peer listening

The Peer Listening Project

Just listen to me!

We all need a good listening to from time to time. This year, with all the challenges we have faced during 2020, we need it more than ever. At the same time, we have been less able to be around friends and spend time together, so although we have the phone, zoom, social media and a variety of other platforms, it’s been a lonely time for many.

Human beings need each other: we are interdependent creatures. Yet, the society we live in right now, often leads us to think we should be able to do it all on our own and that needing others is a sign of weakness.

Not so. Sharing what is going on for us can feel vulnerable, but as Brené Brown says in her book Rising Strong:

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”  

Brené Brown

Sharing what is going on for us, being seen and heard may feel a bit vulnerable at first, but it’s amazing what a good listening to can do for us. When someone listens without judgement, we can feel a sense of being accompanied and less alone. And when we share out loud what is going on in our lives, we can gain more clarity about what is important to us. Even when all the listener does is just be there. 

As a listener, it can be hard to see others in pain and we want to help. We might feel helpless, want to offer solutions or share our stories to let the speaker know we understand. Often, the best gift we can give to another is to just be there. Don’t just do something. Be there! Offer your presence as a gift and just be a listening companion. It can be a great relief to realise that you don’t have to fix anything and to know that that you can make a difference by simply listening.

The Listening Project

As part of The Listening Project, we will explore how to create space for others, how to listen and how to take care of ourselves so we don’t get bogged down by what we hear. We’ll need lots of practice so there will be lots of chances to be heard as part of the course.

At the end of the course we will partner you with someone else who has taken part so that you can become listening partners and continue to provide listening support for each other. So no matter what life throws at you, you will have someone to listen. This could also include sharing when things are going well.

The course will not only enable you to improve your listening skills and have the opportunity to be heard – the skills you will learn can be invaluable in daily life in being able to hear more clearly what is important to others, and to fully listen and understand before responding.

Course information

This course will take place online and is free of charge. It begins on Monday February 15th, with sessions running on the Mondays of March 1st, 15th and 29th.

The times are 1pm – 2.30pm, with a commitment to practice with a partner in between sessions. 

The final session is April 26th. 

You can book this course via the link here.

The sessions are led by Sarah Ludford and Hannah Ehlert.

Christmas Party

Christmas Cheer, Anyone?!

What a year it has been! With the COVID-19 pandemic dominating our year and lives, socialising properly in person has been all but a distant memory. So we may not be able to meet in person all together like we usually would, but we can still party on Zoom!

Join us online for a Christmas get-together? Let’s spread some seasonal cheer, celebrate friendship and close-off 2020 in style while looking forward to what we hope is a happier, healthier 2021 for us all.

When?

Thursday December 10, 2020. 12:30pm – 2:00pm, GMT.

Where?

In the Zoom Room! You can book via this link here.

Dress Code

Dress to impress if you like – a sparkly tiara and fancy-pants outfits are more than welcome! Or even your cosy Christmas onesie if you prefer. Bring your favourite tipple and nibbles.

There will be a prize for the best festive outfit!

Treat Yourself

We usually do a Secret Santa at our Christmas party, where everyone spends £5 or under on a gift for another Growing Club woman, so this year, why not treat yourself instead?

Using the magical connection of Zoom, we can spend this time together and allow us to create small group spaces for connecting in breakout rooms.

We’d love to see you there! You can book your place via this link.

Untitled design-56

Lancashire Women’s Peer Network

The Growing Club CIC is delighted to be part of the government initiative, Peer Networks, which brings together a diverse group of business owners and senior leaders as a group in a safe space, to discuss business challenges and how they can be overcome.

The initiative will be delivered through group sessions that are action-led and reflective, using peer feedback to create practical solutions for business blocks.

Build Back Better

Our expert facilitators, Jane Binnion and Lorraine Birch, will create the safe and supportive network needed to help build and strengthen your business. From finance and HR, crisis management, to sales and marketing challenges, the peer network will be a supportive arm to help you improve the overall performance of your business.

