Working in collaboration with organisations has offered Koru valuable opportunities to contribute to socially desirable goals. For example, Hilary was co-developer and lead mentor for ADVANCE, a pioneering mentoring programme in the voluntary sector.
Volunteering is about more than stuffing envelopes...
Following the merger of the two charities, Carers Trust, together with a network of local charities, became the United Kingdom’s largest charitable organisation specifically concerned with addressing the needs of carers.
Like all organisations delivering much needed services in social care, the new charity faced increasingly daunting challenges. In response, the organisation invited Hilary Samson-Barry to work with them to develop ADVANCE, an innovative mentoring programme geared to give the chief executives of local charities the support needed to steer their organisations and services into the future.
Mentors, recruited on a voluntary basis, were senior leaders from the commercial, public, private and not-for-profit sectors who brought a track record of achieving service growth through dynamic leadership, inspiring confidence in the people who work with them, and spearheading development through strategic thinking and analysis.
Over three and a half intensive years, more than 100 chief executives were mentored, individually and in groups, and more than 40 mentors were recruited, going on to work together in a vibrant development programme designed and led by Hilary.
...and successful mentoring is about mutual benefit
There is a widespread assumption that mentoring is most appropriate and effective when a more experienced senior person works with a younger person coming up the ranks. Supported by independent research, this programme has shown that the potential for mentoring as a development activity may be both wider and deeper than has been previously thought.
The leadership track record and calibre of the mentor team meant that they were considered highly credible by the chief executives with whom they worked. This perception contributed significantly to the development of trusting and creative relationships. Brought together in a learning-focused environment, mentors and mentees engaged with enthusiasm in finding ways of swimming in the treacherous waters lapping round health and social care following the downturn in public spending.
The benefits? The chief executives were enabled to further develop their leadership skills, empowering them to grapple with the complexity of rapidly changing contexts, locally as well as nationally, in order to deliver and grow services that focus on the best outcomes for carers and those they care for.
For their part, the mentors had the considerable satisfaction of volunteering in ways that enabled them to continue their own learning as well as contribute their skills to a charitable cause they cared about.
Contribution of the ADVANCE lead mentor
Rosemary Hawkins, Head of Programmes and Quality Assurance at Carers Trust and known throughout the organisation as the ‘mother’ of ADVANCE, commented on Hilary’s involvement as lead mentor.
‘We knew that we needed someone to protect the confidentiality of the process. And more – we needed someone who could hold that high level (and potentially intimidating) group together and hold the line on the principles and values of the programme, and allow mentors to flex and grow as the programme itself flexed and grew.’
‘From her own experience, Hilary well understood the world we inhabited. From her time in government, she understood context; from experience in the voluntary sector, she brought insights into challenges facing national organisations, including relationships with networks.’
‘Then there was her great ability to hear what’s being said and connect it with lots of other threads that might be going on in the programme and other conversations she’s been having. So what’s reflected back had even more value – the antithesis of silo working. Everything connected and joined up. That made the power of the programme even greater and helped people have confidence in it.’
The mentors themselves were very clear about the contribution of the lead mentor.
‘To work with senior people giving their time voluntarily, and with no vested interest – quite a challenge! But she motivates and encourages in such a way that you get as much as you give.’
LC, University Professor and former Pro-Vice-Chancellor
‘Her disciplined thinking helps the mentors not adopt roles by default, feeling compelled to help in any way they can. She stops people from going places they didn’t intend to. She helps create discipline by thinking through, talking through, making sure everyone is clear.’
NS, Senior Executive, National Health Service
‘Hilary is an outstanding practitioner. Her thoroughness and experience provide valuable structure and clarity for any group she works with. She enables new understanding to grow, offers new strategies and new skills and allows them to become fully assimilated. Her expertise and experience are evident at all times, as are her infectious enthusiasm and energy, both of which are deployed in ways that support and encourage those she is working with. You learn a lot with Hilary and importantly, can enjoy the process.’
HS, ex-Managing Director, Non-Executive Director