How to grow community enterprise leaders: 5 key learnings from our Leading the Way programme

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What can we learn from the Leading the Way programme for future leadership programmes?
8 Dec, 2023
Carol Jennions

Carol Jennions

NCVO (Impact & learning partner for Leading the Way)

The first round of the Leading the Way programme successfully supported 19 leaders in the North East and Yorkshire & Humber to develop their confidence, resilience, skills and networks to confidently lead their team and organisations to greater impact and resilience. This blog from NCVO reflects on key lessons for future leadership programmes. 

Power to Change’s Leading the Way programme, designed and funded in partnership with Virgin Money Foundation, focused on the development of community enterprise leaders and the impact of their organisations on the local community. The programme ran from mid-2022 to mid-2023 and delivered a holistic package of support to the leaders and a grant to support their involvement in the programme. 

The first round of the programme provided support to 19 leaders across two cohorts, one in North East and one in Yorkshire & the Humber, and included: 

Facts and stats from the Leading the Way programme

The importance of peer networks 

One of the most significant benefits that emerged from Leading the Way was the development of peer networks. Leading the Way provided an opportunity for leaders to learn from, and receive support from, their peers from other community enterprises in their region. Many changes that emerged for participating leaders came from the relationships with others on the programme. The in-person learning days provided leaders with opportunities to learn from their peers, to foster a feeling of ‘connectedness’ and reduce isolation.  

The peer learning opportunities came from having safe spaces to share struggles, feel less isolated and build community. Leaders heard how other would approach a particular problem, discussed different approaches and saw examples of good practice. They also found value in supporting others facing an issue to problem solve. One leader commented that ‘talking to others in a similar situation makes it feel less lonely’. 

Five key learning about how to grow community enterprise leaders  

Leading the Way’s success can be attributed to five overarching and transferable features. These five learnings can be applied to other capability or leadership-focused programmes: 

  • The holistic approach to programme delivery was successful. Leading the Way provided learning in group and one-to-one settings, and provided support to the leader and the community enterprise in which they worked, and a grant to facilitate participation. The combination of these elements brought about change for community leaders and the community enterprises in which they work. 
  • In order to make mentor relationships work well, the programme built in time to allow for relationship building. As well as the time taken at the start of the programme to build mentor/mentee trust, the regular contact between mentors and mentees was important in maintaining the relationship. 
  • A flexible and tailored approach works best when working with a diverse range of leaders on a group programme. One of the strengths of the Leading the Way programme was the ability to adapt and be nimble in the support provided. 
  • The in-person learning provided busy leaders with space away from the day-to-day, giving them an opportunity to think strategically about their organisations rather than dealing with the everyday pressures they faced. They were able to focus on ‘the important’ rather than ‘the urgent’. 
  • The grant provided to community enterprises was important in allowing the community leaders to participate in the programme. This worked in two ways: it enabled them to take the time out of their organisations, and it supported the community enterprise to implement the leaders’ learning.