My favourite thing on the internet at the moment is a twitter exchange where a news outlet has tweeted an article with the title ‘Should we elect more millennials to congress?’ and someone has replied, ‘Given my understanding of linear time, I’m fascinated to hear what the alternative is.’
I believe we have to invest in and encourage our future leaders now. They’re already our senior managers, department heads or new entrepreneurs. But they don’t always get heard where the big decisions are made, and that needs to change if we want to make use of their valuable expertise, and make sure they’re prepared for when they do have to lead.
A lot of people have been talking about Northern Power Futures for a long time and, thankfully, we’re all pretty diverse with different ideas of how and why this festival will be wonderful. We’ve decided to write these series of blogs to explain why we’re so excited to amass the future of the North of England at Manchester Central in November and the kind of things we’re hoping to debate and move forward while we’re there.
Over a year ago Simone Roche, founder of Northern Power Women, reached out to a handful of her Futures List and asked us what a conference designed by us would look like. In the world of Northern Power Women, there is a ‘Power List’ of women at the top of their game – CEOs, politicians, Doctors, all people who had significant impact on the world, and also a ‘Future List’ of women just starting, or on their way to making a huge impact on the world. Given that those future list women were still on their journey and facing lots of decisions and challenges along the way, Simone asks us what would help them (us) make things happen.
And so Northern Power Future festival was born – a 2-day event for future leaders of the North to discuss its future, our lives in it, and what we are going to do to get there.
Our first conversations came with some elements that seemed key to us:
• All genders – we felt that debates on the future of the North, about diversity or otherwise, needed all people in the room.
• Finding unheard expertise – we thought this event should be about putting voices on a stage and into a debate, who are already experts in their field, but maybe haven’t been part of the big Northern Powerhouse debates so far.
• Diversity includes those already in power – we want leaders to be in the room, and we’re delighted that Andy Burnham among others will be joining us in November – but the key is we want them in the audience, listening and asking questions to those upcoming leaders.
Since then, in our planning sessions and other conversations I’ve had with people about Northern Power Futures, there are some more things people are excited about too:
• Having a real, physical, congregated space to discuss and plan – lots of us spend time on social media debating, or reading websites or news, maybe having a chat about headlines at the start of a workday or over wine on a Friday. But it often feels like we don’t really have a clear space to hear great new ideas, have time to sit down and discuss them, and most importantly plan what we’re going to do about them. I’m so excited to have 2 days to spend with various tribes that I respect so much and see if we can move on ideas for charities, for public policy, for new business ideas, for action.
• Led by strong but unsurfaced voices – there are too many unheard voices in our country, especially in the media but also in our politics and at our conferences. We’re making a real effort to reach out to voices we know need to be heard more widely.
• Debates about the economy, politics and our careers are wider than the 9-5 – with the gig economy, flexible work, shared parental leave, people wanting passion and purpose in their businesses and jobs, and wanting efficiency and quality in their homes, all the lines are blurred. And that’s what this conference is about – both the big picture impact we want our lives to make, as well as the day to day detail of how we get through those lives.
• Having a good time – we know that people in the North work so hard and play so hard and we’re going to do that. Because together we can make a kinder more productive North, and have an amazing time while we’re doing it.
That’s why I’ve been spending my time on this – because it’s a forum that’s needed with people who are truly making the world better.
We hope you’ll join us!