As he prepares to step down from his role, our chief executive Stephen Barnett reflects on one of the highlights of his five-year journey with Euclid Network.
Forget Blockchain developer, data analyst and AI programmer, the profession of the future is an old one reinvented: the entrepreneurial third sector leader.
X, Y and Z
When I arrived at Euclid Network, we were marketing ourselves as a network of third sector leaders but our activities had little to do with that. An organisation whose founding mission was about X was mainly doing Y and Z. My job as a new CEO was to get it back on mission X without dropping the good bits of Y and Z that could make up a coherent whole and pay the bills for a while.
In 2014, we gathered a group of organisations in London, which had the right kind of profile to work with us on third sector leadership. Some were old friends, others likely new ones. We hatched a plan and wrote an application for an Erasmus Plus project on third sector leadership. It was a cold call, if you like. We had no networks or visibility with the donor. But we were a committed group and believed in the quality of our proposal.
It was rejected. It was a tough defeat. We had tried to fit ‘third sector leadership’ into a funder’s box that was mainly focused on vocational education of young people and disadvantaged adults.
We got feedback on the proposal so we re-designed it and moved closer to the box that the funder had set up as our target. We designed the project around the creation of a new European profession the entrepreneurial third sector leader, that was not only needed for social justice reasons but also had job creation potential.
While others in our leadership group re-wrote the proposal, I set about networking with key people in the funding agency, going to their events, getting advice from others who had been successful, learning the language and feeding in what I had picked up into the proposal design.
We submitted the re-designed proposal in 2016 and 4 months later we got it approved. I remember I got that email after returning from a summer lunch with the team and our President. Who knows what did the trick, but I was thrilled and so was our project group.
Now, two years into the project, I am now digesting our results and we are in the procees testing our ‘EU3Leader’ framework of 13 competences and associated training materials on real people running third sector organisations in 6 countries.
EU3Leader: Inside out
Bird’s eye view
Leadership is not systematically valued either inside the third sector nor by its funders or partners – opportunities for development in much of Europe are limited, so there is plenty of space for our work.
EU-level third sector action is mainly focused on advocacy and mutual learning around key policy areas like health, disability or the environment, though there are growing efforts to protect the civic space as a whole – whilst our efforts focus on leadership.
The concept and practice of social enterprise is very much bound up in the third sector in most countries and we see entrepreneurship and leadership as closely connected.
We’ve outlined as our 13 leadership competences, which could also be seen as competences for social investment readiness, as was brought home to me at micro level when I recently observed a social investment committee in London.
At the heart of it all
We say that commitment is the competence at the heart of leadership in our sector – leaders grow that commitment in themselves, in their teams but also more widely in members, funders and policy-makers. That’s no mere theory. For example, I’ve been inspired by the exceptional commitment of leaders of women’s rights NGOs with whom we’ve worked in recent projects. They are gutsy and compassionate in a context of significant under-funding and many stories of personal trauma.
I’ll soon be looking in from the outside at how Euclid Network and our members take this initiative forward. As I look to the future, I’m working on becoming an entrepreneurial third sector leader myself.
This blog originally appeared on Stephen’s LinkedIn profile.
Our EU3Leader project aims to strengthen leadership and entrepreneurship capacities so that third sector organisations are better able to drive positive change.
Read up on the 13 competences our next generation of leaders will need, and why (PDF)
“Leadership is not systematically valued either inside the third sector nor by its funders or partners”
“Commitment is at the heart of leadership in our sector… I’ve been inspired by the exceptional commitment of leaders of women’s rights NGOs with whom we’ve worked. They are gutsy and compassionate in a context of significant under-funding and many stories of personal trauma.”
To find out more about EU3Leader, get in touch with Marta.