User's Tags

James Rees 's Entries

1 blog
  • 14 Nov 2016
    On October 12th the Open University Business School launched its new Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership in London, where they launched two new free, flexible and open learning courses on voluntary sector leadership. Full details of the launch conference and the courses are here, and some clips of the day will soon be posted on Open University Business School’s Youtube channel. What follows is a brief overview of the themes that emerged on the day, how CVSL is responding, and how people in the sector can get further involved in the debate. These are tough times for the sector – but there is a need to fight back An obvious theme of the day was that these are intimidating, tough times for the voluntary sector. Both our keynote speakers spoke eloquently about the ‘rise and (partial) fall’ of the sector in recent times, at least as far as its place within public policy. Sir Stuart Etherington argued forcefully that the sector is operating under much greater scrutiny on a wide number of fronts: over fundraising, governance, and high salaries. One audience member spoke eloquently about their organisation being almost at ‘breaking point’ due to funding reductions and lack of supports in the local environment. On the other hand, a contrasting theme reflected the sense that times have always been tough and that the sector shouldn’t necessarily accept this dominant ‘crisis’ narrative. It certainly shouldn’t become resigned to it, and should “come out fighting’. As Debra Allcock Tyler cautioned, “everyone is busy complaining there is not enough money but the voluntary sector has stopped asking for money: fewer people are asking for money and they’re asking for less. It’s a negative narrative”. She made a passionate plea for the sector to rediscover its confidence, its spark and campaigning nouse. There was a clear sense at the event that how leaders respond is important. And CVSL’s research and educational resources provide one forum for some of these discussions. But researchers need to recognise the real difficulties at ground level, particularly for the smaller organisations that CVSL is seeking to engage with. Collaboration is part of the answer, but is not a silver bullet Austerity and cuts have been widely seen as increasing the drive for greater collaboration. The voluntary sector is often a sought after partner for collaboration because of their local knowledge and connectedness; although there also be many hidden agendas at play. There is something of a consensus around that collaboration is now the name of the game; linked to doing more for less, reducing duplicative activity, and putting egos to one side. However, Siv Vangen and colleagues’ research strikes a note of caution because it demonstrates that collaboration needs energy: it has to take account of the different partners’ aims, cultures, trust and power imbalances, especially in terms of the leadership challenges and the associated anxiety and rewards. This is explored in more depth in an accompanying Guardian blog that coincided with the event. A ‘realist’ approach to collaboration acknowledges that behind the scenes you may need to: Use stealthy manipulative methods to get consensus Understand the political undercurrents and who needs to be involved But! Collaboration is by nature inefficient. Collaboration needs compromise, energy, commitment and care. Leaders need to nurture collaboration. CVSL thinks of leadership at it’s very simplest as ‘making things happen’, and the first course in particular explores this in depth. The second of the courses explores the dynamics, contexts and practices of collaborative leadership, drawing on a range of contemporary issues and case studies from the voluntary sector, so that learning takes place in an intimate relationship with lived practice. The role of trustees and the importance of diversity A clear theme of the day was the crucial role of trustees and the need to include them in dialogue about leadership development. The issue is undoubtedly complex but includes the difficulties of smaller organizations attracting trustees with a broad enough range of skills,  and the crucial role of chairs. There is a tendency to equate ‘leadership’ only with chief executives or senior managers and CVSL will be developing more work on this in the near future. CVSL is also very interested in the idea that there is a cohort of younger or less experienced leaders who need support and development. This chimes with crucial idea explored in the new courses that leadership happens at different levels of organisations. Closely related, a message that came through loud and clear was the need to work towards greater representativeness of voluntary sector leaderships at all different levels. The panel were pressed on this issue by members of the audience, and there was recognition that in some cases the sector had gone backwards on issues of gender and the presence of ethnic minority leaders at senior levels. Sir Stuart acknowledged that it was difficult to point to leaders from BME leading big charities How CVSL is responding to these issues and engaging with the sector One part of CVSL’s mission is experimenting with how online teaching and learning can be improved and done in a way that benefits the sector in these challenging times. Accessibility, flexibility and responsiveness is part of the answer but we also want to explore through dialogue with the sector the appropriate way to blend more ‘challenging’ and abstract debates around leadership with the practical, ‘day to day’ needs that organisations have for instance on governance, finance and sustainability. Also, as researchers we need to keep tabs about what is going on at ground level, over time; and that is why we are doing grounded research that explores different issues affecting the voluntary sector more broadly – eg on mental health or migration – as well as researching the leadership issues that are specific to the sector. We see this as a great opportunity to explore what works and try out new approaches to leadership development through online learning. So as participants rightly said, academic researchers need to “get out there and speak to the sector and do face to face stuff”, but also to sometimes ensure that the variety of learning resources to be broken down into ‘bite-size chunks’ so that learners can choose what is most useful to them. And we need to keep spreading the message. If you have found the issues discussed here useful and interesting there are a number of ways you can get involved. In particular, CVSL announced at the launch that it is now recruiting a Leadership Panel as a core part of its research activity. They would be delighted if you were willing to take part – the panel is designed to help the sector as well as individual leaders. Please complete this short survey to join the Panel. Found this blog post useful? You may also like:    The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina   Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack  5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha
