Leadership Exchange Programme Celebrates 200 Participants

ACOSVO is excited that this month the Leadership Exchange Programme has passed the 100 matches mark, which means that 200 leaders from across Scotland’s public services have been matched for this innovative peer learning initiative. Development Officer Emily Martin has developed and managed the programme over the past 18 months, and is now moving on to pastures new. Read below how Emily looks back on the programme’s development since its inception and gives an update on what’s new...


2011: The Challenge

When the Christie Commission published its final report in 2011, the outlook for our public services was rather grim: unless Scotland embraced sustained reform, public services would buckle under the double-strain of increased demand and constrained public spending. One of the commission’s key recommendations was that service providers should become much more collaborative and integrated, in order to avoid duplications and most importantly to make sure all our eyes are on the common goal: to deliver better outcomes for the people in Scotland.

A Creative Idea

Pat Armstrong, Chief Executive of ACOSVO, had just completed an international exchange with another third sector leader in Serbia, and felt inspired to find a creative way to help one of Christie’s key recommendations become reality back at home in Scotland. The question was: why not offer a matching service to allow leaders from different sectors and locations to come together for knowledge exchange, good practice sharing, and peer support? Thus becoming a conduit into each other’s sectors. After all, it would only be through these relationships, and the resulting mutual understanding, that a more collaborative culture and ability to work in partnership would become the new normal.

5 Years Later: A Thriving Programme

From the spark of an idea, the Leadership Exchange Programme has grown year on year and now works with a network of more than 10 committed partner organisations who promote and support the programme in their sectors across the country. The programme also sits alongside other innovative initiatives within the Workforce Scotland partnership. More than 200 participants from executive, senior, and middle management level from a range of public, third, and private sector organisations have participated.


Leadership Exchange partners Kathleen McLoughlin (Improvement Service) and Alison Turnbull (Museums & Galleries Scotland)

We have captured some of their stories in case studies, and you can also hear leaders explain the process and what they got out of it in this video.

One development from 2015-16 we are particularly proud of is a new partnership with Queen Margaret University (QMU). Senior Lecturer Dr Ian Elliott completed an exchange with ACOSVO’s Andy Dey, Operations and Development Manager, and found the experience highly enlightening – as you can read in Ian’s blog post. In partnership with ACOSVO, Ian has now embedded the Leadership Exchange Programme as an experiential learning module in QMU’s innovative new Master of Public Administration (you can read more and apply for the MPA here).


A group discussion at a Leadership Exchange event with Police Scotland



Another area we focused on last year, and which can benefit from Leadership Exchange, is health and social care. The flexible, time and cost effective programme can be instrumental to foster understanding of the counterpart’s organisation and to share learning – all things which will be crucial to make the ambitious ‘mega reform’ of health and social care integration a success. Dr Anne Hendry, National Clinical Lead for Integrated Care at the Scottish Government and Hilda Campbell, CEO of health charity COPE Scotland connected through the programme and you can hear them discuss the benefits in this video interview. For me, seeing Anne and Hilda describe what they got out of the exchange as leaders, and the co-operations which have sprung from it, is a great reward for a busy 18 months of development!

Last but not least, we are thrilled that we have included leaders from the private sector in the exchange programme, with leaders from the RBS, Shell, Standard Life, and Zurich Insurance matched in exchanges. To come full circle, Pat Armstrong herself completed a second exchange last year and ventured out to the RBS headquarters in Gogarburn for an exchange with Laura Chow, Senior Community Programmes Manager, Sustainability. You can read Pat’s story here and take a perspective from the private sector in Laura’s blog post here.

Laura Chow (RBS) and Pat Armstrong (ACOSVO)


After 18 busy and rewarding months with ACOSVO I am now moving on to a new role. I immensely enjoyed working with the team at ACOSVO and our partners across Scotland’s public, third, and private sector, and of course with the leaders participating in the Leadership Exchange Programme.

If you are interested in experiencing a Leadership Exchange you can apply directly on our website, by emailing office@acosvo.org.uk or by calling 0131 243 2755.