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Ulster Business News: CO3 – Developing Leadership skills

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For Northern Ireland to truly emerge with a stronger and more robust economy after the biggest global recession since the Second World War it will require all sectors that contribute to GDP to be innovative and bold in how they re-invigorate the local economic landscape. GDP shrunk significantly throughout 2008 and in 2009 and with last month’s budget set to further squeeze the economy, businesses and organisations across Northern Ireland will have to be creative in ensuring they remain competitive and deliver the same level and quality of service or products.

CO3, which represents Northern Ireland’s third sector leaders, is an example of an organisation that is looking to the future by delivering programmes to develop leadership and management skills, creativity and efficiency for those that are providing vital services to the most vulnerable in society.

When it comes to the economy, the contribution that the community and voluntary sector makes is often overlooked but with 4,500 organisations employing 30,000 people and creating a turnover in excess of £600m (NICVA’s State of the Sector Report) it represents a significant portion of our overall GDP. According to Majella McCloskey, Director CO3, everyone within the community and voluntary sector will play their part to ensure that, as much as possible, the same level of service is provided in these austere times as well as helping to develop a leadership skill set that will drive the sector forward in the next decade.

“One of our on-going initiatives is a mentoring programme which is an effective low cost mechanism which taps into experience and skills gained over many years with leaders across the private, public and third sectors informing and enhancing the knowledge of those who will lead Northern Ireland’s third sector based organisations throughout the next 10 years, “ said Majella. “We arrange and carefully managed a series of partnerships, where the experienced leaders take time out to mentor third sector leaders, helping them tackle a specific issue, developing their skills and supporting them in driving their organisation forward in these difficult times.

“I am delighted with the results of our initial research into the programme which has shown to have had significant benefits for both mentor as well as mentee. Feedback from participating management mentees from within the community and voluntary sector has highlighted that they have gained many new skills from increased productivity, to development of new business insights as well as a strategic approach.

“This programme has been an invaluable opportunity for our sector managers who have gained a wealth of experience but for the initiative to be sustainable long term it must be truly rewarding and beneficial for our mentors. The feedback from participating mentors has been overwhelming with many not only gaining an insight into the talent that exists within our sector but it has also seen them coming away with new skills and learnings as well as a fresh approach to problem solving.”

Mentors who participated within the programme include Walter Radar Chief Executive of Big Lottery, Dr Angus Beck, Niamh Sheills from Advance Coaching and John Barrett former Chief Executive of Coca-Cola Bottlers (Ulster) Ltd. Commenting on his experience of the programme John Barrett highlighted the importance of sharing skills to support the good work of charitable organisations as well as business sectors pulling together to develop all our economic futures. John Barrett commented:

“My involvement in CO3’s mentoring programme over the last couple of years has provided me with more insight into the social economy than I would have picked up in 15 years working within the private sector.

“In the commercial world there is a tendency to be insular and not to look beyond our own parameters for answers or management techniques but there are real learnings to be gained by engaging with organisations both within the third and the public sector. There is a wealth of expertise out there and no organisation or leader should be averse to distinguishing themselves by gaining new skills and knowledge and developing their competitive advantage in the process. I commend CO3 for this initiative and I’d urge private and public sector organisations to engage with their third sector colleagues to share knowledge and expertise which can only have long term benefit for our whole economy. Small things can sometimes make a big difference.”

CO3 Mentoring Programme is currently supported by Llyods TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland. Information regarding CO3’s mentoring programme is available from CO3’s Head of Leadership development, Jackie White, email: Jackie@co3.bz or www.co3.bz.

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