2015 Fellow Jenny O’Hara Jakeway is CEO of Credu: Connecting Carers, a charity that supports carers in Wales. She was appointed to this position at the same time as starting her Clore Social Fellowship.
CEOs don’t tend to have a lot of support when they join new places. Luckily for me, being part of the Fellowship meant I had support from day one to do my job, and I was able to immediately use what learned from the programme by bringing it back to the organisation. For example, the programme’s Business Capability workshops encouraged me to develop an entrepreneurial approach and I’ve since set up a social enterprise as part of the organisation. We have opened two carer hubs this summer, and we hope to open up another five in the next three years. This will extend our reach, visibility and become a platform for community based work across the large rural area in which we work.
What has been the impact of the Fellowship on the people you work with?
Even the way I hold the team meetings has changed. Influenced by Nancy Kline, whose book I was encouraged to read during the Fellowship, meetings have increasingly become ‘thinking environments’ where everyone is given uninterrupted talk time and we really listen to each other. A little bit like an action learning set.
Being on the Fellowship has given me the confidence to try out these types of ideas. When you are on your own you can of course read books, but you might not have the confidence to apply it. I found that other Fellows were also experimenting and that it’s okay to try new things. New ideas don’t seem so wacky when you know other people are doing it and when you have a network of people who can support you.
More than anything the Fellowship has helped me develop enough confidence to keep the focus on Carers and my team to make sure that others have influence and can develop and shine in their own ways.
What does successful social sector leadership look like to you?
A successful social sector leader, keeps focused on the purpose of their movement and understands how it fits into wider social change. Above all, the most successful leaders find ways to share power with the people their charity aims to benefit as well as the wider organisation and other stakeholders, facilitating more and more people to contribute to social change in whatever way they can.
Charities are increasingly funded by delivering contracts, but we should remember that we are ultimately about social change. The contract is just a vehicle, we want to achieve more than delivering contracts. Social leadership is about trying new ways of advancing social change and so we do action research and development. This way the public sector can also learn from our work. We are more nimble than large public sector organisations and in a better position to try out new ideas, so we should use our independence to our advantage.
How has good organisational leadership directly affected your beneficiaries and staff?
Using what I learned from the Fellowship, I brought a co-productive ethos into the organisation and involved carers of all ages in the development of the organisation. The same goes for staff involvement - many staff feel more liberated to use their skills to shape how we do things. We have strengthened our support approaches with coaching and asset based community development, and beneficiaries have a greater variety of support and more opportunities connect with people in their communities through the new hubs.
By becoming more comfortable in my own skin, I realised that as leaders we don’t need to be perfect. Instead we should play to our strengths, and bring in the strengths we lack from our team to achieve social change together. I thought the staff we had at Powys were already pretty awesome, but I think the learning from the Fellowship allowed me to truly recognise their talent.
What advice would you give people in the sector who want to develop their leadership skills?
Because money is tight in our sector, leaders don’t tend to focus on their own development. It is a valuable leadership step to start investing and modelling skills development to the teams that you lead. We shouldn’t feel guilty to use some resources available to us. Everyone needs sustenance and social leadership is tough, we need to find new ways to keep our energy up and be at the cutting edge. I encourage everyone in the sector to invest in their own development and that of their colleagues. We are all ambassadors for the social change that we are working for and need to continue to be inspired!
What are your Fellowship highlights?
The first residential had some of the best facilitators in the country, it felt like we were really being invested in. When people invest in you, it inspires you to invest in others.
I have also met some incredible people along the way, which has been really valuable in informing what I could do in my own organisation. It is hard to articulate how enriching the fellowship network is; we will all support each other through thick and thin into the future – it’s so exciting and affirming to know that.
If you are thinking about applying for the 2017 Fellowship, don’t hesitate! You are investing in your future and that of the sector.