FAQs and Glossary

Please see below for our Frequently Asked Questions and a glossary of commonly used terms. If you can’t find the answer to your question please email us with your query and a member of the SILA team will be in touch, sila@unsw.edu.au.


When will the SILA Program be held in my state/territory?

The SILA Program will be rolled out until 2026, across Australia. See the program timeline here.

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What happens if COVID-19 restrictions impact my ability to participate?

SILA is incorporating the necessary considerations when planning for possible COVID-19 impacts on the delivery of the program. If COVID-19 poses significant risks to program delivery, the delivery mechanism may be changed, such as to online workshops, and learning circles, in consideration to government advice and restrictions.

Am I eligible for this program if my organisation only runs programs internationally?

Yes, SILA strives to recruit a cohort of CEOs whose organisations work across a spread of geographic regions.

How much does the program cost? Will my organisation have to fund my participation?

The SILA Program is fully-funded by our four philanthropic partners. Travel, meals and accommodation are also covered during the retreats for participating CEOs.

The Organisational Capacity Fund provides up to $30,000 of additional funding to meet the needs of each organisation, as identified in the Organisational Diagnostic Process which is undertaken at the beginning of the program. Funds may be allocated to areas such as consultants fees, professional development courses or additional duties payments for the Step-Up Leader.

Who should apply for SILA?

If you are the CEO of a for-purpose organisation and you are looking for a program that will help develop your leadership and the impact of your organisation, then you should apply for SILA.

SILA will offer you the opportunity to reflect on your leadership, develop your leadership practice, create a strong peer network, and take the time to refresh and rejuvenate via a tailored sabbatical.

We want to talk to leaders who are in need of time for critical reflection, who are open to being challenged, and who are keen to explore new or alternative ways to better lead social change.

SILA is more than leadership development. Crucially, we need leaders who are prepared to embed change throughout their organisations and the wider sector.

What happens if I can’t attend one of the retreats?

By agreeing to participate in the SILA Program, you are committing to attending all three retreats and participating in the 3-month sabbatical period. If you know that one of the retreat dates will not work for you at the time of application, then you should not apply for the program. 

We understand that there may be emergency situations that arise at the time of the retreat, and these can be discussed with the SILA team at the time. However, the expectation is that all participants who apply for the program, and who are selected, have the time available and are committed to all aspects of the program as outlined (see Program Overview and Key Dates).

What are the accessibility considerations for the program?

We are committed to ensuring that all selected CEOs  are able to fully participate in all aspects of the program. If you live in a regional or rural area, then we will cover all costs for your attendance. If you are living with a disability, we will ensure that all aspects of the program are accessible to you. If you need additional support for child care, we have a fund set up to enable your participation in the program.

Where are the retreats held? I have young children so it’s a consideration for me in terms of planning for the time away.

Whilst we haven’t confirmed locations for Cohort 4, in the past, two retreats have been in a capital city of the states/territotries we are in, and the middle retreat is in a regional area. If this is a barrier to you applying, please talk to us about our diversity fund which can be accessed to support CEOs in meeting the requirements of the program.

What are the hours per week commitment for the 10 month program?

We are acutely aware of how busy everyone is. While there is no set amount of time you need to put aside each week, you will work with your 1-1 coach to organise those mentoring sessions around your schedule and in-line with the program flow.

Prior to the 3-day retreats, you will be required to do pre-readings and these include a mix of formats from podcasts to poems.

We will always keep you updated (with plenty of notice!) on what’s required and when.

How many hours per week commitment for Step-Up Leaders with the tailored executive coaching and personalised leadership assessments? Is the Step-Up Leader a compulsory part of this program?

The Step-Up leader is required to be available when you are at the 3-day retreats, and across the 3-month sabbatical. It is a compulsory part of the program but don’t let that be a barrier! We have support in place including coaches for your Step-Up leader, and some of your capacity fund can be used to ‘top-up’ your chosen leaders salary during this time. Please get in touch if you are struggling with this program component.

Can you apply for this program if your organisation not registered as a charity organisaton?

You can still apply if your organisation is not a registered charity. We recognise that we exist in a social-purpose ecosystem which involves not-for-profits, social enterprise, business, government and philanthropic organisations and have created SILA around this.

What are some examples of how previous CEOs have utilised the sabbatical?

Our CEOs use this time in completely different ways! Some travel overseas, others learn to fish or spend time with loved ones. We want it to be a time to recover and reflect, and our leaders come back with new insights about how they’re going to contribute to the social, environmental or cultural change across the social-purpose ecosystem.

Eligibility criteria states one year in current role. Is it worth applying if I’ve been in my role for less than 1 year? I’m really keen!

Please do! We’re looking for people of all levels of experience who want to commit to a program like this.

Do you select CEOs based on them as leaders or also on the work of the organisation?

The panel looks at a variety of things when selecting the cohort. We’re not looking for particular types of people or organisations, but people who are willing to commit to the program and come with a open mind. It is really important that we get a group of people who come from different backgrounds, have different skill sets and can offer different views.

Has the SILA Program been evaluated?

Yes. An independent evaluation of the SILA Program has been conducted by Nous Group and the results were overwhelmingly positive.

  • 100% of participants agree their organisation has or is likely to experience tangible improvements due to their involvement in SILA
  • 95% agree they can make a difference in their organisations across the sector by using what they’ve learned from SILA
  • 100% of participants now intend to invest in their teams’ leadership and professional development

CEOs also highlighted four key areas that their organisations already have or expect to experience positive impacts, including;

  1. Better leadership and management capability
  2. Stronger networks for fundraising and knowledge transfer
  3. Organisational restructures implemented to improve performance
  4. Higher ambition to pursue more influential projects and initiatives

You can read the full evaluation report by Nous Group here.


Organisational Capacity Fund

Each organisation of the participating CEO will receive approximately $30,000 in capacity funding. The funding received remains untied and is intended to support the participating CEO to partake in SILA, including but not limited to; capacity building programs and courses, consultants’ fees, and covering additional salary costs for the Step-Up Leader and back-filling roles for the duration of the program. While the funds are untied, organisations will be required to produce a statement of intent for the use of the funds.

For-purpose organisation

Your organisation’s reason for being must be to advance a social cause or charitable purpose as outlined by the ACNC but is not limited by your business model, tax, or legal status.

We welcome applications from CEOs from any of the following (but not limited to): charities, not-for-profits, social enterprises, commercial for-purpose businesses, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations registered under the CATSI Act, and other community organisations. All decisions on eligibility and shortlisting are final, and at the discretion of the SILA selection committee.

Step-Up Leader

The CEO’s second-in-command. Someone who will act as CEO during the three multi-day retreats and the 3-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.


The 3-month sabbatical is a core part of the SILA Program. It involves a period of paid leave for the purposes of rest, travel and research. 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, or a focus on the participant’s health and wellbeing.

During this sabbatical period, participating CEOs are asked to completely disengage from their organisations and take a period of leave. During this time the Step-Up Leader will take on the duties of the CEO in their organisation. Find out more about the sabbatical.