Guest Blog: ACOSVO Leadership Exchange changed my life!

This blog is brought to you by Catherine Brown, Head of Further Education Student Support, Scottish Government who details her experience of the ACOSVO Leadership Exchange Programme. 


"ACOSVO Leadership Exchange changed my life!" 


Well, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But it’s fair to say that the fresh perspective I gained from participating in the programme made a big contribution to my decision to change career.


I first applied to take part in the Leadership Exchange in 2017, just after I’d been promoted to Team Leader in the Scottish Government’s Communications department.


The programme seemed like an ideal opportunity to develop my leadership skills, and I was matched with Kaja at ACVO, the third sector interface in Aberdeen.


I was based in Edinburgh, and juggling a demanding and unpredictable job in one of the country’s busiest press offices, so the logistics of our exchange were tricky. We did manage face-to-face meetings, and work shadowed each other for the day, as well as phone calls when meeting up in person wasn’t possible.


On the face of it, working in completely different roles, organisations, cities and sectors, we didn’t seem to have very much in common!


But it was these differences that provided such incredible insight, for example, contrasting leadership styles and workplace cultures and practices. Our conversations about common issues - such as organisational change, influencing senior decision makers and career progression – all brought constructive challenge to established ways of thinking.


As I expected, the Leadership Exchange prompted me to consider how I was doing my job and performing as a leader. What I didn’t expect was that it would lead me to look again at my skills, values and priorities and reassess whether there was more I could do to make a positive difference, both at work and in my personal life.


Since taking part in the Leadership Exchange, I’ve changed career, moving out of media relations into a policy role in the Scottish Government. I’m now a team leader in the college policy team with particular responsibility for further education student support.


My exchange experience also inspired me to volunteer, as a Trustee of the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home. It’s a fantastic organisation that’s been very close to my heart since we adopted our dog, Sadie, from there a few years ago.


Kaja and I have stayed in contact, and it’s great being able to tap into her support and advice when I need it. I’ve signed up for another exchange this year, and I look forward to further new perspectives and ways of working, as well as the personal reflections they will no doubt bring.


And from Kaja's side:

“It was wonderful to take part in the Leadership Exchange programme and I couldn’t have wished for a better exchange partner! Catherine’s insight and support have been invaluable over the last year – having a ‘critical friend’ to bounce ideas off has been really helpful! I would definitely recommend the programme to anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of a different sector or field, expand their network or just simply try something new!”



Learn more about the Leadership Exchange Programme here or contact service coordinator, Phili Wetton on or 0131 510 8940.