Third and Private Sector Exchange: What We Can Learn

Laura Chow, Senior Community Programmes Manager at RBS shares her perspective of the Leadership Exchange, an exchange programme that pairs leaders from across sectors to improve leadership capacity between peers…


What a great programme! I wonder whether my personal growth and enjoyment of this exchange is down to spending time with Pat Armstrong, Chief Officer of ACOSVO, or about my renewed respect for the third sector. I think both.

I work in the Community Programmes team at RBS and was looking for an opportunity for cross-sector knowledge sharing which could give me insight into the different culture, constraints and opportunities of the third sector, which sends us requests for support every day.

The exchange has given me new understanding of the complexity of delivering the programmes we fund for the sector, which is lower on resource but becoming increasingly regulated. The current review of self-regulation of fundraising is one such example of scrutiny of the sector. The review received sufficient evidence to show that the current approach to fundraising in the third sector was not fit for purpose. As Lord Hodgson said, the charity sector is only as strong as its weakest link and the challenges in trust in the third sector remind me of the journey we face in banking as RBS strives to be number one for Trust, Customer Service and Advocacy by 2020. 

There are many parallels between Pat's work and mine. Most notable is the amount of influencing we do with stakeholders and how much we connect people, research and ideas. We both spend a lot of time planning, attending events and conferences, and managing enquiries. This month we attended the RBS Chairman's Reception and spent some time planning for the RBS charity campaigns BBC Children in Need and #GivingTuesday.

But the ACOSVO Annual Conference had to be my highlight as I met some of the best leaders in the third sector. The conference was called 'Creative Leadership: Innovate! Integrate! Inspire!' and it did just that. One of the sessions was about intrapreneurship and the value of taking a problem and working with a team from a completely difference sector to solve it. It really brought home to me how much the private sector can help the third sector and vice versa.

I hope many more people sign up to the Leadership Exchange. Happy to share more of my experience if corporate leaders want to understand more.