The Management Centre
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Wildlife Trusts

Case Study: Developing entrepreneurial talent with the Wildlife Trusts

Throughout the UK, there’s a complex array of pressures affecting wildlife – loss of natural habitats, deregulation, major infrastructure projects, a lack of appreciation of nature’s value to society, wildlife crime. All threaten our wildlife and wild places and affect everyone’s wellbeing. The Wildlife Trusts work in local communities with a wide range of different people, including landowners, businesses and local fishing industries. Where possible they try to build consensus and find pragmatic solutions to ensure nature’s recovery.

There are 47 independent, autonomous Wildlife Trusts. They are supported at the centre by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) which drives strategic development and shares resources, skills and knowledge.

The challenge

In 2011 the RSTW spotted an opportunity to develop entrepreneurial talent across the movement. They wanted to provide support to staff from each Trust to build their skills, release the talents of others and drive sustainable change. To this end Patience Thody, Director of Operations at RSWT, drafted a Business Skills Programme consisting of eight modules, each two-three months apart. In order to help finance this significant investment in staff, RSWT secured funding from the Tubney Trust. The CEO of each Wildlife Trust was then asked to select participants who displayed a passion and ability to inspire, influence and support the people around them.

=mc brief

Following the successful bid to Tubney, Patience contacted =mc to help with the delivery. We were asked to design and deliver three skills-based modules:

  • Emotional Intelligence: enabling participants to boost their own performance and develop collaborative win-win relationships with a wide range of external stakeholders.
  • Business Acumen: a bespoke training to help participants understand and analyse the strategic and financial position of their Trust, to make better strategic decisions, and to support the financial health of their organisation in their work.
  • Influential Fundraiser: promoting the idea that everyone can be a fundraising advocate for their Trust, we designed this day to give participants the skills and confidence to discuss with potential donors how they could provide support.

What we did

We worked with the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts and with the consultant delivering the other modules to ensure the modules keyed into – and built on – each other and used similar language.

The original plan was to roll out the programme to 10 – eventually overlapping – cohorts of 10-15 people over four years. Due to demand, this was later increased to 12 cohorts.

The pilot cohort launched in May 2012 and this group finished their last module in November 2013. Subsequent cohorts then launched every few months until Cohort 12 completed the programme on September 2016.

During the programme, participants identified and delivered a project to support their Trust. They also arranged and undertook a secondment to learn new approaches from others in the Trust movement, from charities in other sectors or from other environmental agencies. At the beginning of each module participants shared their progress on these initiatives and what they had learnt.

Each Trust took it in turn to host the training. Visiting participants took the opportunity to learn how the host Trust delivered their work and engaged with their local communities.

Result

At the end of the programme we ran two seminars inviting the participants to share how the programme had impacted them personally, their work and their Trust.

They reported that they are now being more strategic, prioritising their work more effectively and achieving greater results:

“I am working more strategically and raising the standards of our delivery. I am liaising with other Trusts to share approaches and save us time. I have also learnt to delegate more, to trust staff more, and empower them.”

They are also more positive in their engagement with others, building trust and collaborative win-win relationships both internally and externally. 

“A number of people in my Trust have attended the programme and there are now subtle changes across the whole Trust. There are better strategies in place, teams are being better led, and we are being more influential.”

Participants report their work is increasingly professional and sustainable, and feel they are now both less reactive in their approach, and their stress has reduced. One of the most positive benefits is the confidence they now have to create change that supports people, nature and their Trusts.

There were also some unexpected results. Some participants decided to roll out a condensed version of the training to others in their Trust. Many have been promoted to new roles within the Trust movement. Some have even become a CEO.

“During the programme I become a Director, and taking the step from being operational to strategic was difficult. The programme gave me confidence to do this and the skills to deal with the issues we face.”

What’s next?

In 2017 the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts launched their Talent and Skills Programme, which provides a variety of training modules, this time available to all staff in the 47 Trusts. This programme is part of their Development Strategy for 2017-2022.

=mc is now delivering our Emotional Intelligence, Business Acumen and Influential Fundraiser courses as part of this.

“The Wildlife Trusts approach everything we do with courage and integrity. We aim to establish common cause with others, to develop trusting relationships and build lasting partnerships based on mutual respect and shared responsibility. Our Talent and Skills programme gives people the skills and confidence they need to do this.
We are delighted to continue our work with The Management Centre to support our staff through these bespoke training courses.
The benefit of the modules is not only the excellent personal development opportunities but also the organisational benefits that arise from networking and sharing ideas across the Trusts. Attendees are encouraged to keep in touch with each other and share their thoughts, ideas and progress through our new WildNet intranet platform.”
Patience Thody, Operations Director, Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts

The Trusts know that to succeed in their mission they must inspire, empower and motivate society to value, protect and connect with their natural environment. Trust staff are crucial in achieving this aim. This Talent and Skills Programme will continue to develop talented, knowledgeable and skilful people who through their passion and commitment can help people and their local communities to thrive.

For more information

If you need a tailored training programme to meet the needs of your staff, we would be very happy to work closely with you to design a bespoke solution and match the outcomes you want. Visit the tailored training solutions web page for more info.

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlotte Scott

Charlotte specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlotte worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc six years ago, she developed and delivered organisational...

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