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  • Writer's pictureCharity Chat Podcast

E152 – Building Leadership Capacity with Sarah Galvin

“With volatility, you need, as a leader, to have vision… you need to lead your organisations with vision to respond to this constant shifting …landscape, and with uncertainty you need increased understanding, so you need to be better at asking questions…" - Sarah Galvin

In this week's episode we speak with Sarah Galvin, programme director at Pepal, an international charity that focuses on leadership and innovation through cross-sectorial working.

1. How leadership and project development can grow through cross-sector working

Why do we have such an underinvestment in leadership in the charity sector? On the face of it it makes sense that we have less investment than parts of the commercial sector because we are using donor funds, and the tradition is to spend as much of this as possible on projects. But what if we invested more in leadership, would this not create more value down the line for donors and more importantly beneficiaries?

While it's worth dedicating serious time to thinking about this, perhaps more imminently than that culture shift is the opportunity to engage with companies, to make use of their existing leadership expertise to co-develop or support charity projects.

2. The ways in which we can ensure genuine interest through shared visions and objectives

A lot of the companies that Sarah works with are moving from having CSR as a sideline to putting CSR at the heart of their companies, e.g. force for good; B-Corp companies. They are being asked by employees about what they are doing for social good. This opens a space for charities to work more closely with corporate partners. The challenge then is to find shared values and objectives for corporations and charities to work to meet together.

3. Leadership at all levels

Acknowledging that everybody is a leader in their own circle of influence might be the first step to building more resilient, empowered and effective charities. We have spoken before about developing charity staff at all levels and finding a balance between autonomy and support for staff. Take a look at the additional episodes below for more on this.

Skill sharing with companies, especially leadership mentoring or training, can be a good way of up-skilling charity staff, while helping to develop closer working relationships with companies that share your charity's values.

4. Volatility Uncertainty Complexity Ambiguity (VUCA) model

Sarah also spoke about the VUCA model of leadership which is used a lot in the leadership space. Originally devised for the US army, it has now been adopted in leadership to describe a world that is becoming more complex and harder to understand.

Questions are becoming more important than answers and leaders need to bring clarity out of the complexity of the world we all find ourselves in.

5. Resilience

The VUCA model of leadership can support good leadership, which has a knock-on-effect with supporting resilience.

Sarah made the point that - “Resilience is a skill that you can learn, and the more you respond to difficult situations… generally the more resilient you will be… Resilience is human connection, communication, emotional regulation… a lot of that through lockdowns... not being able to work in offices, has been taken away from us, so it’s looking at how in organisations we can replace that with day-to-day contact with colleagues… ”

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode.

This episode is brought to you by our platinum sponsor Charity People.

Related episodes that you may be interested in:

E121 - Non - Hierarchical Leadership With Helen Moulinos -


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