Leadership for Equality: Work with the Tutu Foundation

Over the next few weeks we will post a series of five blogs is based on Yvonne’s work with the Tutu foundation and her experiences on a recent trip to South Africa, to the International association of conflict management conference (IACM).

The NHS Leadership Academy’s has been working with the Tutu Foundation UK for one year. The Tutu Foundation is an organisation founded by the Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu; its purpose is to spread the Ubuntu message. Ubuntu is a South African ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people’s allegiances and relations with each other. Ubuntu means “I am what I am because of who we all are.”  I really love that and believe it’s so true. You cannot know who you are without being with and mixing with others.

The Archbishop Desmond Tutus’ definition is: –

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

Ubuntu is the essence of what it means to be human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas we are connected and what we do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

Ubuntu is recognised as being an important source of law within the context of strained or broken relationships amongst individuals or communities in southern Africa and provides a method which contributes towards more mutually acceptable remedies for the parties in such cases. Ubuntu is a concept which:
is the opposite of  vengeance;

  • dictates that a high value be placed on the life of a human being;
  • is inextricably linked to the values of and which places a high premium on dignity, compassion, humaneness and respect for humanity of another;
  • dictates a shift from confrontation to mediation and conciliation;
  • dictates good attitudes and shared concern;
  • favours the re-establishment of harmony in the relationship between parties and that such harmony should restore the dignity of the plaintiff without ruining the defendant;
  • favours restorative rather than retributive justice;
  • operates in a direction favouring reconciliation rather than estrangement of disputants;
  • works towards sensitising a disputant or a defendant in litigation to the hurtful impact of his actions to the other party and towards changing such conduct rather than merely punishing the disputant;
  • promotes mutual understanding rather than punishment;
  • favours face-to-face encounters of disputants with a view to facilitating differences being resolved rather than conflict and victory for the most powerful;
  • favours civility and civilised dialogue premised on mutual tolerance.

Ubuntu is Southern Africa’s gift to the world.

The aim of working with the Tutu Foundation UK is to enable NHS practitioners to understand their personal and professional responsibility to their patients and the communities we serve. The Ubuntu approach to healthcare would enable unhappy and isolated people, angry or disappointed communities to begin the process of healing (for example perhaps in the cases of Mid Staffordshire and Bristol)

When Alex Ankrah, the CEO of the Tutu Foundation UK approached me with a proposal for the NHS to work in partnership with them it was a relatively easy decision to make. The proposal was that NHS staff and professions would train and develop in Ubuntu techniques so that they could confidently and competently engage in Conversations for Change. These conversations being ways of talking to individuals and communities that has Ubuntu at its core – enabling empathy, healing and compassion.

Through the Academy working with the Tutu Foundation UK, we are able to support the personal development and leadership within the NHS, using the Ubuntu approach. Initially a group of up to 20 NHS staff drawn from underrepresented groups would have access to an accredited coaching programme, as well as access to facilitation skills training based on the Ubuntu methodology and for a few,  accredited mediation training would be available.

The training means NHS leaders would be given the practical skills to:

  • Strengthen mutual respect, acceptance, understanding and appreciation of diversity; in particular, other cultures and faiths across the NHS.
  • Improve patient and public engagement, whilst at the same time contributing to reducing community tensions – through being better placed to help local communities tackle: social exclusion, poverty, racism, religious intolerance, alienation, anti-social behaviour and violence.

As well as Ubuntu and coaching skills:

  • Support the development of others, through use of coaching techniques, helping build capacity of NHS boards and senior staff.  The Tutu Foundation will provide accredited blended learning in coaching skills. This will ensure senior leaders are better able to respond to the changing communities and evolving health care challenges they face.

Ubuntu and Facilitation Skills:

  • To support the formation of practical leadership skills, in the NHS, to deliver accredited programme in facilitation skills.  Leadership requires the ability to be outward facing and adept at build bridges across and between the NHS communities. Able leadership requires good facilitation skills, which brings increased confidence in working with communities, the local voluntary sector and local authorities to help tackle health inequalities, as well as strengthen and sustain community transformation.

And Ubuntu conflict resolution and mediation skills:

Mediation and conflict resolution work is based on the global peace and reconciliation work undertaken by our patron Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  Supporting personal responsibility and community based leadership amongst seldom heard communities, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

The NHS participants that have taken part in the programmes have evaluated them highly and have many have commenced Conversations for Change in their communities.

Part of the initiative was to attend the international association of conflict management conference (IACM) and present the work we are doing in the NHS to colleagues that work with conflict and fractured communities around the world. Yvonne’s next blog will focus on the experiences and lessons from this trip.