Meet our Social Leaders


Full list of Fellows
Michael Cooke

Michael Cooke

Type of Fellowship: Specialist
Year of Fellowship: 2014

Nesta Fellow

Update Spring 2014

How have you found your first quarter as a Clore Social Fellow?

The January residential opened my eyes to just what an exciting opportunity the Clore Social Leadership programme is. The residential and the coaching session following my 360 review have given me tools and ideas that I have applied in my work, and have made me a better leader.

The process of compiling my Leadership Development Plan has made me narrow my focus and concentrate on the most important things I need to work on. I now need to press on with the work of making myself a better leader through the huge range of development opportunities on offer.

How are you working with your specialist funder?

I have built a good relationship with Nesta, which will open doors that I would not otherwise be able to open - particularly in terms of connecting with organisations and individuals who could be part of my Fellowship research and secondment. 

I have spent three whole days at Nesta so far. I supported some of their work by connecting them with the Nuffield Trust, and participated in a whole day workshop on developing a Theory of Change. This both improved my own expertise, and gave me the opportunity to support Code Club, an organisation funded in part by Nesta, who I have always wanted to learn more about.

Have there been any challenges so far?

The greatest challenge has been finding the time to make the most of all the opportunities on offer. I need to continue making time for the longer term parts of the programme such as choosing a coach, mentor and training courses, and thinking about research and secondment opportunities. These elements of the Fellowship need dedication, alongside the more immediate elements such as the Business Capability workshops and Action Learning Sets. I also make sure I fit in reading for the London Business School course, which I have the opportunity to take as part of the Fellowship.

How has your leadership had an impact on those you work with?

I took up the opportunity to give a presentation at the Operational Research Society’s Third Sector Special Interest Group. I’m not a confident set-piece speaker, but I realise that leadership is partly about putting yourself out there and seeing what happens - like stepping forward in improv sessions at the January residential.

My team’s away day was influenced by the reading I have done as a result of the Fellowship, which led to a discussion about team strategy and ethos that it would not otherwise have had.  I also used some of the coaching techniques I learned in my 1-2-1 meetings with people in my team.

In what way are you a better leader now than at the start of the Fellowship?

The main thing I have noticed is that I am noticing more. I am being more mindful about my thoughts, choices and behaviour. I have also started to ask for feedback more frequently, and interestingly others around me have started to do the same.

Tell us an important lesson you have learnt so far during your Fellowship.

Being brave as a leader means putting myself in harm's way and feeling uncomfortable, but stepping (occasionally leaping) outside my comfort zone is well worth it. It often leads to fulfilling, enhancing, exciting experiences that ultimately lift my spirits and make me a better leader.

What have you learnt from your fellow Fellows?

I gained a huge range of inspirational and capability-building experiences in my interactions with other Fellows at the January residential. I got lots of inspiration from Baljeet Sandhu at our Action Learning Set, when she spoke about the work she is leading on, and Eugenie Teasley offered lots of exciting ideas about activities for my team away day.

How would you sum up your Clore Social Leadership journey so far?

One quote I’ve come across this quarter has resonated deeply with my experience so far: “there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story”. This is a quote I came across in Andrew Stanton’s fabulous TED talk on storytelling.

It sums up well how much I have learned from all the Fellows who I thought I wouldn't have much in common with - once I took the time to hear their stories I was hooked. It also resonates with something I’ve been trying to put into practice in my work, an improv rule which helps me to focus on understanding those who I don't have common ground with.

Twitter: @databrewer

Current principal role: Strategic Development Director
Current principal organisation: Marie Curie

Research: Making evaluations work harder for international development
Secondment host: Retrak

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