A Blog For ILM Inspire. Happenista Project: Starting Out

The Happenista Project is a unique online coaching programme for women who want to make things happen – in their own style. Janice St. John-Matthews shares her experiences with us from the very beginning

Two months ago I started a new departmental leadership role. Although I have had a similar position with another organisation five years ago and have been an associate member of the Institute of Leadership & Management for many years, I have been nervous taking on this commitment.  The reason for this is because I am now mum to a three year old and I realise that the traditional networking and work-life balance strategies I had employed in the past would need redesigning if I was to give this role and my family the commitment they both deserve.

I have been considering how to get this balance right for some time and having read Jenny Garett’s Rocking Your Role was excited to learn that Jenny had developed an online group coaching course which brings together a global tribe of empowered women who want to make things happen in their own individual style.  The educational mechanics of the aptly named Happenista Project  can be found on the course homepage which describes how learning on the programme is guided through monthly interactive expert videos, guides and worksheets. However there is something happening beyond this front page. Slowly a community of likeminded women is forming and facilitated by Jenny, this group is offering each other advice and support in a non-judgemental space.

Lead from the heart

So how effective is a group of women sat in a virtual space drinking virtual cups of jasmine tea? From personal experience – very. During the first module “Harnessing Technology” there is a challenge to write a blog. I have never considered blogging, partly because I don’t feel I have anything to contribute to the abundance of blogs that already exist and partly due to the writing style being far removed from the academic writing I am normally engaged with.  Consequently I put a message on the “happenista clarity” discussion board to explore these issues. As with any good facilitator Jenny was there to offer support however it was a comment by a fellow “happenista” that spurred me on when they highlighted the importance of writing from the heart.  On this piece of advice my first blog has had five hundred hits from sixteen countries in four weeks.  It has opened conversations with national and international peers, many of whom I have yet to meet in person.  This coupled with positive feedback from a breath of colleagues has given me the confidence to write a further three blogs. All this from the comfort of my home-study while my three year old sleeps.

It is a documented fact that in the last 10 years there has been a steady decline of women in senior leadership roles in Higher Education.  Although I don’t proclaim to be the individual who will redress this balance, as per the happenista project philosophy, I do believe it is important that women like myself take positive action to craft the life and world they want.  So even though the next piece of “homework” both scares and excites me I will complete it knowing that I am being both supported and challenged to reach new heights by my fellow happenistas. I will write again about my journey on the Happenista project in June, watch this space.



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