Leadership and Growth in SMEs
‘ella forums’ is a leadership development programme designed to inspire growth in social enterprises, in which Chief Executives come together for monthly sessions, where they hear the latest thinking from guest speakers, share best practice, and receive coaching from experts.
Where ‘Scaleup UK’, the recent Barclays Report on ‘Growing businesses, growing our economy’ focuses on the will and ambition to grow, it can be argued that that comes down to leadership. ella forums is a leadership development programme for social enterprises and their growth.
Members from the same area come together in groups of 10-12, for a monthly meeting, (to which they commit for 12 months). The meetings are designed to give each individual the tools and support they need to help their organisation develop and grow. The approach is based on learning from experts and from each other, combined with more personal one-on-one support from a coach.
The session is run in two parts. In the first part, an expert talks about their field and how it is relevant to the member’s issues. In the second part, the group discusses in a confidential and non-judgmental setting any issues participants may be facing, to help them resolve problems.
Participants also receive coaching from someone with the right skills and knowledge to address issues and support progress (selected by the group’s chair).
There are monthly evaluations as well as an annual Social Value Report by which the impact of the programme can be evaluated.
‘ella forums’ was set up in 2013 as a Community Interest Company (CIC) – a limited company for community benefit. In June 2014, a partnership was announced, unique in the social sector – with GrowthAccelerator, the service backed by the government and private enterprise and designed to help SMEs to grow, but the government terminated its support for that entire programme in 2016.
ella has been growing and now has fifteen groups in various locations across the country and expects to add ten more in the coming year. Following a 6-month pilot, the Lloyds Bank Foundation recently announced plans to open groups in partnership with ella for beneficiary charities across the country, of which there are expected to be an additional ten.
ella has also set up groups of different kinds: one group for emerging leaders; one group with both charity leaders and corporate leaders; and one is planned specifically for start-up and pre start-up organizations.
ACEVO (the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) runs similar CEO Forums for members – to network, gain peer support and hear from specialist speakers on the issues that affect them (such as leadership, governance, personal effectiveness, leading through change and managing the workforce). The forums are round table meetings with a limited number of places available, but these forums do not have regular memberships.
See also: The latest support programmes for SMEs http://wp.me/p3beJt-gB
John Whatmore, November, 2016