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Leadership exchange programme celebrates success

This opinion piece is over 9 years old

The new ACOSVO initiative has entered a new phase, with Scottish Government funding to boost leadership capacity across all sectors

Leadership learning and development is key to sustainable organisational success, but busy third sector leaders often don’t have the time or resources to pursue traditional development opportunities.

This is where leadership exchange comes in. This programme has proven to be instrumental in building leadership capacity across Scotland’s public services in its three years since inception.

Leadership exchange is a free, flexible, peer-to-peer programme that enables leaders to improve their leadership skills at no cost and with complete flexibility. The programme is a work-stream of the Scottish Leaders Forum initiative Workforce Scotland and is led by the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations (ACOSVO)

It pairs up leaders across sectors for short-term exchanges (from as little as one day a month) where participants take turns to work alongside each other in their organisations. Through an exchange, participants learn about each other’s culture, environment, language and leadership challenges – all to add towards making it easier to work collaboratively across sectors.

Building on the success of more than 100 matched participants since 2012 and with expanded funding from the Scottish Government, the programme is now entering an exciting new phase.

Leadership exchange programme celebrates success

“Mutual awareness, understanding and knowledge is really important in public services. And you pick it up not from textbooks and lectures but from being in the room while other people are working”

ACOSVO has recently recruited Emily Martin, who as leadership exchange development officer will grow and expand the programme. With many exchanges underway with participants spanning the third sector, Scottish Government, local authorities and wider public services including health, education, prison, and police, the initiative is also looking to expand across the private sector.

The programme is designed with the busy schedules of leaders in mind. The length and format of meetings are agreed by the exchange partners to suit.

Feedback from participants shows that they have substantially benefitted from taking time out to reflect on their leadership style with a supportive and confidential sounding board.

The programme also allows a rare insight into the different cultures, constraints and opportunities other organisations experience. Once relationships develop they can become conduits between sectors.

Janet Whitley, Workforce Scotland’s programme development leader and former participant of the exchange programme, argues that a platform for cross-sectoral knowledge sharing and collaboration in the context of public services reform is vitally important.

“A leadership exchange gives participants the opportunity to collaborate across organisational and sectoral boundaries which we urgently need to see happening much more often.

“Building relations across sectors is particularly important in a public policy environment where a premium is placed on collaboration to deliver improvements for the people of Scotland.”

Scottish Government permanent secretary Sir Peter Housden is also highly supportive of the project.

He said: “Mutual awareness, understanding and knowledge is really important in public services. And you pick it up not from textbooks and lectures but from being in the room while other people are working.”

Is 2015 your year to take time out to reflect on your leadership practice and build essential connections across organisations?

Louise McDonald, chief executive of Young Scot who joined the programme in its early days, commented: “You’re not going to get many opportunities like this one, so I would take it right now.”

You can hear Louise and other participants speak about their leadership exchanges in this short video.

If you have leadership responsibilities in your role and want to experience what it would be like to walk in the shoes of another, you can apply directly on ACOSVO's website or attend one of our information & networking events to learn more.

For any questions please contact Emily Martin on [email protected] or call 0131 243 2755.

Pat Armstrong is the chief executive of ACOSVO



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Hannah Smith
over 9 years ago
If you are interested in seeing the Leadership Exchange video, please see:
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