Leadership: Time spent reflecting on how you work is time well spent

I started my career in the field of education, training and employment and working with young homeless people. Then, in 2003, I set up the London Work Based Learning Alliance, a membership organisation for learning and skills providers.

It is a network for those that deliver vocational learning, including apprenticeships and opportunities to young people experiencing barriers to learning or for whom the traditional academic route of study is not suitable.

Early last year, I realised I needed to shift from a mode of working that was constantly reactive and develop capacity for greater reflection and thinking time. So I applied to become a Fellow on the Clore Social Leadership programme. The application process demanded a level of self-reflection that in itself was insightful and developmental.

The diversity of those on the programme was a welcome surprise. Several have a background in working with and on behalf of children and young people. There are 16 of us in the 2011 cohort, with varied backgrounds and experiences. The programme has allowed us to share these in a way that pushes us to embody the mantra "know yourself, be yourself". This is a learning programme that demands personal honesty in the pursuit of stronger, defined values-based leadership.

Four months into the programme, being a Clore Social Fellow is an incredible learning experience. The programme is developed to stretch, challenge, support and define, and funded at a level to deliver and provide access to high-quality learning and development opportunities. Although it is early days - I complete the programme in December 2012 - it has already made a difference.

My desire to shift to a more reflective way of thinking and to develop the mindset for reflection has happened. Setting time away from a task-focused world has actually led to greater focus and concentration.

A while ago, I ran a project to train adults to work in delivering apprenticeships. At an award ceremony, a trainer spoke to the audience about a trainee in his late fifties who had waited all his life to achieve the equivalent of GCSEs. He had believed the "stupid" tag he'd been given at school - 40 years later, he overcame it. Imagine what a personalised learning programme would have meant to him as a young man.

The world I work in, learning and skills, is at the sharp edge of societal change. It is clear that current norms, practices, partnerships and ways of doing things are up for discussion. The impact of recession and economic belt-tightening means that public funding is reduced, while need increases. The challenges for the third sector and those working in it are significant. I have started working on the practice-based research element of my fellowship, which will work with young people, charities and learning providers to finds ways in which young people can influence and shape the content and delivery of the learning and training they receive.

Through my fellowship, I have a fuller appreciation and connection with the power and impact of learning, and feel inspired and energised to make more real change happen for more young people.

Ali Kaye is director of the London Work Based Learning Alliance. She is due to complete her Clore fellowship in December 2012


- Core elements that all Fellows take: residential training weeks; practice-based research; a secondment; participation in an Action Learning Set with other fellows to meet regularly and support one another; coaching and mentoring; and a reflective learning log to evaluate the learning. Fellowships take place on a full-time one-year or part-time two-year basis

- Fellows are supported to source the most appropriate learning for themselves through feedback, coaching, one-to-ones with the Clore Social Leadership team, and the development of a personalised, leadership development plan. Fellows can put together a programme of one-off training sessions, experiential learning and longer periods of study at business schools, as well as being able to address developmental issues for individual leadership growth and capability

- Becoming a Clore Social Fellow is a commitment that goes beyond the immediate programme. Fellows are creating a leadership network based on an ethos and set of values that support development, innovation and creativity to effect social change. As long as a Fellow remains actively committed to social change, it is a Fellowship for life

- The programme is looking for its third cohort of Fellows.

The deadline for applications is 2 June. Visit www.cloresocialleadership.org.uk

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