    6158 Posted by James Rees
  • On October 12th the Open University Business School launched its new Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership in London, where they launched two new free, flexible and open learning courses on voluntary sector leadership. Full details of the launch conference and the courses are here, and some clips of the day will soon be posted on Open University Business School’s Youtube channel. What follows is a brief overview of the themes that emerged on the day, how CVSL is responding, and how people in the sector can get further involved in the debate. These are tough times for the sector – but there is a need to fight back An obvious theme of the day was that these are intimidating, tough times for the voluntary sector. Both our keynote speakers spoke eloquently about the ‘rise and (partial) fall’ of the sector in recent times, at least as far as its place within public policy. Sir Stuart Etherington argued forcefully that the sector is operating under much greater scrutiny on a wide number of fronts: over fundraising, governance, and high salaries. One audience member spoke eloquently about their organisation being almost at ‘breaking point’ due to funding reductions and lack of supports in the local environment. On the other hand, a contrasting theme reflected the sense that times have always been tough and that the sector shouldn’t necessarily accept this dominant ‘crisis’ narrative. It certainly shouldn’t become resigned to it, and should “come out fighting’. As Debra Allcock Tyler cautioned, “everyone is busy complaining there is not enough money but the voluntary sector has stopped asking for money: fewer people are asking for money and they’re asking for less. It’s a negative narrative”. She made a passionate plea for the sector to rediscover its confidence, its spark and campaigning nouse. There was a clear sense at the event that how leaders respond is important. And CVSL’s research and educational resources provide one forum for some of these discussions. But researchers need to recognise the real difficulties at ground level, particularly for the smaller organisations that CVSL is seeking to engage with. Collaboration is part of the answer, but is not a silver bullet Austerity and cuts have been widely seen as increasing the drive for greater collaboration. The voluntary sector is often a sought after partner for collaboration because of their local knowledge and connectedness; although there also be many hidden agendas at play. There is something of a consensus around that collaboration is now the name of the game; linked to doing more for less, reducing duplicative activity, and putting egos to one side. However, Siv Vangen and colleagues’ research strikes a note of caution because it demonstrates that collaboration needs energy: it has to take account of the different partners’ aims, cultures, trust and power imbalances, especially in terms of the leadership challenges and the associated anxiety and rewards. This is explored in more depth in an accompanying Guardian blog that coincided with the event. A ‘realist’ approach to collaboration acknowledges that behind the scenes you may need to: Use stealthy manipulative methods to get consensus Understand the political undercurrents and who needs to be involved But! Collaboration is by nature inefficient. Collaboration needs compromise, energy, commitment and care. Leaders need to nurture collaboration. CVSL thinks of leadership at it’s very simplest as ‘making things happen’, and the first course in particular explores this in depth. The second of the courses explores the dynamics, contexts and practices of collaborative leadership, drawing on a range of contemporary issues and case studies from the voluntary sector, so that learning takes place in an intimate relationship with lived practice. The role of trustees and the importance of diversity A clear theme of the day was the crucial role of trustees and the need to include them in dialogue about leadership development. The issue is undoubtedly complex but includes the difficulties of smaller organizations attracting trustees with a broad enough range of skills,  and the crucial role of chairs. There is a tendency to equate ‘leadership’ only with chief executives or senior managers and CVSL will be developing more work on this in the near future. CVSL is also very interested in the idea that there is a cohort of younger or less experienced leaders who need support and development. This chimes with crucial idea explored in the new courses that leadership happens at different levels of organisations. Closely related, a message that came through loud and clear was the need to work towards greater representativeness of voluntary sector leaderships at all different levels. The panel were pressed on this issue by members of the audience, and there was recognition that in some cases the sector had gone backwards on issues of gender and the presence of ethnic minority leaders at senior levels. Sir Stuart acknowledged that it was difficult to point to leaders from BME leading big charities How CVSL is responding to these issues and engaging with the sector One part of CVSL’s mission is experimenting with how online teaching and learning can be improved and done in a way that benefits the sector in these challenging times. Accessibility, flexibility and responsiveness is part of the answer but we also want to explore through dialogue with the sector the appropriate way to blend more ‘challenging’ and abstract debates around leadership with the practical, ‘day to day’ needs that organisations have for instance on governance, finance and sustainability. Also, as researchers we need to keep tabs about what is going on at ground level, over time; and that is why we are doing grounded research that explores different issues affecting the voluntary sector more broadly – eg on mental health or migration – as well as researching the leadership issues that are specific to the sector. We see this as a great opportunity to explore what works and try out new approaches to leadership development through online learning. So as participants rightly said, academic researchers need to “get out there and speak to the sector and do face to face stuff”, but also to sometimes ensure that the variety of learning resources to be broken down into ‘bite-size chunks’ so that learners can choose what is most useful to them. And we need to keep spreading the message. If you have found the issues discussed here useful and interesting there are a number of ways you can get involved. In particular, CVSL announced at the launch that it is now recruiting a Leadership Panel as a core part of its research activity. They would be delighted if you were willing to take part – the panel is designed to help the sector as well as individual leaders. Please complete this short survey to join the Panel. Found this blog post useful? You may also like:    The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina   Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack  5 free tools to share your organisation's story by Nisha Kotecha
    Nov 14, 2016 6158