Why apply for an ACEVO fellowship? Reflections from a previous winner

John Schless, CEO of Greenwich Students’ Union and previous winner of an ACEVO fellowship, discusses his experience of winning

I was nominated for the ACEVO fellowship last year by my chair, Dr Elizabeth Jones. I have been CEO at Greenwich Students’ Union (GSU) since April 2016 and this is my first CEO position. The fellowship recognises positive leadership in the charity and social enterprise sector and those leaders who go above and beyond for their organisation. It was an honour to receive the ACEVO fellowship and be recognised not only by my peers across the third sector but also by my chair.

My chair shared my nomination after I found out I had been awarded the fellowship. She had always supported my ACEVO membership and had benefited from governance training for chairs led by the Association of Chairs and ACEVO. She wanted to share the hard work I had been doing to develop the Big Plan, salary benchmarking and policy development at GSU as well as the service turn-around I had been undertaking (and am still undertaking). Together we have been able to celebrate my award.

The personal recognition and development has been wonderful. I am also delighted that the student union sector has been recognised. We are thriving, complicated charity enterprises with fascinating governance arrangements that put our beneficiaries right at the heat of decision making.

The fellowship has helped build my credibility and confidence with my SU peers but also with my university partner and major donor, the University of Greenwich. The Vice Chancellor has personally congratulated me on my success and credited the benefit the fellowship has for the University of Greenwich as a whole.

The Leadership Trust programme was one of the most mentally and physically challenging development experiences I have had to date. It was unprecedented to have a week to focus solely on how I can be the best I can be and translate this to my leadership. I have used the techniques learned to help better develop my student leaders, and I truly value the opportunity this week gave me.

ACEVO plays a vital role for CEOs and it is important we are recognised for the roles we play in society, whether that’s delivering services, nurturing future leaders, shaping policy, changing hearts and minds or developing communities. CEOs in the charity and social sectors are truly exceptional people and I greatly value being a recognised leader in our wonderful sector.

We are proud to be launching ACEVO fellowships for the seventh year, in partnership with the Leadership Trust Foundation. Designed to recognise the achievements and hard work of civil society leaders, the ACEVO fellowships reward winners by investing in their development. The one year programme comprises: a free place at one of the Leadership Trust’s five day residential courses, a free ACEVO membership, a free ticket to the ACEVO annual conference,  a mentor, a personal leadership development plan and a pack of leadership publications. The fellowships are open to current CEOs, directors or senior leaders of any charity, social enterprise or not for profit organisation.

To be considered for the award, suitable candidates must be nominated by a current CEO, director, SMT member or chair of a charity, social enterprise or not for profit organisation. Either the nominator or the nominee must be an ACEVO member. The judges will be looking for those emerging and inspirational leaders who have demonstrated an active approach to their own development and the development of the organisation.

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