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Leadership with impact: new evaluation shows SILA is making a difference

A new evaluation of the Social Impact Leadership Australia (SILA) program, created by the Centre for Social Impact, shows that CEOs are continuing to experience significant benefits from the world-class professional development program specially tailored for our not-for-profit leaders.

The independent evaluator, Nous Group, found the SILA program continues to deliver impactful results across the spectrum including for participating CEOs, at the organisational level and within the broader social purpose ecosystem.

Three-quarters of CEOs who responded to a post-program survey rated their SILA experience as 10 out of 10.

Labelled Australia’s most comprehensive program for for-purpose leaders, the $9.8 million SILA program aims to strengthen the social purpose sector over a five-year period by enhancing the wellbeing and effectiveness of leaders, advancing organisational capability and building a network of system thinkers.

Over the first five years of the program it will offer 120 CEOs from for-purpose organisations a rare, fully-funded opportunity for tailored learning and professional development. It is jointly funded by four of Australia’s major foundations: The Myer Foundation, the Sidney Myer Fund, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, and the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

The most recent group to complete the program was comprised of 24 CEOs based in Victoria and Tasmania.

In their overall assessment of the program, three-quarters of CEOs who responded to a post-program survey rated their SILA experience as 10 out of 10. The evaluation also found participants gave SILA an exceptional net promoter score (NPS) of 85 out of 100. An NPS score above 80 is considered a world-class result. This score is consistent with earlier feedback from the first cohort of CEOs based in NSW and ACT.

Through courses such as SILA, as well as our undergraduate and postgraduate programs, the Centre for Social Impact works to builds capacity in the for-purpose sector, educating current and future for-purpose leaders, with the ultimate goal of igniting positive social change.

Centre for Social Impact acting CEO Lyndsey McKee said the evaluation results were further confirmation of SILA’s vital role in driving the sector forward.

“This is a wonderful endorsement of the value that high quality professional development can bring not just to leaders but to organisations and systems working to drive lasting social impact” she said.

“For-purpose leaders confront a myriad of challenges in today’s landscape, including rising demand for their vital services against a climate of diminished funding. Tackling these obstacles requires new ways of thinking and system transformation, and that’s what the SILA program delivers.

“We’re only at the halfway point of our initial five years of funding, but it is clear that SILA will have an impact for many years to come.”

SILA participants have also shared their thoughts, with 95% of CEOs from Victoria and Tasmania (Cohort 2) saying they can make a difference in their organisation and sector using the skills they learned. The independent survey also revealed 100% of CEOs agreed that their organisation has or is likely to enhance its capability and culture due to their participation in SILA.

“SILA has been a transformational experience for myself and our organisation,” said one of the Cohort 2 CEOs who was interviewed for the evaluation.

“As a result of SILA…I can see now how intrinsically linked professional development is to systems reform, organisational development as well as client experiences.”

“I’m loving the program. [It’s been] life changing for me and can’t wait to see where it continues to take me. Thank you for the opportunity. It is indeed a gift,” explained another CEO.

The next group to benefit is for-purpose CEOs from Queensland and the Northern Territory, with expressions of interest in the SILA program due to open later this month.


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Media release: For-purpose CEOs from WA and SA selected for world-class leadership course

24 for-purpose CEOs across two states have been announced today as participants in the third cohort of Social Impact Leadership Australia (SILA) Program, Australia’s world-class course for social purpose leaders.

Headshots of the 24 for purpose CEOs chosen for the SILA program. A ap of Australia is in the centre of the image.

Delivered by the Centre for Social Impact and designed specifically for CEOs of Australian for-purpose organisations, the fully funded professional development program is valued at over $80,000 per delegate and gives leaders exclusive access to executive coaching, group learning retreats, and a tailored three-month sabbatical.

Now in its third year the ground-breaking 10-month course is being delivered to leaders in South Australia and Western Australia, following overwhelming success across NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, where the course has been completed by almost 50 social purpose CEOs over two years.

Jointly funded by four of Australia’s major foundations – the Myer Foundation, the Sidney Myer Fund, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, and the Paul Ramsay Foundation – the $9.8 million SILA program aims to strengthen the for-purpose sector by enhancing the wellbeing and effectiveness of CEOs, advancing organisational capability, and building a network of systems leaders.

