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Dr Benjamin Reid

Collaborating for leadership in the social sector

Authors: Dr Benjamin Reid Benjamin Reid

19 November 2010

Can positive social leadership come from anyone, anywhere? Can a focus on leadership development be maintained even in very tough times? Can the social sector use its own resources and expertise to develop leaders? Tough questions, no doubt. But the answers are resoundingly yes, yes, and yes, according to a major collaborative inquiry event run on Wednesday (17 November) by the Clore Social Leadership Programme (CSLP), as part of its four-year evaluation partnership with The Work Foundation.

The event marked the end of the first year of the CSLP's innovative Fellowship programme, and looked to understand the CSLP in the broader context of the UK's social leadership challenges.
Bringing together key stakeholders from across the social sector – including the CSLP's 2010 and 2011 Fellows – with representatives of major charities, social organisations, funders, and sector-wide bodies, it sought to collaborate to create innovative solutions to the sector's leadership issues.

Dame Mary Marsh, director of the CSLP, opened by outlining the scale of the challenge, indicating that sector-wide investment in leadership development continued to lag behind other sectors, and that surveys showed social sector organisations planning to cut back on leadership development over the next two years.

Responding to this stark challenge, diverse teams of sector leaders engaged in open, enthusiastic and sometimes heated debates that wrestled with the central issues and concerns surrounding the current state – and the future – of leadership in the sector.

Key outcomes of the discussions included commitment across participant groups to explore how resource sharing across the sector could allow development opportunities when cash was tight; ensuring inclusiveness in any definition of access to social leadership development – including the CLSP – and an understanding that social leadership development must have a clearer line of sight to social impact.

Despite the scale of the challenge in the current climate, and the range of strong opinions, the discussions were conducted in an extremely positive atmosphere, and encouraged a focus on solutions rather than merely being content to enumerate the challenges.

The collaborative inquiry event cements the CSLP as a key voice and forum for leadership in the social sector. You can join the on-going debate by signing up to the 'user voice' section of the CSLP ‘collaborative inquiry’ website.