Meet our Social Leaders


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Rachael Smith

Rachael Smith

Type of Fellowship: Specialist
Year of Fellowship: 2013

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

How has this quarter been for you?

In April I began my secondment at The Start Network, a network of 19 humanitarian agencies.  It has been a hugely rewarding, challenging, and surprisingly comforting portion of my Clore Social journey so far. It has consumed my energy, time, and focus this quarter, despite some well laid plans for a four day week! 

Having coaching sessions immediately before and after the placement has helped get the most out of the experience. My secondment project centered on delivering a week of events to launch a new collaborative governance model, acknowledging collaboration as a political process, mirroring a political party conference. It proved a fantastic opportunity to use the tools I have learned through my Fellowship in action. 

I am pleased by the additional work I have been able to tackle during my secondment, widening my experience to include writing a budget template for a £26 million project, and co-drafting a discussion paper to be presented to DFID on ‘The Humanitarian Funding Paradox’.

I finish my secondment truly inspired by the bold ambition for systemic change and the desire to work at scale. Six months ago this organisation was two people with no money, they now have over £50 million and are planning to run a £200 million fund within the next five years. They saw a problem and knew that only through bold action could they fix it. I am now clear that my vision is to lead a bold, ambitious organisation, working collaboratively to enable people to have power over their own lives. I am looking forward to taking the next steps towards this vision. 

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

At The Start Network I was part of a fast moving start-up environment. The need to keep things flexible and the desire to ‘design as we go’ was making partners, stakeholders and the board inherently nervous that there was no plan! I implemented a critical pathways plan  to provide a clear schedule and framework for making key decisions, whilst retaining the flexibility needed to maximise on new opportunities as they arise.

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

I have a better set of tools for strengthening and developing organisational structures, business models and strategy setting. When faced with a set of problems, I feel I can now look into my Clore Social library (which includes fellow Fellows) and select the right ‘manual’ for the task. Whether it’s applying Appreciative Enquiry approach, Business Model Canvas, the 4 Seasons Questionnaire feedback, or just finding the right person to talk to.

Tell us an important lesson you’ve learnt so far during the Fellowship programme.

Previously I have seen events as a necessary evil, just something I became an expert in in order to do my real job, and not necessarily something I was particularly proud of. I now see my events expertise as an asset which can be leveraged to gain new skills and experience in other areas.

Tell us something you have learnt from a fellow Fellow?

When designing a workshop to explore the Business Canvas Model, Kate Swade has provided advice and shared her experiences using the model. She encouraged me to also use the ‘Golden Circle’ to identify 'the why, the how and the what' of the organisation before drawing our canvas.

How would you sum up your Clore Social Fellowship experience so far?

It’s provided me the opportunity to gain experiences in a completely different sector, get out of my comfort zone and all in a safe, supported environment. 

Current principal role: Head of Strategic Planning and Governance
Current principal organisation: Mind

Research: Asking the difficult questions: Are third sector organisations allowing their pride at recruiting former service users to their boards, to paper over the inherent prejudices that prevent these individuals from taking the lead?
Secondment host: The Start Network

Contact us
0207 812 3770
5th Floor, Kings Place, 90 York Way
London, N19AG

Charity: 1136727
Reg: 7222275
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