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I wanted to bottle the voice of the facilitator and sell it to the masses – as a social enterprise of course.
“Know Yourself, Be Yourself, Look After Yourself.” The Clore Social Leadership mantra and leadership framework that will forever stay with me. In 2010 I was working for a charity that was losing its way - and subsequently its funding - but I was also plotting to start my own social business and generally take over the world. My biggest challenge at that time was that I had been working in a bubble for the last few years, I had been the ‘young social entrepreneur’, the youngest person around the boardroom table and sometimes the token woman or ‘ethnic minority’ in the room.
Tired of labels, I needed time and space to figure out who I was and what exactly I wanted to achieve. As serendipity would have it, a link to the 2011 application round of the Clore Social Leadership Programme appeared in my inbox and after reading the description of what we’d have the chance to do and learn, I knew it was the right thing for me. Luckily, the interview panel felt the same way.
For those of you who don’t yet know, the Clore Social Leadership programme was set up to support the development of future social leaders. Led by Dame Mary Marsh and facilitated day-to-day by Siobhan Edwards, the fellowship director, it’s a bespoke, intense and challenging programme of residentials, training days, coaching, mentoring, a secondment and a research piece.
The residentials are exceptionally good (and I’ve done a few). One minute you’re learning techniques from the best business minds at Ashridge and the next you’re being challenged to think about your life and leadership purpose by listening to poetry. In fact, the poetry session was so good I wanted to bottle the voice of the facilitator and sell it to the masses. As a social enterprise of course.
The most interesting thing about the whole programme is that it’s 100% self-guided. You get out whatever you put in, and aside from the time spent at the residentials you decide what you learn, when and how. The Clore team just ask you why.
If like me, you flit between wanting to one day run a national charity, social enterprise and/or building a business and brand that stands for social good then the ‘why’ is difficult to answer. But answer you must, quarterly, at your review meetings with Siobhan and Mary. And as if that isn’t challenging enough (in the best possible way of course) you have to write an update for the board of Trustees, which is chaired by Sir John Gieve. To be honest they always got a bunch of images and quotes because that’s how my brain functions.
Aside from the programme schedule, the other gem comes in the form of the Fellows themselves. A great network of inspiring people who believe in creating positive social change. They are also a peer group that you give permission to tell you like it is, to call you out on your not so great points and encourage you to do better. Having people around you who have built successful careers and can list tangible achievements is humbling and at the same time energising.
Clore gave me the opportunity to meet a number of great business and social leaders; I had a wonderful coach who helped me stay sane in the early stages of starting the business; I started A Good Week as an action research project (www.agoodweek.com) for which Sir Richard Branson provided a video endorsement, and the funding covered the cost of doing the MA in Social Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths.
The year on Clore was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had, I definitely know myself a lot better. I am very happy just being myself and I try to look after myself but given the fact I run a social innovation start-up, holidays and time off are limited and finding time to have lunch is still a daily task. But having the grounding from a year on Clore has been a game changer. I would implore all social entrepreneurs to apply. I actually don’t understand why anyone who cares about their career and believes in the power of the social sector to be a force for good wouldn’t.
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