' ); } ?>

Open University will empower a new generation of Black leaders

The Open University (OU) is aiming to produce and support the Black business and community leaders of the future thanks to a new Black Leadership Empowerment Programme (BLEP).

The OU supports a number of different campaigns through its fundraising efforts including the Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund (DVSF), Care Experienced Scholarships, Students with disabilities, Carers’ Scholarships, Sanctuary Scholarships and the Floodplain Meadows Partnership.

The programme, developed by the OU Business School, emerged in response to racial inequalities exposed by the pandemic and highlighted in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests’ call for racial equity.

A two-year pilot sees an initial learning hub based in Manchester, followed by other ones around the country. There is already backing from the likes of The Prince’s Trust, AutoTrader, Manchester Airport Group (MAG) and Inclusive Companies with more expected to support the initiative.

Learners will be guided to develop skills in leadership communication, influence, problem solving, and building and maintaining coalitions for change. They will have the chance to meet and share their experiences, learning from one another and working together to produce Black leaders of the future in business and in the community. Modules will be delivered through a blend of online and in-person learning via the network of learning hubs in Manchester and elsewhere.

The programme lead is Dr Fidèle Mutwarasibo, a Lecturer in Work-based Learning, who is also Director of the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership (CVSL) based in the OU Business School.

He said: “BLEP emerged from discussions between community partners concerned with racial inequity and the OU. The programme will explore how we can be more effective in calling for change and fighting for change. Black employees hold just 1.5% of top management roles in the UK private sector (according to ‘The Race at Work Black Voices Report’, 2020), while the number of Black executives working at the leadership level of the UK’s top 100 companies fell to zero in 2021 (according to ‘Green Park Business Leaders Index’, 2021).

“The programme aligns with the OU’s social mission and addresses two of our key success indicators – the underrepresentation of Black students at the OU, and Black students’ degree awarding gap. It also builds on CVSL’s research on the leadership of racialised minority voluntary sector organisations.”

There is a virtual launch event on Thursday 2 May (11:00 – 12:30) with an opportunity to learn more about the programme and hear what motivated some stakeholders to get involved. The webinar will interest those engaged in leadership development, those working in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) space, potential learners, and partners in future BLEP learning hubs. The first learning hub at AutoTrader in Manchester is a fortnight later on Thursday 16 May.

Fidele discusses the course, which includes 150 hours of free learning on OpenLearn with two bespoke leadership programmes developed exclusively for BLEP, in a short video.

Part of the offering on OpenLearn is ‘Advancing Black Leadership’, a badged open course (BOC) which was co-authored by Fidele and two former OU colleagues in Prof Owain Smolovic Jones and Dr Tom Morton. This followed the earlier launch of ‘Introducing Black leadership’, another BOC co-authored by Fidele and Owain. In addition, ‘Making your Learning Count at Work’ is a 30-credit module (aimed at level one undergraduate students) aiming to help consolidate their learning and enhance their study skills.

Please contact Fidele for further details on how to support, or join, the programme.