Peer Networks Programme (Fully Funded for eligible businesses)

The D2N2 and Business Lincolnshire Peer Networks are a fully funded peer-to-peer networking programme for SME leaders that want to grow and develop their organisation for future success. The programme is sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Course Overview

Following a very successful pilot programme in 2020/21, CMBD is delighted to announce that the Government funded Peer Networks Programme is back and will re-commence in the Autumn/Winter of 2021.

The Peer Networks programme allows groups of individuals to collaboratively work through common business issues. Through interactive action learning, we enable you to discuss your own challenges, gain and reflect on valuable feedback and implement practical solutions to overcome them.

One of the CMBD participants in the first programme was Neil Baker from Electric Egg in Lincolnshire. As Electric Egg are top-class professional video and animation experts, Neil's account of his Peer Network experience is pretty impressive!

Peer Networks Video Testimonial - Neil Baker Electric Egg

From finance and HR to sales, marketing and more, our expert facilitators give you the flexibility to create a trusted support network that works for you, helping you to build and strengthen your business and improve its overall performance. However, don't just take our word for it!

"It was so refreshing to discuss business challenges with other like-minded business leaders who were all going through [or had gone through] similar experiences. The ability to freely exchange ideas and act out business scenarios in a safe, trusted environment has significantly helped me to build and strengthen my business and improve overall team morale and performance. The facilitator: Brent was amazing, he was like the glue that held the team together… if we were becoming slightly bogged down in the detail, he would instantly elevate the conversation and steer us back on the right path.

For anyone feeling undecisive about embarking on this programme…. Go for it…. It will be the best decision you make this year."

Lisa Eagles

Operations Director, British Growers Association

Contact us for an eligibility check, further information and how to join the programme.

Who is the programme for?

Businesses that seek external advice or undertake formal training are more likely to improve their overall performance, but many prefer to take advice from trusted sources when presented with external challenges and opportunities.

Peer Networks is tailor-made to meet that demand, providing a cohort of up to 11 SME owners for you to work with to build your businesses together.

The programme is open to any Lincolnshire SME business that has:

Mandatory criteria

  • Operated for a least one year
  • At least five employees ( and lower if a good business case)
  • A turnover of at least £100,000 pa
  • An aspiration to improve

Desirable criteria

  • The potential to scale up
  • The ability or potential to export

What are the programme benefits?

Peer Networks enables you to build trusted connections that go beyond networking.

Your facilitated peer group enables you to consider your own challenges from different perspectives and act on new learnings from the sessions.

By completing Peer Networks, you will:

  • Overcome business challenges and recognise and act on new opportunities
  • Build a trusted network of connections to support you now and in the future
  • Improve your long-term personal and business performance

Programme delivery

Peer Networks is delivered through a series of high impact group sessions, with each cohort led by a trained facilitator using the action learning methodology. More information on how this works can be found in the next section.

The number of sessions will be determined by local needs, but these will typically be 2-3 hours in duration and be delivered virtually. Each cohort will meet for a total of 18 hours. The frequency of sessions will usually be fortnightly, but again, this will be determined by local needs.

Upon completion of the programme, you will be able to use the action learning skills and techniques that you have learned to independently continue the group support.

The programme includes:

Interactive action learning - We overcome real-life problems by enquiring and reflecting before developing tangible actions and solutions.

Trained facilitators - Every session is supported by a trained facilitator to ensure consistency, efficiency and effectiveness.

Small cohorts - Groups of up to 11 participants to ensure that every member of the cohort can share their challenges, problems and opportunities.

Flexible topic selection - The topics of discussion are decided by the participants, enabling you to focus on your own challenges while taking learnings from other group members.

One to one support - In addition to the group session, you will have access to one to one support matched to your specific needs, building on your learning experience.

Action Learning in Practice

Action Learning in Practice

Action learning sets are particularly appropriate for professional and managerial-level learning and personal development. Participants help each other to work together to solve difficult problems and issues.

Choosing an Action Learning Problem

Selecting the right problem to work on in action learning set can be tricky. An action learning problem should be an issue, concern or opportunity that you want to do something about. Generally, they are diverse problems that are both critical and complex.

Being personally unable to fix a broken laptop is a problem and inconvenient, but there are computer technicians that have the expert knowledge to get it working again. Getting staff to change the way they work is more complex with no right or wrong answer. The latter is more suited to action learning.

When picking a problem, you should be able to answer yes to the following:

1. Is the challenge important, significant, complex and real?

2. Am I certain I will be able to act on the dilemma?

3. Am I willing to be challenged on this area of my work?

Framing the Problem

It is important to define the problem tightly enough to make sure that you have clear, measurable outcomes or success criteria. In his 2008 book Action Learning for Managers, Mike Pedler suggests thinking through the problem using the following format.

1. Describe your problem in one sentence:

a. Why is this important?
b. To you?
c. To your company?

2. How will you recognise progress on this problem?

3. Who else would like to see progress on this problem?

4. What difficulties do you anticipate?

5. What are the benefits if this problem is reduced or resolved?

a. To me?
b. To other people?
c. To the organisation?

Presenting a Problem to the Action Learning Set

Participants are typically allocated an amount of time to present their problem. This means that to maximise the effectiveness of their slot, the participant needs to approach it in a structured manner.
It can be helpful to:

▪ Prepare for sessions in advance

▪ Structure what you want to say in your allocated time

▪ Be clear about what you would like the set to focus on

▪ Give the minimum background context needed for the set to understand the problem

▪ Explain what you have tried already

▪ Summarise what you perceive your options to be

Skills a participant will develop as a presenter (Pedler, 2008):

▪ Taking and holding the focus of the session

▪ Describing and analysing the problem

▪ Asking for help, advice, and assistance

▪ Being able to receive feedback and challenge

▪ Ability to reflect on what you receive and experience

▪ Staying in charge of your time, problem, and learning

▪ Planning next steps

▪ Resilience and perseverance

Asking Insightful Questions

The ability to ask powerful insightful questions of the presenter is one of the key skills required of members of an action learning set. They should be able to ask effective questions which stimulate the issue holder to think though their issue, consider their options and choose a course of action. Effective questions are usually open questions and are not leading.

When asking questions participants should take care to:

▪ Ask questions rather than offer solutions

▪ Show empathy and concern

▪ Consider how they are helping the presenter to think in different ways about their problem

▪ Think about their own motives when asking questions

▪ Consider when it is appropriate to support and when it is appropriate to challenge

The benefits of Action Learning

  • It offers participants an opportunity for business and personal development
  • It improves learning, questioning and problem solving skills
  • It helps individuals and businesses tackle complex problems
  • It allows participants to learn from a peer group facing similar issues and problems
  • Groups often carry on after the facilitated programme has finished as they recognise the effectiveness of the technique

Course Tutors

Mike, John, Julie and Brent are experienced coaches, tutors and facilitators as well as both having had many years of commercial success. They have a passion for helping businesses, organisations and individuals to achieve their full potential

Upcoming Locations & Dates

Contact us for more details and to check eligibility. Dates will be agreed with individual cohorts but we intend to start the first cohorts in September 2021.

Ready to find out more?

For more information on coaching, consultancy, training programmes, courses or our bespoke training service, please get in touch.