Aspiring Leaders Programme

The current cohort of the Aspiring Leaders Programme (ALP3) began their journey at Brathay in September 2017 and they will be involved for the next 3 years until June 2020.  The programme is a once in a lifetime chance for future community leaders to get the training and support they need to excel.  Participants end up with an Honours degree in Social Enterprise Leadership – and it’s all paid for with generous funding from the Francis C Scott Charitable Trust, Rathbones, Langdale Leisure, Rathbones and the Sir John Fisher Foundation.

A good article explaining it all was published recently:

Looking ahead, if you are:

  • around 20-32 years old
  • resident in Cumbria or North Lancashire
  • working/volunteering for a local charity or social enterprise
  • with an ambition to become a community leader

… then you may want to think about applying for ALP4.  We’ll be beginning the recruitment for that towards the end of 2019.  Just to give you a flavour of what’s involved, try watching this short video produced by the graduates of ALP2 in July 2017 –

Inspiring stories behind some of our ALP participants/graduates can also be found by clicking on  Emma – An ALP case study or Jo – An ALP story

There’s also some great video interviews with participants from ALP1 & ALP2:

Emma –

Adam –

Andrew –

Jack –

Don’t hesitate to call Helen on 01539 742608 if you have any questions.



The Aspiring Leaders Programme (ALP) was born of a wide-ranging strategic review undertaken by the FCSCT board in March 2010 at which young people from across Cumbria/North Lancs and a cross-section of community leaders considered the challenges facing their local not-for-profit sector and explored options for change.

The review concluded that we need committed, knowledgeable and enterprising charity leaders to ensure that services to those most in need are sustained and developed.  In Cumbria/ North Lancs, the number of charities per head of population is almost the highest in the country in the South Lakes area and amongst the lowest in Barrow, the west coast and the West End of Morecambe.  The most deprived communities who need high-performing charities appear to have the least capability to initiate, develop and sustain the very services they need most.  Where such charities do exist, we observe that they are predominantly led by ‘off-comers’ (which is fine) but where is the talent from within?  It is our contention that the leadership talent exists but it remains buried, constrained both by a low aspiration culture and a lack of targeted investment.

This somewhat subjective analysis was considered by a Trust (FCSCT) with a 50-year history of investing in the development of young adults so, in some ways, ALP was an evolutionary development.   It is our ambition to provide a transformative programme for young adults who would not otherwise access mainstream higher education or development opportunities.  The key objectives of the programme were, and remain, as follows:

  1. To uncover, nurture and launch talented young adults from within the most deprived communities in Cumbria/North Lancs in order to better serve those communities’ needs.
  2. In doing so, to provide role models for others to aspire, attain and contribute.
  3. To address the most common deficiency we see in local charity leadership – namely the ability to run charitable services in a business-like and enterprising manner.
  4. To create a self-supporting network of community leadership across our beneficial area.

Following a three stage tendering process in 2010/11, the Brathay Trust emerged as the lead partner working in close collaboration with the University of Cumbria (UofC) and Common Purpose to deliver ALP1.  The core elements of the 3-year programme are:

  • A Degree (BSc Hons) in Social Enterprise Leadership
  • A series of residential leadership training programmes
  • A personal mentor
  • Work placements/experience
  • Visits to inspirational charities/social enterprises

Participants, who must already be working or volunteering for a local charity/social enterprise, are nominated by local sector leaders and must go through a two-stage assessment process before being offered a place on the programme. ALP1 ran from 2011-14 with twelve pioneers graduating from the programme.  ALP2 ran from 2014-17 with fourteen participants fully engaged with the programme.  The Research Hub at Brathay, in conjunction with UofC staff, are evaluating the programme and have already identified resilience as a key factor in participants’ successful engagement with ALP.  This, alongside much learning gleaned from running ALP1, has been fed into the revised design for ALP2 and ALP3.

The return on investment for FCSCT will be to witness a generational improvement in the leadership capability of the charitable sector in the most deprived areas of Cumbria/North Lancs.   A longitudinal study will indicate progress towards that overarching aim but the simplest assessment will be keeping track of the alumni.

ALP remains a high-cost, funder-led intervention with no guaranteed prospects of success.  The sums involved, which would otherwise be directed towards the coal-face delivery of charitable work with deprived children and young people, gives everyone involved pause for thought.  What keeps FCSCT committed to the cause, however, is the chance to change the low aspiration culture so ingrained in too many of our most deprived communities.  And if that change is engendered from within then we believe it stands a far better chance of being sustained.  Time will tell.