Home-Start Camden is a local charity dedicated to helping families with young children living in the London Borough of Camden. It is part of a network of more than 300 such organisations around the UK.
In 2013, Cathy Carpenter, Director of Home Start Camden, attended one of our accredited training course in Operational and Strategic Management. Here Cathy talks about how the course helped her coach her trustees to take a more strategic role in the organisation resulting in an effective strategic plan for the organisation.
Well, I’m the manager here at Home Start, which is a local Camden charity for families who need help when their children are under the age of five. We help them by matching them with a trained volunteer who is a parent and they will support them a half day a week for as long as they need help. It will usually be that they are feeling isolated and are struggling with their parenting, but sometimes parents could be facing overcrowding, poverty, multiple births, isolation through not having any family around. Sometimes the second parent is working long hours so they feel like a lone parent. It could be post-natal depression or parental disability. So any number of reasons, and sometimes, a combination of all of them or some of them.
Q. What is your experience of VAC?
I’ve been involved in the voluntary sector for fifteen years, the last two in Camden. VAC I got to know when I first came here and they were offering training courses. They hosted the Camden Safeguarding training. I’ve had management training years ago. I thought I needed a top up so when I saw the accredited Operational and Strategic Management course I thought it was a good thing to do. It was one day a week over two terms so it went for six months. The course cost £650 but VAC were subsidising it by 50%.
Q. Why did you want to do this course?
I suppose it’s a lot about keeping current and that leadership needs a skills base that is formalised. That gives you more confidence to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It doesn’t necessarily give you new information but it validates information or behaviours that you’re already doing. And you understand a bit more so you can unpick your approach.
Q. What did you think of the course?
I thought it was an excellent course. It covered an awful lot. It was two modules covering strategic and operational management. It covered a lot of things like budgeting, leadership styles, managing change, structural management, how an organisation responds to legal requirements, limited company rules, that sort of thing. It covered whether to go down the charity route or the social enterprise route.
Q.What sort of impact has the course had on your work with Home Start Camden?
It sharpened my skills base and confidence levels overall, and that feeds through to all the work I do, not just budgeting. It also helped with my personal confidence with my ability as a manager and it has consolidated some of my knowledge.
Q. What about the strategic element?
The trustees here had taken on a lot of the operational management, so when I took the VAC course it made me much more aware of what’s operational and what’s strategic. Previously the trustees were undertaking some operational duties, which I discovered is not really their role. So after the training I was able to coach them back up to providing leadership at the strategic level which left me to focus on operation – and we’ve ended up with a strategic plan. We were getting towards it before I took the course but since then it’s come to fruition.
To find out more about the work of Home Start Camden please visit their website at www.homestartcamden.org.