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Leadership Forum

Rethinking NGO Leadership

Dialogues on innovative leadership topics between practitioners


All recent projections suggest the role and character of International NGOs will have to change over the next fifteen years. The role and capabilities of NGO leadership will have to change accordingly. 



These changes will be driven by:

  • the consequences of global mega-trends
  • new thinking about the role of INGOs and their changing relationship with their partners in the global South
  • increasing fragmentation and disintermediation
  • new approaches to collaboration and co-creation
  • the implications of web-based communication and digital technologies
  • growing competition for limited aid funds and associated changes to existing funding models
  • growing pressure to demonstrate effectiveness and impact, and the adoption of new businesses practices.


To meet these challenges, INGO leaders will need to develop new capabilities and competencies. These include the way leadership teams work together, their role as catalytic leaders, and a new set of strategic capabilities. 

IMA International initiated and hosted a series of talks in support of stimulating dialogue and exchange amongst a cross section of international development practitioners. 

This Forum takes the exploration further – examining exactly what those capabilities may need to be. 



A connected approach to leadership - How a shift in perspective improves strategic thinking and much more

Dr Susan Canney


Topics discussed:

  • What remarkable results happen in a shift to a connected, transdisciplinary perspective
  • How it is possible to reach collective agreement from conflict
  • How an elephant conservation project ended up tackling biodiversity loss, climate change, land degradation, poverty and civil war
  • How this connected approach improves strategic thinking, fosters creativity, adaptability and response to complex, unpredictable situations – and minimises negative side effects


With Susan as guide we will

  • Consider the nature of leadership in different roles and scales and the personal qualities required
  • Explore what a transdisciplinary perspective looks like and how this compares with more conventional approaches
  • Examine the role of values (of multiple actors and of different kinds)
  • Share perspectives, ideas and experiences to distil key elements and required skills of this approach
  • All through the fascinating account of an initiative which persists despite lawlessness, rebellion, jihadist insurgency, and rampant international illegal trafficking

Dr Susan Canney's bio






Research Associate of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, a Trustee of Tusk Trust, and adviser to the WILD Foundation

Co-author of Conservation (Cambridge University Press), which takes a global perspective to bring conservation to the heart of sustainability policy

Director of the Mali Elephant Project - her work involves using systems perspectives and collaborative approaches to understand the human-nature relationship and find sustainable solutions to conservation problems.


 This event was held in May 2017 at the Mercure Brighton Seafront Hotel, Brighton.


Legacy Thinking – An approach for a better now, and a better future

Neil Scotton and Alister Scott


Topics discussed:

  • How a few simple questions and a shift in focus will help you to:
  • Challenge routine leadership thinking
  • Engage and inspire your people
  • Build bridges between parts of organisations and with partners
  • Build your organisation’s reputation, loyalty and support
  • Drive innovative thinking and solutions
  • Navigate through complex and trying situations and stay connected to what is truly important for you

With Neil and Alister as guides, we will:

  • Explore and challenge how most strategy and goal setting is currently done
  • Think ‘beyond ourselves’ and see things from new perspectives, and the insights and wisdoms that brings to us
  • Do some practical work to address one of your current leadership challenges/frustrations
  • Share ideas, tips and inspiring stories that can transform how you lead  


Neil Scotton

Alister Scott



Neil Scotton PCC, C Eng, FRSA and Dr Alister Scott FRSA work with leaders and teams who are leading for positive change, nationally and internationally.  Neil’s work with the leadership team of the International Coach Federation in the UK led to him receiving the highest award in the profession, citing his ‘contribution to the global profession’ and ‘evolutionary leadership’. Alister’s doctorate at the University of Sussex business school was a systemic look at the role of experts in addressing big global challenges.

Together they are partners at The One Leadership Project, with a mission to make big change possible.  The focus is on the human elements of making that change happen within and between organisations. The project is currently helping charities have bigger impact, commercial organisations become great places to work, educational bodies nurture the leaders of tomorrow, catalysts shift systems, and collaborations turn complexity into action.

Their deep experience in systemic change includes transformations in professional services, business process re-engineering, shaping Antarctic policy, nurturing compassion in the care sector, catalysing early socially responsible investing, thought and action on energy, climate change and community energy, and growing and influencing the global coaching profession itself.

Their award winning thought leadership has a dedicated following. 



This event was held in March 2017 at the New Economics Foundation, London.


Inner skills for the New Future

Kate Hopkinson


Topics discussed:

  • What exactly are inner skills?
  • How can inner skills be understood so that leadership can better fulfil its function in an extremely complex and turbulent operating environment?


With Kate as a guide, we will:

  • Consider reconfiguring our grasp of what effective leadership means, to take account of a rapidly changing operating environment
  • Take a fresh look at how current patterns of leadership behaviour may serve us well in the future, and where they undermine effectiveness
  • Start to identify the intangible competencies which leaders may need to recognise and exercise
  • Better understand how different contexts require different inner skills – and what this means for strategic and operational work in our sector
  • See how individual and team repertoires can grow to meet new leadership challenges

Kate Hopkinson




Kate Hopkinson is a senior research associate of the Complexity Research Programme at the London School of Economics (LSE) and director of Inner Skills, a niche consultancy she set up in 1995.

With a lifelong involvement in the not-for-profit sector, Kate has consulted, served on boards and held the CEO role of a not-for-profit organisation. Commercial companies have recognised her work on the future of leadership, based on her innovative approach, Landscape of the Mind. Rolls Royce is one of the world class companies which have made extensive use of it at senior level.

Kate has made a film about her work in collaboration with LSE. She has a chapter on inner complexity in the forthcoming Handbook on the Application of Complexity Science in Organisations.  Both are available to our Forum attendees.

Kate will introduce Landscape of the Mind and present case studies and findings from her work and research, illustrating implications for future leadership challenges. 


This event was held in September 2015 at the New Economics Foundation, London.


Strategic Capabilities for the New Future

Professor John Hailey


Topics discussed:

  • what the challenges and implications are for leaders in development?
  • what will the strategic capabilities need to be?
  • how will leadership teams need to work?
  • what exactly are catalytic leaders?



As director of the Masters Programme in NGO Management at City University’s Cass Business School, London and one of the founders of the Oxford-based International NGO Training and Research Centre (INTRAC) he shares his extensive international work experience and his research and publication findings on the strategic and leadership issues NGOs face today.



This event was held in June 2015 at the New Economics Foundation, London.