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Understanding the impact of PINF’s leadership programme

At PINF, we want to try, as best we can, to show our working and to share the lessons we learn about what works to support public interest news in the UK.

In this post, Joe Mitchell explains our 2021 leadership programme for publishers, how we measured its impact, and what we found out.

PINF’s goal is to grow the capacity of the independent news publishing sector. This includes improving the knowledge, confidence and the connections of and among news publishers. To that end, PINF ran a programme of learning and coaching, every Tuesday morning for eight weeks in the autumn of 2021, for fourteen independent publishers.

The sessions typically involved an external speaker who led a discussion of best practice on topics such as brand, revenue or content – or gave their reflections on a career in the news publishing industry or their thoughts on the future of news publishing. There would be a Q&A, discussion and sometimes workshopping or prototyping a publisher’s idea. Each session included some time for a ‘coaching’ conversation between two participants, cycling through the group over the weeks so that each participant had a chance for a one-to-one with every other participant. Sessions all ended with quiet reflection on what had been learned, what was or was not remarkable, and what might be taken away for use in the day job.

We surveyed participants before, immediately after, and three and six months after the final session. Participants reported dramatically improved feelings of connectedness and supportedness after the course - and this feeling remained three and six months on.

There were also less dramatic improvements (as they started from a higher baseline) in feeling confident and inspired. There was also some improvement in the feeling of having capacity to fulfil their roles. Again, these improvements remained when tested three and six months on.

The findings of the surveys were echoed in the qualitative findings. In written feedback about the course, it was clear that participants felt the greatest value of the programme was the space to hear from each other, learn from each other, and even go on to partner or engage each other in work.

"It is good to spend time together in a way that normal day jobs don’t allow. The sector is pioneering new ground and sharing ideas is so useful"

"Glad to be part of this group: lots to learn from others in some similar boats"

"Really enjoyed learning from others and seeing how they approached challenges in their newsrooms"

The programme also asked participants to work on an ‘adaptive challenge’ (something without a quick technical fix) throughout the course, and there was less evidence of progress made on these specific challenges, though participants regularly reported using the tools or lessons from the course in work on their business strategy or when setting agendas and priorities.

The lessons we're taking from this programme and its impact are that PINF should prioritise providing opportunities for connections and peer coaching in future iterations of the programme. We’re now considering an ongoing programme of quarterly events, rather than a fixed one-off series, to keep expanding and strengthening feelings of connectedness and the culture of sharing information and ideas and collaboration. Watch this space for more...

You can read the full evaluation report below. As always, we would welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Joe Mitchell is Head of Impact at Public Interest News Foundation.


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