Why a Women’s Cohort? 

Even in the best of times, we know that women leaders of SMEs and not-for-profit organisations carry a large workload and worry on their own. It is clearly stated that women entrepreneurs have been heavily economically disadvantaged by the COVID19 pandemic. Female-led businesses, often in sectors vulnerable to economic shocks, have experienced a higher rate of closure during the lockdown, and many more are struggling with the unprecedented situation. 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have allocated funding for a Peer Networks Programme to support organisations through this difficult time. Knowing the specific challenges faced by women in business, The Growing Club, via Boost Lancashire, has secured a portion of this funding to run a cohort specifically for women in Lancashire. 

So what are Peer Networks? 

It is a known fact that accountability to our peers is a powerful motivator. 

The aim of this funded programme is to provide a safe learning environment with trained facilitators, where local women entrepreneurs and senior managers can share the difficult issues their businesses are facing in the current pandemic. 

Using action-learning methodology, any issues can be discussed within a supportive group framework, with the intention to create change.

Subject-specific trainers will also be available to offer assistance with any areas needed, such as finance, marketing, HR and recruitment. 

Course participants will receive: 

  • A total of 18 hours of action-learning group work, through 2.5 hour Zoom sessions each fortnight (with a break for Christmas). 
  • Two sessions of two hours, of one to one coaching. 

There are ten places available (only one place can be allocated per organisation)

The cohort starts on Friday 20th November 2020

Dates and Times

Sessions will run on a Friday morning, from 10am – 12.30pm

November 20th

December 4th

December 18th

January 8th

January 22nd

February 5th

February 19th (We are hopeful that this final group session might be a socially-distanced, face-to-face celebration)

Is this programme for you? 

Eligibility

– Women applying for the course will be the owner of a business, or a senior decision-maker within an organisation. 
– The business (including not-for-profit organisations) must be Lancashire-based.
– The organisation must have been operating for at least one year. 
– The business must be small to medium-sized (SME) with between 5 & 249 employers (associates count as employees for creative industries ).
– Business turnover must be £100,000+, pre-COVID19. 
– Participants will be women who value peer-support, collaboration and are open to learning.

How to apply

Fill in your details via this Eventbrite link here and we will send you an application form.

Once the completed application form has been submitted, the applicant will receive a telephone call to confirm eligibility and take some details. 

Participants will complete a detailed survey at the start, mid-point and end each the course, and also, at the end of each session, to enable quality monitoring and to capture the impact that the programme has upon the participating businesses. All information given will remain confidential and in accordance with GDPR. 

Women who accept a place on the course are expected to commit to the full length of the programme.

The Facilitators

Jane Binnion is a qualified and experienced adult trainer and group work facilitator. She is the owner of Ethical Business Training, author of The Heart of Sales and founder and MD of The Growing Club CIC, an employment and enterprise training organisation for women.

Lorraine Birch has been a business owner since 1996 and says she has: “latterly matured to become an experiential mentor/trainer, with an unending desire to see women in leadership roles build resilience, create long-term success by investing in themselves and identifying and confirming their inner skills.”

Any questions? Please email Jane@thegrowingclub.co.uk

To find out more about the Peer Networks initiative, click here.

To find out more about The Growing Club please visit our website here

IMG_0820

Women-Only Business Groups Fail to Empower? Not Here They Don’t!

An opinion piece from our founding director, Jane Binnion.

Happy International Women’s day for March 8 2020! (To save you asking, International Men’s Day is November 19th.)

Did you know the first International Women’s Day took place in 1911, supported by over one million people? Understandably, some folk wonder why we still celebrate it, in a time when we apparently have gender equality. Well, I really look forward to the day when we do have equality for all but, both locally and globally, I’m afraid women still do not get a fair deal. 