The deep understanding these leaders have of the local context, coupled with their impressive track records as CEOs, positions them as powerful agents of change within their communities,”

Leonard Vary, CEO of The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund. 

“We look forward to supporting a third cohort on their leadership journey as they tackle the unique challenges and opportunities in the Western and South Australian regions.”

SILA – which offers accredited executive education to 24 for-purpose CEOs at no cost every year for five years – was established in 2020 through a collective desire to address the chronic underinvestment in professional development and leadership training in the for-purpose sector.

In an independent evaluation of SILA, the program received a world-class Net Promoter Score of 86 out of 100, with 95% of participants saying they could draw upon what they learnt in the program to make a difference in their organisations and across the sector.

“The 50 CEOs who have been through the program have already had an incredible ripple effect across their organisations, networks and sectors.”

Arminé Nalbandian, CEO of Centre for Social Impact.

 “As Australia’s leader in social impact education, the Centre for Social Impact is proud to be delivering this flagship for-purpose executive leadership program to CEOs in SA and WA,” Arminé said.

The non-profit sector plays a significant economic role in both South Australia and Western Australia, employing more than 200,000 people. Furthermore, research shows that education and training in the for-purpose sector delivers strong cost-benefits and social benefits which flow on to the community. For each dollar spent on capacity building, an average positive return of about six dollars can be attributed to the training and the resulting behaviours, decisions and flow on effects.

Professor Paul Flatau, Director of the Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia, congratulated the WA CEOs selected for the program.

“These leaders represent a broad cross-section of the not-for-profit work conducted by more than 4,000 organisations in Western Australia,” he said. “Taking their skills to the next level and growing the impact of their organisations will have monumental flow-on effects across the state.”

Professor Paul Flatau, Director, Centre for Social Impact UWA

Professor Ian Goodwin-Smith, Director of the Centre for Social Impact at Flinders University, also commended the selected South Australian CEOs.

“The for-purpose sector is crucial to communities, working on the frontline across multiple areas of need,” he said. “I’m delighted to see how the SILA Program can elevate the skills and impact of these exceptional leaders to help them address challenges facing South Australians.”

Professor Goodwin-Smith, Director, Centre for Social Impact, Flinders University.

On being selected as a SILA Cohort Three participant, Andrea Creado, CEO of Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Services in WA, applauds the program for its network-based and tailored approach to leadership development.

“Having started at Ishar as a volunteer over 20 years ago, I understand the impact strong leadership has through an entire organisation. Yet the tight resource constraints felt across our business means, as leaders, we rarely get an opportunity to step away and develop those capabilities, which are unique in our sector,” she said.

“SILA offers that extraordinary chance to pause and develop our voice as leaders, while establishing a strong network across the state we operate in, which undoubtedly will lead to greater impact for the communities we serve.”

Andrea Creado, CEO of Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Services in WA

The SILA Program will be offered to for-purpose CEOs in Queensland and the Northern Territory in 2024, and we are exploring ways to boost First Nations participation, with many First Nations leaders citing their focus on Voice as taking precedence this year.

Congratulations to the SILA Cohort Three participants, including:

South Australia

 Western Australia

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Media Release: Turbo boost for non-profit CEOs thanks to homegrown leadership program

Australia’s most comprehensive program for the for-purpose sector is making an impact, helping fill a historic chasm between the corporate sector and not-for-profits by providing world-class professional development to take these crucial organisations further.

Around $3.6 billion is spent by commercial corporations on employee training and development in Australia each year, while the domestic not-for-profit sector suffers from a profound absence of professional development.

The Social Impact Leadership Australia (SILA) program, created by the Centre for Social Impact, has stepped into this gap by offering 120 CEOs from not-for-profit organisations a rare, fully-funded opportunity for tailored learning and professional development. The program is jointly funded by four of Australia’s major foundations: the Myer Foundation, the Sidney Myer Fund, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, and the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

The program aims to strengthen the entire for-purpose sector by enhancing the wellbeing and effectiveness of leaders, advancing organisational capability and building a network of system thinkers. NFP leaders from South Australia and Western Australia will have their first chance to apply for the program from March 20th.

Offering each CEO one-on-one coaching, peer-to-peer learning and leadership diagnostics, as well as a first-of-its-kind sabbatical, enrolment in the course would normally cost more than $80,000 per delegate. This includes over $30,000 of untied capacity funding provided to each CEO to meet the needs of their organisation.

