Collaborating through crisis: presenting LEAD+
In a previous post I wrote about ‘things staying the same’ at a time when it can feel like everything’s changed. The point was that despite the huge challenges of the past 12 months, we’ve seen frontline non-profit organisations remain relentlessly committed to their mission, their communities and their people. They have innovated and adapted, but their focus has not faltered.
But what about the rest of us: voluntary sector funding and infrastructure organisations? At the OCT, we too have adapted, whilst working to ensure continuity in grant-making. But the events of the last year have also led us to think hard about the personal impact on organisations of providing this support, and where else we might have a strategic and practical impact.
Focusing on VCSE leaders
For the OCT, an opportunity to contribute practically and strategically in a new way developed quickly, having discovered a shared sense of purpose with Young Manchester (YM), and Polly McAllester, Leadership Coach (PMLC). The three organisations hadn’t worked together before, but share a deep commitment to the current and future wellbeing of Manchester’s young people. We identified that the most vulnerable amongst them were in danger of being exposed to increased risk should the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations that exist to support them fail to survive the current health crisis.
Our shared observation is that the people who lead such organisations are crucial to their survival and futures, and yet are often woefully under-supported. From each of our different perspectives, we had all witnessed the impact on leaders themselves of that relentless commitment they delivered for their communities, especially during this crisis. Believing in the power of investing in effective leadership to create healthy and sustainable organisations, we created LEAD+.
A new programme for VCSE leaders
LEAD+ is a new programme specifically for voluntary sector leaders, based on a pilot programme delivered by YM and PMLC in 2020 for leaders from Manchester’s Youth and Play sector, who shared comments such as “[the course] was especially helpful during the pandemic as it greatly reduced feelings of being a bit isolated in my role…” and “The support has been invaluable and helped me realise that we all face challenges, and talking it through brings clarity and balance.”
Responding to the evaluation and feedback, LEAD+ offers leaders five training modules, personal DiSC assessment, peer networking, one to one coaching and optional professional services for their organisations.
Leaders will benefit from increased individual and organisational resilience, increased support and knowledge transfer and increased professional development and organisational capacity building.
As Justin Watson from YM says: “We hugely value our VCSE leaders, and the responsibility that they carry, especially at the moment. They are doing some of the most important work in the city, carefully supporting our communities at a time of profound need. They need and deserve support too and so I am really excited about being able to provide that.
“We want leaders in Manchester to access the very best support; this project allows us to harness expertise and experience across the private and voluntary sectors, providing a really outstanding offer for leaders in the city.
“The programme is firmly rooted in the needs of VCSE leaders and shaped by them. It is also joyful – we all need to be uplifted at the moment, and this work does that.”
The OCT team are delighted to be collaborating with YM and PMLC, recognising and valuing the different contributions each can make towards our shared goal.
As a funder that has always been keen to add value to our financial support, we are particularly excited at the prospect of expanding the financial and non-financial resources available to VCSE organisations through the strategic possibilities of this collaboration. We will use our links with our partner organisation, Bruntwood, and others to provide infrastructure support (e.g. sustainability guidance, risk management, volunteering, mentoring) that leaders can struggle to access through their existing networks.
Crucially, we invite other organisations to join us – in offering their time, talent, and yes, treasure, to support leaders of the organisations that so many of Manchester’s young people rely on, at a time when the pressing and sustained need for support is so great.
We are launching LEAD+ today but we are committed to developing it over time to include different sectors and geographies. It is just three months since our collective conversation began, and whilst we are keen to get started, we also want to learn from participating leaders and partners and adjust the offer where helpful.
In thinking about the future of LEAD+, Polly McAllester comments: “My hope is that together we can increase connections across the sector, provide a productive and safe space for exploration, and support the continued personal and professional development of those who are striving to equip our young people with the environment, knowledge and opportunity to live their very best lives.
“This collaboration with Young Manchester and the Oglesby Charitable Trust has further reinforced my belief that the approach we must all take is one of shared responsibility.”
We are now in a time of great need in many of our communities, but also, arguably, of increased awareness. Perhaps with that, comes the possibility of practical and strategic change – in how we support and resource those organisations that continue to rise to the challenge, and how collectively we can be better allies to those who lead them.
You can find more information about LEAD+ here.