Helping others to make the biggest impact: Jane Slowey memorial membership programme

ACEVO is facilitating the Jane Slowey memorial membership programme in memory of Jane Slowey. Here, Rosie Ferguson, chief executive of Gingerbread, reflects on Jane’s legacy and explains why this programme is so important.

Being a charity chief executive in the current environment isn’t always easy. Of course, we have the privilege and opportunity to make an impact on a mission we are passionate about, and to get paid well in the process – which is certainly something to be grateful for. But the roles can be incredibly challenging, and often lonely. In my experience, we’re generally doing the best we can in an often harsh external context, to deliver results on impact and financial bottom line with never quite enough resource or staff capacity to deliver our ambition.

I was lucky when I took on my first chief executive role to be welcomed into an incredible peer group of youth sector CEOs. They nurtured me individually and collectively over breakfasts and beer.

One of these people was Jane Slowey, then chief executive of the Foyer Federation. She and I used to meet for Turkish food in a café between our offices and talk through the latest challenge or opportunity. She built my confidence in the decisions I was making. She pushed me to think bigger and bolder about what London Youth could achieve. She inspired me to always focus on the ultimate change, not just the immediate problem in front of me that day. She just told me I was doing okay – and that there is no magic formula that I was supposed to be following, encouraging me to be myself in leadership. She also checked in on what I was doing outside of work, and role modelled with her talk of her children and her choir trips how important it is to be a whole person and not just a job title.

When the news of Jane’s death spread across social media, it was incredible to see the number of tweets, posts and messages from other women in leadership roles in the sector who had similar experiences of Jane. I have no idea how she found the time over the years; but somehow she made space through her career to inspire and nurture hundreds of aspiring and developing female leaders. Wow.

This is why a number of us who knew Jane have been working with ACEVO to develop the Jane Slowey memorial membership programme and provide cohorts of eight women leaders with the critical elements of what Jane offered to so many:

  • A mentor to help build confidence in themselves and the decisions they make
  • A peer group to celebrate, challenge and console leaders through their journey

It is especially important to us that this programme reaches women leaders who don’t necessarily have existing support networks around them, or who face additional barriers to participating in other leadership development opportunities. That’s why we’ll be prioritising applications from women from black or minority ethnic backgrounds or those with a disability.

We’re currently aiming to reach £10,000 in donations to fund the programme for two years, and are delighted that Big Lottery Fund are willing to match fund what we raise to enable the programme to run for four years, weaving Jane’s legacy on women leaders in the sector way beyond those who met her.

I feel very lucky to have known Jane. If this programme can have even a fraction of the impact on leaders that Jane has had – and as a result on the beneficiaries that they serve, then I know she would be very proud.

Applications for the Jane Slowey memorial membership programme are open until 30 November 2018. To be considered for the programme please send a completed application form, your cv and a cover letter (no more than 500 words) explaining why you would like to receive a Jane Slowey memorial membership, with a focus on how you envisage this programme helping you to meet your personal and professional goals or develop new skills which could strengthen your impact as a leader, to natalie.westerman@acevo.org.uk. Please note all applicants must be female, and priority will be given to women under 45, those from BAME backgrounds and/or women with a disability. Find out more.

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