Evaluation of the $9.6 million program, which has been completed by almost 50 NFP CEOs so far, shows it is achieving strong results, with all participants agreeing their organisation has or is likely to experience tangible improvements due to their participation. The program received a strong net promoter score of 86 out of 100, which is a world class result.[3]

The independent evaluation by the Nous Group also found that 95% of participants said they could draw upon what they learnt in the program to make a difference in their organisations and across the sector, and that CEOs now intended to invest in their teams’ leadership and professional development.

The Centre for Social Impact CEO, Arminé Nalbandian, said the program was taking leadership to the next level, ultimately delivering greater social impact across the non-profit sector. 

“We can’t tackle Australia’s complex social problems in siloes,” she said. “This program unites social impact leaders, arming them with the tools to deliver meaningful social change beyond the parameters of their own organisation.”  

Women’s Community Shelters CEO Annabelle Daniel, who recently graduated from the SILA program, said the experience had broadened her leadership skills but was also more than ‘just a development program’, as she stayed in touch with fellow CEOs and received ongoing coaching.

“Now I have new ways of thinking and skills to deploy in supporting some of the 56,000 Australian women who are currently experiencing homelessness every single night,” Ms Daniel said. “Everything was highly relevant to our work and challenges.

“SILA fills a really unique space. This program is a rare chance for leaders in our sector to learn new skills so we can help our organisations achieve more and have greater impact across Australia. Building a strong network of peers and having that ongoing ‘brains trust’ to tap into is so valuable, as we all face similar challenges.”

Delivered by the Centre for Social Impact, a national collaboration of four of Australia’s leading universities, the SILA program is fully supported by major philanthropic foundations. Their generous contributions mean every year for five years, 24 for-purpose CEOs from around Australia will be selected for an accredited 10-month executive education course at no cost.

Ms Nalbandian said the comprehensive development program is also a shining example of how Australia’s unique social impact landscape was best supported by locally-based education providers.

“As a homegrown professional development program, but at a world-class level, this work is building an important legacy. The impact of this program will be felt for years as we foster an environment where like-minded, local leaders can lean on each other and benefit from peer-to-peer learning that ultimately enriches and benefits the entire system.”

Applications for leaders based in WA and SA open on March 20, 2023.  

Media enquiries:
Pia Akerman 0412346746

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The SILA Sabbatical

Each CEO participant will undertake a 3-month sabbatical. During this sabbatical period, CEOs are asked to completely disengage from their organisations and take a period of leave.

The organisation will commit to the CEO continuing to be paid during their period of leave, on top of their usual annual leave entitlements, and the identified Step-Up Leader from the organisation will step-up into the CEO role.

The organisational capacity funding may be put towards some of these costs, such as additional duties pay for the Step-Up Leader or backfilling a position.

SILA’s 3-month sabbatical will provide CEOs with dedicated time and space away from their organisation, enabling them to deeply reflect on, discuss and apply learnings from the SILA Program, and to also focus on personal and professional issues of importance to them.

Sabbatical periods have been proven to have several benefits for organisations and their CEOs. Research has shown that there are many demonstrated individual benefits of participating in a sabbatical, including rejuvenation and personal renewal, reduced burnout and stress, improved wellbeing, increased capacity, creativity and innovation, and gains in knowledge from personal and professional development.

Sabbaticals also offer important benefits for organisations too, and research indicates they help to: improve productivity, morale, governance, recruitment and retention, reduce costs and promote leadership distribution, and create enduring positive changes in infrastructure and systems – which are put in place to manage the CEOs planned absence – leading to greater time and capacity on an ongoing basis for addressing strategic issues.

SILA’s 3-month sabbatical will provide CEOs with dedicated time and space away from their organisation, enabling them to deeply reflect on, discuss and apply learnings from the SILA Program, and to also focus on personal and professional issues of importance to them.

The sabbatical is tailored to the needs of each CEO through the leadership and wellbeing assessments alongside the executive coaching program, and may incorporate, for example, self-directed learning, work on a small personal or strategic project, a period of travel, and focus on their own health and wellbeing.

The sabbatical period will also allow the Step-Up Leader to access personalised support and acquire new skills that will enhance their leadership capabilities, and build greater resilience within the organisation.