Resilience and Authentic Leadership for Entrepreneurs: a Creative Fuse North East pilot

by Justin Souter on December 20, 2017

[cross-posted from the dedicated blog – please follow us on Medium]


This post introduces our pilot we’re calling “Resilience and Authentic Leadership for Entrepreneurs”.

In essence, it’s about helping entrepreneurs and innovators learn how to get back up, before they get knocked down (emotionally).

IMHO entrepreneurship is a risky and vulnerable endeavour. We’ve been awarded £5k to run a pilot to investigate how best to bring together a resource to assist innovators and entrepreneurs in bringing their best selves to work.

It’s not a coaching exercise, more of about signposting and self-help. We’re seeking to partner with others and complement what’s already out there, and perhaps assisting in weaving everything together.

We’ll set out more in future posts. This post is to provide a starting point, so please bear with us. If you’d like to get involved and / our be kept up to date, please sign up to our newsletter. Thank you — and onwards!

Who’s “We”

That’s be me, Justin Souter. It’s also Valerie Monti Holland, and Claire Robinson. As described in our proposal below, we have academic partners at the Universities of Sunderland and Teesside.

Creative Fuse North East — what is it?

The project description is thus:

Creative Fuse North East is an action-research project coordinated by all five universities in the region: Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham, Sunderland and Teesside. We work alongside SMEs, freelancers, artists, cultural organisations and large businesses to develop innovative ways of working within the region’s Creative, Digital and IT (CDIT) Sector.

We focus on ‘fusion’ — the combination of creative art and design skills with technology expertise to stimulate economic growth. We combine research and practical innovation support through our activity programme, running until October 2018.

Creative Fuse is funded by the AHRC, Arts Council England, and the European Regional Development Fund. Website:

Our Proposal

Brexit, Austerity, and an uncertain economic outlook put pressure on entrepreneurs regionally and nationally. This directly has an impact on entrepreneurs, business, and the community. This project aims to create a scalable mechanism to alleviate stress and achieve greater productivity for entrepreneurs and innovators.

Anchored at Sunderland and Teesside Universities, the project will draw on their knowledge management infrastructure and local industry advocates to create a framework of support, comprised of educational guidance, an accredited learning model, and a programme of interventions.

The programme will include mentoring and coaching; an online community; a web presence showing pathways to emotional resilience and wellbeing; an entrepreneurial clinic to act as a learning and reflective hub; and a Regional marketing campaign to promote the interventions and ways to engage.

There is limited data about the emotional challenges of being an entrepreneur: they are fragmented and vague. 72% of entrepreneurs report being affected by mental health conditions (versus 48% of rest of the population). Evidence of market demand include a Mental health group at Entrepreneurial Spark in Newcastle: one member stated “As self employed entrepreneurs we all go through moments where we wobble on the edge”; a recent Sunderland Digital meetup about mental health had 70+ signups and 44 attendees; and a Geek Mental Help Week event in Newcastle had thirty attendees.

Other initiatives promote mental fitness in established organisations. We provide a refined framework for the looser community of vulnerable early-stage entrepreneurs. Our proposed six-month action-learning set, organised as sprints, will ‘superfuse’ learnings from dance, theatre, music, and the visual arts with insights from the digital and IT sectors. We will use ‘sociodrama’ techniques to run workshops to engage and transform participants.

Project milestones will include initiation; academic accreditation; a literature review and ‘resilience map’; also validation from our Regional startup ecosystem. We will fuse regional research on positive — and entrepreneurship — psychology into actionable change. Our goal is a Centre of Excellence which could gain National and International recognition.

Combining academic underpinnings and commercial awareness, additional outcomes will be a national conference presentation and an academic refereed journal paper to position North East England as leader in promoting emotional resilience and wellbeing issues for entrepreneurs.

Initial collaboration started in 2016, linking entrepreneurs in our Region with advocates in Yorkshire, Warwickshire, Europe, and North America. We will exploit this network to gain wider recognition of our research, and achieve tangible change. By connecting with business networks such as the Chamber of Commerce, we will partner to maximise our reach and impact.

A recent article in Science reported that teaching personal initiative beats traditional training in business skills. We build on this by investigating whether wellbeing can be thought of along three axes: internal to self; between people; and as team dynamics. Our purpose is to show that people can grow towards the fullest potential by developing across these three dimensions.

Get involved!

Please sign up via our mailing list, and we’ll keep you posted — thank you.

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