Friday, October 31, 2008

Third Sector Leadership Centre - Do We Need One?

Well the answer for now is that we're got one. At least for a couple more years until its funding runs out from Capacity Builders.

I spent Wednesday this week at Henley Management College (worth a post in itself) in Berks along with 20 odd other third sector people to work out a potential future for this body.

Its name - The Third Sector Leadership Centre - is currently a bit of a misnomer. Its more like one of those academic `centres' than a service-deliverer. Its brief so far has been very broad - too broad - to raise profile, provide research, connect things together, etc etc. With about three staff.

As a result the TSLC has a pretty low profile, a weak brand and fuzziness around what it does. This isn't helped by the lack of a clear `offer' to organisations. One of its options will be whether or not to create a distinct leadership development offer to TSOs. Without this, one has to ask how it will earn a living.

The leadership question in the third sector is a tricky one. We need more, better leaders at all levels but there aren't the resources to send them to places like Henley.

So what do we do? Well, there's web-based peer-learning, something now being done commercially by, among other, Knowledge Peers. There's also leadership networks that could be supported by CVSs and schemes to hook promising third sector leaders with volunteer mentors or coaches.

Like a lot of blue sky sessions with third sector people, this one produced a lot of great creativity but all of it is a world away from what we have now - two and a half academically oriented people based at Henley. It was hard to make the imaginative leap from this to the vision of thousands of improved leaders that we all seek to see.

My instinct on all of this is that the money for TSLC may well end up in the new Third Sector Research Centre and that the squeeze on finance to all sectors won't fund a new programme to focus on developing capacity among our leaders. Therefore it will be a case of either crafting a paid-for offer, working in partnership with existing leadership orgs to reach high potential leaders in our sector and doing something useful online, like Knowledge peers, that inspires and connects people who are seeking to grow as leaders.

The M4 back made me understand why more people are choosing to emigrate. However, if you are one of those, visit Suffolk first. Britain's Best Kept Secret.

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