Opinion: The sector must address its issues of leadership

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the School for Social Entrepreneurs' report Leadership in the Social Economy, which looks at what makes people successful social entrepreneurs.

Julia Neuberger
Julia Neuberger

Its conclusion about the need for an enhanced self-awareness should be just as true for leadership in the voluntary sector as a whole.

The Clore Duffield Foundation, the grant-giving arts organisation, is looking at pump-priming a leadership programme for the voluntary sector. The small steering group considering this has so far lacked the benefit of the School for Social Entrepreneurs' report, but has nevertheless been thinking along similar lines. The idea is to run personalised programmes for people in the voluntary sector - the next generation of leaders. There are many wonderful leaders out there, but succession planning has never been the sector's strong point. The increase in the number of people joining the sector from the outside, though often a very good thing, suggests we are not skilling our people up to a sufficient level from within.

Clore Duffield runs a programme for cultural leaders. The course offers each candidate the opportunity to spend three months on placement in an organisation different from the one where they are employed, spend group time with the other Clore fellows and take a series of master classes on a variety of issues.

It is designed to vastly enhance their leadership skills. It should also increase self-awareness - participants spend time with mentors who have discussed with them where their weaknesses lie. Members should return to their organisations with heightened enthusiasm, new skills and a sharply enhanced sense of self.

The cultural sector is not alone in needing this kind of programme. While we were thinking about these issues within the steering group for the new third sector programme, it became clear that the same issues apply - too many appointments from outside the sector, a lack of confidence in the direction it is headed, too little awareness of how to lead, as opposed to how to manage, and too much confusion between the morality of the cause and the necessity of doing it well.

None of these is fatal in itself, but the combination is a cause for concern, leading to a strong conviction that a new programme is needed, over and above some of the excellent - and not so excellent - training opportunities that already exist. For none of them is so all-enveloping. None gives its participants such a close sense of community and peer group, and none has a wider agenda beyond the individual and the organisation, to create a new cohort of younger leaders who can bring about change, but also give clear leadership.

The questions are whether the sector will welcome this initiative with open arms - I cannot think it will do otherwise - and whether we can achieve for the voluntary sector something that has the same impact that the Clore programme for the cultural sector has had. My guess is we can.

- Julia Neuberger is a Liberal Democrat peer and chair of the Commission on the Future of Volunteering



- The Clore Foundation was founded in 1964 by Sir Charles Clore, a businessman and philanthropist. After Clore's death in 1979, his daughter, Vivien Duffield, assumed chairmanship. She created her own foundation in 1987 with the aim of continuing and consolidating her family's history of philanthropy. The two merged in 2000.

- The foundation is a grant-giving organisation that supports education, the arts, cultural leadership training, health and social welfare, children and vulnerable individuals. It also runs various programmes and courses, including a health and social care project for older people and the Clore Leadership Programme.

- The Clore Leadership Programme was launched in 2004 with the aim of developing a new generation of leaders for the cultural sector in the UK. It is based at Somerset House in London and directed by Lord Smith. Fellows undertake an individually tailored year-long programme of activities designed to meet their specific needs.

- Between 20 and 30 fellows are selected each year. Applications for the programme's 2008/09 fellowships will open in January next year. Arts Council England, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and the Arts and Humanities Research Council are among the funding partners for the programme.

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