New Talent and the Third Sector

One of our priorities when setting up Cause4 was to develop a programme to attract and support outstanding new talent into fundraising and development roles within the third sector, which we’ve done with our Alchemist programme. Graduates receive a 12 month programme of support across charities, social enterprises and enterprises. We wanted to tear up the old thinking and attact a new generation of enterprising fundraisers into the sector.

With this in mind, we were particularly interested in the recent findings of the Leadership 20:20 Commission. Their findings can be boiled down in to five main areas:

  1. A headline grabbing plan to increase the diversity of the leadership of the civil society by setting up a Teach First style programme to encourage recent graduates;
  2. The need to bring together emerging leaders so they can compose responses for civil society to wider challenges;
  3. Setting up a sector wide development framework, allowing people to get experience outside their own jobs;
  4. The potential that putting in place a leadership development programme should be a condition for winning grants and contracts;
  5. Encourage work force mobility across all three sectors to encourage sharing of ideas and best practice.

Immediate reaction to these proposals was mixed – Lord Best asked if this was just the NCVO trying to get people to pay them to run leadership programmes as “I’m not sure at whom all the recommendations are addressed”.  This confusion aside (not helped by committee chair Richard Doughty saying that the recommendations were aimed at a lengthy list of bodies including “those who have good relationships with the sector” ) there seems to be something in the proposals.

What lessons does the Teach First scheme hold for the sector?

The eye-catching Teach First initiative includes a plan to write off student loans for those young people who spend five years working in civil society organisations for five years. I support this to some extent but it needs flexibility. Making people stay for five years in a role seems to contradict another recommendation in the report: to promote a flexible labour force.

We would recommend a more sensible approach, for example cancelling half of that loan after three years, and the rest at the end of the five year period, or cancelling 20% per year as their period went along. Many Teach First graduates end up in non-teaching careers but their experiences whilst they are teaching and the energy that they bring to teaching for the time that they stay still makes this contribution and training worth-while.

Whilst the process of fleshing out the detail for these proposals will take some time, we would like to suggest that the report’s recommendations are implemented quickly. There is an appetite at the moment amongst funders like the Creative and Cultural Skills fund to get young people into careers in the third sector and support them as they develop their jobs. With youth unemployment such a pressing concern, the opportunity to do something new, exciting and with backing from a range of influential voices is clear.

We would like to hear your thoughts on how best to attract young people to careers in the third sector. How would you attract committed young people to a career here? And how best can leadership skills be developed?

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