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From my experience of leadership across sectors I know that for people issues so much can be learnt and shared from different contexts. In seeking to ensure that action for social good has the best people possible we have some significant advantages as well as hurdles to overcome.

Many people of all generations want to contribute to social impact somehow and amongst Milliennials this drive is particularly strong. So we start with the great advantage of shared purpose and passion for the cause with our employees and our vital volunteer workforce. What we have to add to that is rigour and focus to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in what we do with an ever stronger discipline to demonstrate to ourselves and others the outcomes and impact of what we achieve.

Attract and Develop a Skilled Workforce for Social Good

While our workforce tends to have a high level of educational achievement on entry too often we underemploy them, especially graduates who may take any role just to be able to get started. Our progression routes into the social sector and onwards are poorly developed and not shared. Some of the bigger organisations such as national charities in the UK and international organisations have learnt to tackle this and ensure, like successful organisations in any sector, that their focus is on recruiting people with potential and robustly developing them. This means a considered programme of investment led by effective people leaders and managers.

Ask any venture capitalist what is critical to a new business investment and rigour and capability in leadership and management will be high up the list. On the contrary too many funders for social good appear to believe that this can happen without them contributing to this investment. There are so many low cost ways this could be done too, including volunteer mentors, pro bono access to programmes being run elsewhere and sharing expertise with short-term secondments in and out of the social sector.

We need good structured traineeships, apprenticeships and graduate recruitment followed by a clear understanding of possible routes ahead. I have always found that if you grow your own people, knowing that inevitably many at some point will have to move elsewhere for wider or more senior experience than one organisation can provide, you will always attract a strong pool of new applicants.

But as everywhere at the heart of this is the focus on challenging people to also continuously develop themselves by being self-aware, reflective, open to feedback and challenge, embracing diversity and affirming each other. Curiosity and openness to a wider context and connections is key. So much learning can come from peer networks and the immense digital resources increasingly available. Just some simple signposting of opportunities and recognition of those that take them up could make all the difference.

Of course all this should apply to the volunteer workforce too. Volunteers are critical but they are not free. They need proper recruitment, induction, development, support and recognition. If we do this well it can provide a strong route to employability or change of life direction, including a further way of recruiting our own committed employees.

People are at the heart of action for social good.

Dame Mary Marsh was a speaker at the 2017 Philanthropreneurship Forum.