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Eleanor Southwood

Eleanor Southwood

Type of Fellowship: Specialist
Year of Fellowship: 2012

RNIB Fellowship

Update Spring 2013

The final phase of my Fellowship has focused on my applied research project. It has also been a chance to reflect on the Fellowship as a whole.

Over the past three months, I have interviewed 16 leaders from organisations across the social sector. I was interested in what the experience of leading a not-for-profit organisation in the UK in 2013 is like. The interviews were thoroughly enjoyable and helped me develop aspects of my own thinking, particularly around increasing innovation, creativity and flexibility in leadership. The output of the research is three podcasts focusing on:

-What is distinctive about leading in a not-for-profit context

-How the interviewees developed their own support networks and their tips for leadership, based on what advice they would give earlier versions of themselves

-What the future not-for-profit landscape might look like and what this might mean for future leaders.

 I chose to create audio podcasts because I wanted to create a way for leaders to describe their experiences in their own words and voices. It was a completely new experience for me and I’ve learnt a huge amount from the production and editing process, not least because I had so much great material that I wanted to include! I am exploring options for how to use the information I have gathered in other ways, e.g. short articles, as I believe there’s a great deal that would be of interest to people inside and out of the sector.

As I reach the end of my Fellowship, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on the activities, opportunities and learning over the fifteen months. One of my personal ambitions for the Fellowship was to become more confident in using my strengths and energies in the places where they will have most impact. I have a much clearer idea about where this is now and feel more able to make the choices that will support me to make the greatest contribution I can.

 The focus I have placed on facilitation in the training I have undertaken has given me a new set of skills and the business capability training throughout the Fellowship has increased my technical understanding of core elements of how organisations and projects function. It has also demystified some areas of the social sector (social investment in particular) so that I now feel competent to engage with the sector in a much wider sense than I would have before the Fellowship.

 I anticipated that a great deal of my learning would come through spending time with other Fellows and this has certainly been the case. My Action Learning Set, in particular, has been a source of support, fun and hopefully future collaboration.

Twitter: @elliesouthwood

Current principal role: Consultant
Current principal organisation: Nfp Consulting
Other leadership role 1: Vice-chair
Other organisation 1: RNIB
Other leadership role 2: Cllr and Cabinet Member, Environment
Other organisation 2: London Borough of Brent

Research: Experience of leaders in the social sector (Three Podcasts) Podcast 1 – What’s so different about leading in the not-for-profit sector? Podcast 2 – how to survive if you’re leading a not-for-profit Podcast 3 - Getting fit for the future
Research topics: Campaigning; Change management; Charity; Employment; Governance; Impact; Leadership; Values;
Secondment host: WaterAid

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