In January, Oxfam published a report stating women’s unpaid work is worth $10.8 trillion a year – three times more than the global tech sector. They calculated that every day, women and girls put in 12.5-billion hours of unpaid care work, whilst countless more carers are paid poverty wages.  Here in the UK women still do 70% of domestic tasks, even when they work full time.

As a woman with a few miles on my clock, I have experienced my fair share of overt, subtle and organised sexism. You will have seen some of it yourself in the form of headlines about single mums, working mums, unemployed mums etc, with very little reference, in comparison, to single dads and working dads.

There was a recent headline that personally confused me: “Women only business groups marginalise and fail to empower members”.  Now, this was a grand statement considering the researchers only interviewed 14 women in Northern Ireland. But, still it had the potential to undermine good work.  So, as someone with a lifetime commitment to equality for all, and the MD of The Growing Club – a social enterprise providing employment and enterprise skills for women – I wanted to put the record straight as to why we run a women’s organisation.

Three main things motivated me to set up The Growing Club. Firstly, most female-led businesses are small businesses dealing directly with consumers (rather than business-to-business) and the criteria for mainstream business support here in Lancashire excludes these.  Secondly, when over a 12-month period, three male business owners I knew died from heart attacks, I realised the traditional business education model, of work harder and longer hours, was bad for us. We needed a new and healthier business growth model, a model about sustainability. And thirdly, we had been hit hard by austerity in the North West and women carry the biggest burden of poverty.  

In his 2003 International Women’s Day speech, Kofi Annan said:

“When women thrive, all of society benefits and succeeding generations are given a better start in life.”

Kofi Annan

We believe investing in women is an effective way of building community wealth and wellbeing.

Obviously, I should not have to write this, and yet I seem to say it most days: women are not all the same! ‘Women in Business’ is a broad term that includes women like Deborah Meaden, Michelle Mone and Sue, who makes jewellery at home when her children are in bed. 

One of the missions of IWD 2020 is: “To support women to earn and learn on their own terms and in their own way.” And this is what we do. We have worked with more than 300 women since starting in 2016, with a 95% success rate of women meeting their goals and 99% success rate of increased confidence and focus. 

Do we marginalise and fail to empower women? 

Elaine wrote:

“Before I joined The Growing Club, I was just procrastinating. Procrastination is about emotions not productivity. You taught us to manage our emotions in a new way. To change the habit, you taught us to ‘dare’ to focus on the ‘bigger, better, picture’ you taught us self-compassion and to treat oneself with kindness. You have changed so many lives.”

And Pat wrote: 

“I have, over the last two years since coming into contact with The Growing Club (and their courses), turned my life around, found hope for my future and realised that that potential and talent was always in me, but The Growing Club empowered me to reach it.”

So, I’m going to say the answer to the question of whether or not we marginalise or fail to empower women is no.  

When I was new in business, just 10 years ago, there was nothing like this. As a social media trainer, I joined a business networking group, but as I walked in all I could see was a sea of grey suits. Try as I might to fit in, I knew it was not me. It was joining Pink Link, a women’s networking group that helped me build my confidence and a supportive network.

Women’s business support will not suit every woman and not all women are nice to each other, but we have created a growing network where women from all backgrounds come together as equals. Just last week, we started a film project for women aged 50+ to share their thinking on healthy ageing and being economically active. In the room, we had women from South Africa, India, Germany and across the UK. Women raised with privilege and those raised in hardship. All heard and respected each other’s experiences and I feel privileged to be a part of that, because it is uncommon.  

If I had a wish, it would be that this International Women’s Day would be inspired by a conversation I had recently. I was explaining how a young woman was being sexually harassed at work and was considering quitting her job when another woman replied: “That’s just how it is” and recommended the young woman toughens up. It made me sad to realise some adult women think: “I coped, so why can’t they?”, rather than realising that no one should have to put up with such treatment.  

So, my wish would be that as adult women and men, we use our experiences to reduce the impact of sexism for future generations, not simply accept it.