year, for a full day to review progress against our strategy and to consider how to respond to the ever-changing environment for young people and for Leap. I hope that I can develop further Leap’s understanding in the next two weeks to make those strategic conversations more informed and so make more robust decisions.

As the fortnight goes on, I’ll post more thoughts as I learn – please feel free to comment here. Thanks. Tom

Remember, you can catch-up with the full series of blogs about useful learning from the US on the Leap website here.