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Sponsored Partnership between ArtsProfessional and people make it work

If you support someone to feel good about themselves, they’re going to give you their best and, most importantly, do the best for themselves, says Vicki Igbokwe.

Dancers in a circle
Our Mighty Groove, Uchenna Dance

Camilla Greenwell

For me, empowerment means gifting someone the space to be their authentic self. It’s in everything I do and part of the foundation of my life. It’s my guiding star and how I make decisions daily. Which is why becoming a Director of Empowerment was a no brainer for me. 

14 years ago, I walked into a club in New York and instantly got ‘stage fright’ because everyone dancing was amazing. It was one of those clubs that people went to live their best life. Every time anyone came up to me, I would say “Oh no no no, I’m from London”. 

After hours of standing with my back to the wall, I noticed a guy wearing a balloon crown. I had been watching him lighting up the dance floor with incredible moves. He looked at me and gestured for me to follow him and I repeated “Oh no no no, I’m from London”. He smiled, gestured again and before I knew what was happening, I was in his cypher. 

Despite cringing in my head, the dancers made me feel good. They were people – of all ages, races, cultures, sexual orientation, abilities - who loved music and could boogie. They cheered and encouraged me to explore, play and dance so much that I felt like Janet Jackson. I danced the whole evening. 

Turning point

I realised then that if you support someone to feel good about themselves, they will give you and themselves their best. That was a turning point for me - as a person, as a woman, and as an artist. 

At people make it work we consistently ask ourselves a series of questions: What do people need to feel and be safe and empowered to be themselves? What do they need to do their best work? How can we create spaces for a range of voices to be heard? How do we create empowering programmes? How do we empower our team and associates? 

The following four points may begin to answer these questions. 

Meet people where they are 

How many of us have made the mistake of wanting more (or something different) for a person than they wanted for themselves? And while we believed we were doing good, we caused discomfort. 

I have learnt to meet people exactly where they are - just as they meet me with this same energy. I have learnt to be comfortable with this because in doing it there is a true meeting of minds, cultures, beliefs, likes, dislikes and more that creates nourishing conversations. 

We are all different and this difference is what makes life and our interactions with each other mostly exciting, sometimes entertaining, educational and empowering. 

How do you and your organisation meet people where they are? What could you do to evolve this further? 

Ask people what they need 

You have created a great business/infrastructure/system that supports you to do your best work, but does it work for your colleagues? We all have needs, wants and desires to enable us to live an easier, happier and more fulfilled life. But we often forget to simply ask each other what we need to do our best work and to feel great doing it. 

The key is to ask the question and then leave space to listen - really listen - to understand. Then together you can figure out what to do. You may find your way of doing things improves things for others.

In my work, I have met people who have never previously been asked what they need. It can be an emotional journey, so allow time for people to process their thoughts. By giving space, you are doing more than you may realise. 

Can you create space and time to ask questions and listen to your people? What can you do differently to ensure people can share their needs, wants and desires with you?

Make space for play and exploration

How many of us get it ‘right’ first time? It’s OK not be right all the time. It’s more important to be present, engaged, learning and sharing. It’s about collaboration, leaving our egos at the door and doing the work for everyone to succeed. 

And success will look and feel different for everyone involved. We are individuals – in different capacities - coming together for a greater good. 

What is the learning when things don’t go as planned? What is the learning when it does?

How do we use the learning next time? What needs to change?

Enjoy the journey

We all do our best to work out what life means and to live it one day at a time. It is impossible to have all the answers so take yourself off the hook today and start with wanting to make a positive contribution to the world. It is a collective effort and one that should bring joy, love and peace. 

Of course, life comes with bumps and that’s ok because we learn from them. Together we can create environments that put our people at the heart what we do, why we do it, who we do it for and how we do it. 

And remember yourself in all of this. As you are empowering your people you may need support too. I encourage you to seek it – from a mentor, coach or friend. Someone you can speak with, free of fear and judgement. Someone you can unpack and talk through your growing pains with, someone who can guide you to figuring out what you need while doing this heart-centred, people-focused work. You need to fill your cup too, my friend. 

Think Fierce, Be Fabulous and Live Free Spirited. 

If you are looking for support, contact us. people make it work can help you on your journey. 

Vicki Igbokwe is Director of Empowerment at people make it work. 
@IgbokweVicki | @culturepeopleUK

people make is work is a group of 60 freelance cultural leaders who work together with a shared mission. Together, they support the cultural sector to change, develop and transform. They do that with direct strategic consultancy for organisations and cities, transformational programmes for organisations, leaders and creative individuals, and by offering free tools, guidance, advice and resources that everyone can access. They do all this to realise a fairer, more representative, resilient and relevant cultural sector.

This article, sponsored and contributed by people make it work, is part of a series sharing insights and learning to support the cultural sector change and develop to meet the challenges it faces.  

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