Cascading Leadership programme

This free programme matches experienced, high-performing leaders in the voluntary and community sector (VCS) with others in the sector to share their knowledge and provide peer support. It is designed for those who want to develop both their organisational and leadership skills and contribute to the sector.

Who is the programme for?

The programme is designed for anyone who is leading an organisation in the sector that focuses on health and wellbeing. The organisation can be of any size, and either in the early stages of development or well established. We are offering two opportunities: to join us as a consultant or as a partner.

Cascading Leadership consultant (20 places available per programme)

You will be:

  • an experienced and senior leader working in the VCS who can draw on a wide range of knowledge, experience and expertise to support another organisation
  • willing to develop your own leadership skills and to share what you know with others
  • interested in contributing to and learning from a peer group of VCS leaders.

Cascading Leadership partner (20 places available per programme)

You will be:

  • leading a VCS organisation that would benefit from the experience of others who can help you to reflect and learn and to develop your organisation
  • interested in contributing to and learning from a peer group of VCS leaders.

Why this programme?

We have conducted a very successful pilot of this programme, which all those involved thought was distinctive because:

  • it built on the voluntary and community sector’s assets, capability and potential
  • those providing the support were working in the sector and fully understood its challenges and needs
  • it developed the skills of both those receiving and those providing the support, so building the capacity of the sector.

Read our report on the pilot programme

In this short film, both those providing and those receiving support on the pilot talk about their experiences of the programme.

How will you benefit from the programme?

By joining this programme as a consultant, you will:

  • develop a range of leadership and consultancy skills to use within your organisation and in wider networks – for example, using powerful questions; having techniques to question and challenge; providing non-managerial support; using active listening; understanding power dynamics; avoiding resistance; developing a reflective practice
  • have the opportunity to test and refine these skills, with access to one-to-one supervision and a peer learning group.

By joining as a partner, you will:

  • have the support of a highly experienced VCS leader who understands the sector and will help you work through the real challenges your organisation is facing; this support may focus on:
    • specific technical skills – fundraising, strategic planning, evaluation, policy development, management systems etc.
    • process skills – the consultants can offer objective and confidential peer support and a space to think through the challenges of your work – for example, working with your board, staff and volunteers; planning for change; managing disagreement and difficult conversations; how to influence internally and externally.

Both consultants and partners will benefit from being part of a wider learning network, with the opportunities to build connections, partnerships and collaborations, learning from and supporting peers.

Participants on our pilot said:

What has been most useful is having some focused time and space for reflection and development and sharing the wisdom of my consultant.


My consultation skills have been honed, sharpened and tested during the process. I have learned to be aware of my own preconceptions and possible prejudices.


A recent external evaluation of the pilot of this programme concluded:

Without exception participants view Cascading Leadership as a success in terms of the benefits they have gained both individually and organisationally. The pilot demonstrated that supporting voluntary sector leaders to offer consultancy to other leaders within the sector enables them to develop professional skills, alongside deeper strategic leadership.

What will you do on the programme?

As a Cascading Leadership consultant, you will:

  • take part in a two-day training and development programme to develop different leadership and consultancy skills and make the shift from leading your organisation to facilitating the leadership of others
  • receive individual supervision from our experienced leadership and organisational development consultants
  • arrange an initial telephone call or meeting with your partner and take part in a minimum of three consulting sessions between November 2017 and April 2018
  • take part in a peer learning group facilitated by The King’s Fund that will meet twice (part way through the programme and a final review session).

As a Cascading Leadership partner, you will:

  • take part in an introductory event to meet the other partners and prepare for the consultancy
  • be matched with a consultant and have at least three, confidential, face-to-face meetings plus some support by telephone and email.

Selection process

  • Consultants and partners will be asked to complete an application form outlining their skills, experiences and what they hope to gain from the programme.
  • Shortlisted consultants will also be asked to take part in a short interview.
  • Consultants and partners will be matched based on skills and previous experience, organisational challenges, geography and competition.
  • We will normally only have one participant from any organisation on each programme.
  • We will notify all candidates of our decision.
  • Selection will be carried out by The King’s Fund, Big Lottery and Comic Relief.

Cost of the programme

There is no charge to take part in this programme, which is being funded by the Big Lottery Fund, using money raised by National Lottery players for good causes, and by Comic Relief.

Consultant’s place valued at £3,120 – based on training and coaching support that you will receive from the The King’s Fund, plus other benefits such as travel and accommodation.

Partner’s place valued at £900 – based on training from The King’s Fund, travel and accommodation. This does not include a monetary value for the cost of the free consultancy which forms part of this offer.