Cascading Leadership: supporting peer-to-peer leadership development in the voluntary and community sector

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The National Lottery Community Fund logo

Cascading Leadership is a free peer-to-peer leadership development programme for voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations working in health and wellbeing. It enables VCS leaders to share their extensive and varied expertise with peers, to talk about some of the challenges they face and to plan new ways of working. 

The programme is distinctive in that:

  • those who provide support are themselves leaders in the VCS, so they understand the strengths and challenges organisations face
  • it develops the skills of both those receiving and providing the support
  • those providing the support are supervised and trained by senior staff at The Kings Fund.
The biggest distinction about the Cascading Leadership programme is that you are mentored by a peer from your own sector, who’s got that lived experience of running an organisation.
Consultant 2019

Cliciwch yma i weld y wybodaeth hon yn Gymraeg

How does it work?

The Cascading Leadership programme was developed in 2015 to enable us to explore a new way of building leadership skills and strengthening collaboration across the voluntary and community sector. 

Participants apply to the programme as either a consultant (an established charity leader) or a partner (a leader who is seeking support). Once selected, each consultant is matched with a partner to work with.

The pairs meet at least five times over a period of nine months. During these meetings, the partner has the opportunity to work through organisational and leadership issues and receive support. The consultant benefits from being stretched to develop their own leadership and skills, while being trained, supported and supervised by senior staff at The King’s Fund.

It was an opportunity to give something back, but also to challenge my own personal development within this particular field.
Consultant 2019
Through this project I have gained huge support and insight from the consultant I was paired with, and I felt it has certainly evolved my leadership skills and methodology around decision-making.
Partner 2018

Who is eligible?

The Cascading Leadership programme is designed to help VCS organisations develop their leaders. To be eligible for the programme, you must be leading a not-for-profit VCS organisation working around health and care. Please see the frequently asked questions if you are not sure if you meet the eligibility criteria. 

What are the benefits?

For both consultants and partners, Cascading Leadership can build confidence, develop skills, expand networks, help organisations tackle major issues and, in some cases, be transformational.

In an independent evaluation following the programme, partners consistently report improved strategic thinking and better decision-making, tackling challenging issues more effectively, as well as increased confidence and reduced isolation.

We spent time exploring the issues that were going on for me as a Chief Executive within my organisation, but also within the sector and it was great to have the time to really think about those issues, to really dig a bit deeper and reflect on what was happening.
Partner 2019

Consultants also report significant benefits to themselves and their organisations, including stronger leadership skills and improved relationships with key stakeholders.

It has really helped me with some of the problems I’ve been having in my organisation and my own practice, and it gives me another unique perspective to look at some of the issues we’re facing.
Consultant 2019

Which role should I apply for?

It can sometimes be hard to decide which role to apply for. Both roles have valuable development opportunities and offer shared learning.
 
Those who apply for a consultant role tend to be: 

  • experienced leaders, often chief executives with existing leadership skills and senior management experience
  • keen to develop their ability to support and challenge others to reflect, and help them work though the issues and problems they are facing
  • interested in reflecting on and developing their practice to support their own organisations and the wider health and care sector. 

Partners may be leading an established organisation but are perhaps new in their role or just feeling stuck or unsupported. They may be: 

  • isolated and want to talk confidentially about their experience of developing or leading an organisation
  • struggling to address the gap between how they want to work with their team, volunteers, trustees or funders and how things are in reality
  • keen to learn from another leader outside their organisation, who can listen and help them to think through issues and plan.

Some participants who have previously participated as a partner have gone on to develop as a consultant.

Find out more about the consultant role >>

Find out more about the partner role >>

If you’re not sure which role to apply for, email the programme team.

Do I have to pay?

No. The programme is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and is free to consultants and partners. We will also cover the cost of travel to London and overnight accommodation, if necessary. 

How to apply

Once you have decided which role to you wish to apply for, you can find links to the applications forms on the consultant and partner pages. Shortlisted consultants will also be asked to take part in a brief telephone interview. The closing date for applications is 9 December 2019. 

We aim to bring together a diverse mix of participants, including those from smaller organisations, individuals from minority groups and people from across the UK. We are especially keen to receive applications from people from Black and Asian minority ethnic communities, as these groups have been under-represented on the programme.    

If you would like further information about the Cascading Leadership programme, please take a look at our frequently asked questions page.