Honing Leadership Skills Across The Sectors: Charity Next secondee, Flora Scorer, discusses her experiences.

Flora completed a 6-month secondment through WIG’s Charity Next programme from September 2019 – March 2020 at one of our partners; Child.org. In this blog post Flora reflects on her time in the charity and the leadership skills she honed and developed working in a different sector with a new set of challenges and priorities. She also talks about how she’s begun embedding these already in her current role back in government as a Policy Advisor for the Environment Strategy at the Department for Transport.

Flora Scorer - Blog

In this surreal and difficult time, inspiring leaders are more important than ever. Having re-joined Government at the beginning of March, I’ve already been lucky enough to experience great leadership from my manager and other senior civil servants who continue to foster – via ‘virtual cuppas’ if necessary – a real sense of connection and engagement in the team. Child.org, an international development charity and my fantastic secondment host, have similarly pulled together during these past few weeks to face an unprecedented set of new challenges.

My interest in the charity sector was piqued by my volunteering experiences with Amnesty International. I wanted to understand how charities deliver impact by actually working in one. With a very helpful nudge from my Fast Stream Talent Development Manager, I wrote a business case expressing interest in working in an international development charity with a focus on gender. And I hit the jackpot as Child.org is just that. Ambitious and enterprising, Child.org work with children, babies, parents and whole communities to discover and design better ways to keep kids healthy. Their baby box project (https://child.org/what-we-do/baby-boxes) with mums in Nairobi encouraged 81% more women to access life changing services like postnatal care and it’s a great example of Child.org’s ethos of doing what works.

My first day at Child.org was like stepping into a different world. A world with a characterful office dog, Slack and Google docs, complex office pranks, and games to decide who made the next round of tea. I instantly felt welcome in the charity’s friendly, dynamic culture and I quickly saw that staff were given enormous autonomy to experiment and drive projects forward whilst being supported by an inspiring, entrepreneurial leadership team.

Child.org raise money in fascinating and creative ways including immensely successful pub quizzes, walking tours in London and Edinburgh and challenge bike rides through Kenya. My role was to launch and market Child.org’s new co-working space called Cahoots (https://beincahoots.org/). Cahoots is Child.org’s own office in Old Street, recently renovated to create an affordable, vibrant hub for small charities and social enterprises to share skills and resources and feel like part of a bigger team. Cahoots is a social enterprise itself and members’ rent is a sustainable source of income for Child.org.

 

Cahoots is an immensely exciting project, and I loved the autonomy and responsibility I was given to take forward my ideas. I made improvements to the space - transporting microwaves, tables, chairs – you name it – across London, designed different membership rates and championed diversity by marketing broadly to the sector. Together with another staff member, I launched monthly music concerts in Cahoots to increase our brand awareness and spread the word about the concept. I built a website and even designed a fire plan and health and safety policy.

During my time with Child.org, I developed a host of leadership skills including the ability to empower others and communicate more effectively. Cahoots is a people business and I soon learnt how to sell the benefits of the space to potential members enthusing them about Child.org’s vision, and being approachable and receptive. I listened to existing members’ feedback and empowered them to make improvements to Cahoots, boosting engagement and morale in the process. I felt energised by helping members build relationships and it was a unique opportunity to shape a workplace culture and improve staff wellbeing. Most importantly, I was exposed to different leadership styles which were both refreshing and inspiring.

Whilst at Child.org I was also lucky enough to do the Charity Fast-Track: Foundation course (https://charityfasttrack.uk/), which is a demanding online 12-week course for new entrants to the charity sector and a former Child.org product. The course enriched and contextualised my on-the-job learning beyond measure, and I learnt how charities operate, make money, communicate, drive change and deliver impact. I learnt about what leadership looks like in the sector, and the challenges it faces in great detail, and ran my own fundraiser, leading a group of friends on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.

The dynamic and fast paced nature of work in a small charity is invigorating and I learnt so much from being exposed to different leadership styles and ways of working. I’ve transferred much of my learning to my new role in Government, from the behaviours I try to exhibit every day to running an energising Friday afternoon quiz remotely with my new colleagues. Indeed, my newfound knowledge of the charity sector and the challenges it faces have given me a far greater understanding of the society-wide impacts of COVID-19 outside Whitehall.