The Open University Business School has launched its first free online course to help sector leaders operate in a "highly competitive, increasingly commercialised" environment.
The philanthropically funded centre wants to become a leading resource for voluntary sector organisations by providing access to leadership development modules and research-led insight.
The first module, Introducing the Voluntary Sector, is an eight-week course covering the context and features of voluntary and community organisations, including the structure and history of the UK voluntary sector, values and beliefs, funding issues, understanding stakeholders and beneficiaries, power and empowerment, and the role of volunteering. OU said the course, to which students will need to commit a minimum of three hours each week, is aimed at those who "want to learn more about the voluntary sector".
Accessed through the university's open educational resource website, Open Learn, and available now, Introducing The Voluntary Sector features interviews with Baroness Martha Lane Fox, chancellor of the OU, who discusses her own charity, Go ON UK, as well as her involvement in numerous other voluntary sector organisations.
The second course, Working in the Voluntary Sector, will be available later this year.
Professor Siv Vangen, director of the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership, said the new educational resource provided a vital tool for the sector.
"Over the last decade, the voluntary sector has been increasingly challenged by austerity measures and the shifting expectations of what support the voluntary sector can, could and should provide" she said.
"Leaders and senior managers of organisations, whether paid or unpaid, are increasingly required to operate in a highly competitive, increasingly commercialised context."