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Free courses in voluntary sector leadership from The OU

  • James Rees, Anthony Nutt Senior Research Fellow, The Open University Business School

    These are difficult and unsettling times for voluntary organisations – with resource constraints, increasing media scrutiny, and turbulence in public perceptions being added to the ongoing challenge of responding to public policies and diverse social needs.  In such times of uncertainty it is more important than ever that organisations have effective leadership; and particular concern has been expressed about the need for smaller organisations in the sector to develop and enhance their leadership skills. Leadership skills, of course, can be applied at different levels of organisations.

    New sector resource from The Open University

    It is against this backdrop, and thanks to a generous donation by an alumnus, Anthony Nutt, that the Open University Business School has established a new resource that provides access to free leadership courses and knowledge for voluntary sector organisations.

    The Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership builds on research and expertise within the university and aims to progress new research of particular relevance to the leadership challenges faced by smaller organisations. Smaller organisations make up the majority of the sector – they really represent the backbone of much voluntary and community effort – but in many ways have been under-researched and many issues facing them are poorly understood.

    The Centre will work with stakeholders from academic, practitioner and policy groups to advance understanding of the complex issues voluntary organisations face, the ambiguities of stakeholder responsibilities and accountabilities, and the dynamics caused by changing public policies.  As well as providing free leadership development opportunities, it will lead on new areas of research and help to disseminate best practice and new thinking.

    Free courses

    The first online course, Introducing the Voluntary Sector, is eight weeks long and is now available on the free learning website OpenLearn. Involving three hours of study each week, the course covers the structure of the UK voluntary sector, funding issues, stakeholders and the role of volunteering.  

    It is a Badged Open Course (BOC), which means that on completing the course, each learner will get a digital badge and certificate of participation. This can be shared on social media profiles, made public in the learner’s OpenLearn profile, and can help build confidence by providing a record of achievement.

    Working in the Voluntary Sector, the second course from the new Centre, focuses on the practicalities of working or volunteering in voluntary and community organisations including: working with volunteers; marketing and communication; budgets; fundraising; taking part in meetings; working in teams and partnerships; and building resilience.  This course will be available later in the year and is also a BOC.

    Two further free courses focusing on leadership will be available in Autumn 2016.  The courses are open for anyone interested in learning about and developing leadership in the context of voluntary organisations.  You do not need to be in a position of seniority to enrol.  Volunteers and professional staff at any level are welcome; indeed a key argument made in the courses is that leadership can come from many levels.


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