Resources Article

Leading together with hope and change

Coventry City of Culture’s Creative Director and Clore Alumni, Chenine Bhathena speaks to notions of change and hope within leadership. 

Coventry remembers the Blitz like it was yesterday, its history entwined with its present.  As this medieval city in the heart of England was turned to rubble, people awoke to devastation and loss like nothing they had ever experienced.  As we reflect 82 years later, the city and its people will forever be defined by their extraordinary response, known as a Phoenix City, it rose from the ashes.  As a community they prioritised taking care of each other, they then set to work collectively to reimagine and rebuild their city as a template for future modern cities, and finally created the twin cities movement through reaching out and building friendships with those communities that were once on the other side of the war, but now also needing to turn the flames of devastation into seeds of hope.

‘Change is possible. Hope is power’

The Guardian

When the pandemic hit the world in March 2020, as city leaders we came together to co-create our response.  To look at the bigger picture as well as the micro landscape around us, the very difficult impact on people, families, homes. Impacts that were widely unknown at the outset but became clear as the weeks and months passed.  And there was much talk of Coventry the Phoenix City in considering how to meet the challenge of covid.   The wartime-like response of ‘we are all in it together’, kept us strong and together, kept our vision, hopes and relationships alive.  It inspired a unique type of resilience that prepared us for the long, ever changing journey ahead.

The feeling that anything was possible, engendered an open mandate for us to restore hope for the future, dream differently, to be creative and to use the emerging parameters of our new normal as our inspiration.  We looked out for each other listening, collaborating and caring, whilst planning, shaping, co-creating next steps. The City that Moves, leading together with hope and change at our core.  Putting a form of Participative leadership at the centre.

Al Gore once noted that in the far east, the word “crisis” is written with two symbols signifying “danger” and “opportunity.”

In all moments of change whether at times of loss or celebration, our human nature is to want to firstly reach out to those around us making space for people to express their thoughts and emotions. To come together, share our mood, listen to fears and worries.  At these times of crisis and change we need allyship with each other and small acts of humanity and care for each other will go a really long way

Remembering our teams are full of leaders, make sure that all people are empowered to help the organisation to move forwards.  Co-creating the change you want to see is essential.  Everyone will want to contribute to rebuilding, changing, moving forwards.  And as the semblance of a plan emerges, this will slowly restore the energy, building hope and creating new futures.

So as you navigate the bumpy road ahead make sure to draw on the USP of our sector and our people – our creativity and sheer will and passion to lead with hope, turning challenges into opportunities.  To create differently. To let go and not be fearful of doing this. To identify new pastures rising from this turbulent time. To be true to our gut instincts, pioneering the change we want to see together.