Leading & Managing Change in Tough Times: live lessons in learning

In the past two weeks myself and one of my associate trainers, Tony Brown from the Charity Bureau, based in Brighton, have started facilitating some bite size learning workshops for leaders in the VCSE sector across Surrey and Sussex.

The programme has been designed specifically in partnership with Surrey Community Action as part of its ESF and SFA funded programme for boosting employability and enterprising skills in the sector.

The VCSE sector needs this development support, as we have already discovered, following the first two workshops on leading and managing change and funding for sustainability.  Whilst some organisations have already "woken up" to the changes in funding, the external landscape and what the implications are, others have not, and their people are struggling with the big change in mind set towards being more enterprising that is needed. And it is now needed quickly.  The challenges we have found for the sector so far are:

  • The need for Boards and trustees to bring themselves up to speed quickly with the sustainability challenges
  • The need for more support and development for CEOs and leaders across the sector to deal with managing change at operational and strategic level
  • The spectrum of the "asking to earning" funding available has shifted towards earning and not all leaders have shifted their thinking and practice 
  • Some leaders and managers still haven't got a written business plan!
  • The shift to having a more "enterprising" mind set is happening, but possibly too slowly

What is the way forward?  What is emerging in my thinking as I work with leadership in the sector is the following - and this is "work in progress":  I'd like to say "get over this quickly or die".  Tough words (I haven't used these in the training!), but what is behind this is the wake up call to action. The way forward is to capitalise on localism, forming consortia and partnerships that are loose, flexible,  not necessarily permanent and forged across non traditional boundaries. Leaders need to put aside territorial and organisational differences.   They need to think about sustainability in the broadest sense and not just about competing for the next pot of money.  Boards need to deal with skills and knowledge gaps and re-frame strategic decisions that promote longer term sustainability. That in turn means changing the mind set from "looking for the next bit of money to keep going" to having a long term sustainable, joined up plan based on being enterprising and working in true partnerships that promote resilience and the ability to flourish.  

This learning is being shared amongst the training staff and it helps build our approach and ability to provide tailored and relevant support and understanding as this programme develops.  Professional training that is tailored to the emerging needs of those who attend the workshops is achieved as we remain flexible and open to outcomes as they continue to emerge.

The next workshops lined up are on measuring social value/impact and achieving quality governance.  Watch this space for more news on the outcomes, and whether my initial learning is bang on or will be blown out of the water.