The Aspiring Leaders Programme began a decade ago when a group of local community leaders gathered to discuss with FCSCT Trustees their thoughts and concerns for the future of the sector locally. They identified the changing demands on leaders as a result of developments in funding and the landscape of the sector. Of critical importance was the need for local, younger people with great potential and an existing commitment to their communities, but poor access to opportunities, to access high quality leadership and enterprise training to equip them with the skills and knowledge that the future of the sector required.
A tendering process to provide an innovative programme to address these needs resulted in a delivery partnership, lead by the Brathay Trust and including the University of Cumbria and Common Purpose being awarded the contract to deliver the programme.
The key objectives of the programme were, and remain, as follows:
- 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.
- In doing so, to provide role models for others to aspire, attain and contribute.
- 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.
- To create a self-supporting network of community leadership across our beneficial area.
The core elements of the 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
Three cohorts have now completed the gruelling three year programme and are continuing their professional careers, both locally and further a field and within and outside of the sector. During 2021 FCSCT will commission the second stage of a longitudinal evaluation to understand the impact of the programme, not just on the Alumni, but on the sector locally.
The current cohort of the Aspiring Leaders Programme (ALP4) began their journey on Zoom in January 2021, having completed a robust recruitment process during the Autumn of 2020. The majority were able to meet face to face for the first time in May at Brathay. They will continue to be involved for the next 3 years until the end of 2023. The programme is an exceptional opportunity for future community leaders to get the training and support they need to excel. Participants gain 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, and the Sir John Fisher Foundation.
There’s also some great video interviews with participants from ALP1 & ALP2:
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, continually evaluate the programme, the learning from earlier programmes being fed into the revised design for ALP2, 3 and 4..
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. The 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 children and young people, gives everyone involved pause for thought. What keeps FCSCT committed to the cause, however, is the chance to address inconsistencies and inequality of opportunity in under served communities. We believe that changes engendered from within those communities stands a far better chance of being sustained. Time will tell.