Building strong leadership through mutual learning & collaboration

Capacity Building Fund

19 August 2020

Source: Pikist

Strong leadership, clear strategies, sound financial systems, and robust fundraising plans. These are some of what organisations that achieve their goals have in common.

Resolving any issues in these areas increases an organisation’s chances of success. However, because we know that leaders face a myriad of challenging issues every day, we began providing chief executive officer (CEO) peer consultation groups to leaders of our partner organisations in 2015. “We are aware of the pivotal role that leadership can play in achieving – or not – an organisation’s mission,” says Adriana Craciun, Oak’s senior adviser for organisational development and capacity building. “Leading a not-for-profit organisation is tough.”

Leaders grapple with many issues regularly: strengthening and managing governing boards, recruiting and retaining top-quality staff and juggling the demands of donors. Many CEOs can become exhausted and worn out, and they can often feel lonely, without trusted advisors with whom they can discuss these challenges openly.

Oak’s organisational development and capacity building support is there to enable our partners to have the greatest possible impact, by improving their leadership and management skills and developing a more robust structure. Stronger organisations achieve better social justice outcomes and are more sustainable, resilient and effective. “We decided to experiment with an innovative process that provides support for the CEOs to learn from each other,” says Adriana Craciun.

The feedback from the 2015 consultation learning was so positive that the process was repeated in 2016, 2018, and 2019. Participants have described the peer meetings as an “invaluable space for honest and frank exchange” which gave them “a unique chance to breathe”. Each participant also felt supported and heard by sharing their experiences, listening to each other’s stories, and realising together just how challenging leading a not-for-profit organisation is.

“I cannot believe how much more complex the not-for-profit world is to the business world,” said Laura Lewin, the consultant who facilitated the group`s discussions and who has worked with large multinational corporations, “in terms of stakeholder complexity, challenges of evaluation and having to fundraise.”

“This peer consultation helped me figure out a way to re-imagine my job and leadership at my organisation, and so much has changed here as a result,” said one participant. Others said how they have been directly applying the learning to their own organisations since.

The success of the CEO consultation programme is an example of the benefits of organisational strengthening. If you would like to find out more about capacity building and organisational development opportunities within Oak, please check out the capacity building page on our website. Oak partners interested in capacity building and organisational development should contact their programme officer directly.

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