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Accessing Leadership: supporting disabled leaders and future leaders in the voluntary sector – Part one: Scoping Review

5. What more do we need to know and do?

It is clear from this review that we need better data on disabled people who work across the whole voluntary sector. There is limited data from national data sets, and charities are not routinely reporting on their own practice.

We also need to know more about disabled people’s experience of working in the voluntary sector. As discussed, there are a number of studies that look at the experience in the private sector, but far less in charities and other voluntary organisations. We need to understand not just how disabled people find jobs and enter work, but whether they are supported properly, whether they are able to stay in their  jobs and their organisations for as long as they would like, and whether they are able to access opportunities to develop their skills and progress in their careers. We need to know what works and what doesn’t in charities and voluntary organisations of all types, and we need champions to take good practice forward.

We also need to understand the diversity of experience within the disabled voluntary sector workforce. Different people with different conditions or disabilities will find different types of support useful. Those who become disabled later in life are likely to have a different experience to those who were born with their condition. The experience of disabled women may be different to that of disabled men, and from disabled trans or nonbinary people. Other intersections between disability and race, sexuality and class need to be understood, and support needs to be tailored and effective for people across these groups.

Finally, we need to know more about, and hear from, current disabled leaders across the voluntary sector. We need to understand what has helped and hindered them in developing their leadership careers, what lessons they would pass on to future and potential leaders, and what needs to change in the sector.

Next steps for this project

This review is only one part of our project looking at disabled leaders and future leaders in the voluntary sector. Working with ACEVO, which initiated and funded the project, we are hoping to better understand the shape and nature of the disabled voluntary sector workforce, and to start to understand some of the challenges and success factors disabled people encounter when developing their careers in this sector. The next stage is about listening to disabled leaders and future leaders. We have already begun interviewing current leaders and learning from their career journeys.

The project itself is only one early step in a longer journey to making the voluntary sector more accessible to disabled people and more supportive of their needs. In return, of course, the sector will get to benefit from the talent, skills and experience of people who are passionate about their work.

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