About the Program

“… it’s hard to advance the not-for-profit sector because we just never get the time to consolidate learning and then integrate into practice, and then share it.”

Not-for-profit leader interviewed in 2018-2019

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Disruptive and innovative in concept, the Social Impact Leadership Australia program (SILA) focuses on leadership development and capacity building for CEOs of for-purpose organisations. Designed by leaders in social impact education, and drawing upon hundreds of hours of interviews with CEOs, the program will be delivered annually for five years with a new cohort of leaders commencing each year.

Grounded in Research

The SILA program was created out of an identified need on the back of a research report “Leadership for Purpose: Investing in NFP Leadership and Capacity Development in Australia“. The report was produced by the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW Sydney.


SILA is an evidence-based program specifically developed to meet the needs of Australian CEOs and build the capacity of their organisations directly and indirectly. SILA aims to disrupt common ideas of leadership to create greater social impact across Australia.

Crucially, the SILA program builds leadership cultures and capacity within the wider ecosystem of for-purpose organisations, rather than just individual leaders.

This is achieved by focusing on three intersecting pillars:

  • individuals
  • organisations
  • the social purpose ecosystem

The SILA program aims to improve economic, social, cultural, and environmental outcomes for individuals, the organisation and the sector within Australia. One third of participants will be selected from organisations that work in regional and rural areas.


A core component of SILA is a three-month tailored sabbatical. During this sabbatical period, participating CEOs are asked to completely disengage from their organisations and take a period of leave. The CEO continues to be paid during the period of leave, and through the capacity funding available, an identified leader from the organisation (the Step-Up Leader) will step-up to the CEO role.

Sabbatical periods have been proven to have several benefits for the organisation and the CEO. The time away will enable the CEO to reflect on, discuss and apply learnings from the program to date. The sabbatical is tailored to the needs of each CEO through the leadership and wellbeing assessments alongside the executive coaching program. The sabbatical period will also provide the opportunity for the Step-Up Leader to access support and skill acquisition that will not only develop individual capability building but also build capacity for the organisation.

Step-Up Leader

The Step-Up Leader is identified by the CEO as someone who will act as CEO during the three multi-day retreats and the three-month sabbatical period, supporting the CEO to participate in SILA and build the capacity of the organisation. The Step-Up Leader will be supported throughout the program with executive coaching and personalised leadership assessments.

“Most of them (in the sector) are living so day-by-day that I think they’re all under investing in their strategic reflection… (my sabbatical was) one of the richest strategic thinking times I’ve had in my entire career. I had the space, all the day-to-day pressure was gone for a big period of time, and I could really get in-depth on the strategic issues.”

Not-for-profit leader, interviewed in 2018-2019