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Developing the diversity of the South West’s next generation of leaders

A programme designed to help increase board diversity across the South West is set to be expanded after the pilot project was hailed a success.

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSWLEP) had struggled to recruit a suitably diverse board with the relevant skills and experience to operate at a strategic level, so the LEP decided to develop ‘Future Leaders’ to fill the void.

Devon & Plymouth Chamber of Commerce ran the project on behalf of the LEP and recruited top local business coach and facilitator Emma Huxham from Acorns & Feathers to lead the project.

The first cohort included those who had previously applied to join the board of the LEP and others identified as having potential to operate at board level with the relevant training and guidance.

Devon & Plymouth Chamber worked in partnership with colleagues from the Federation of Small Business (FSB) and Institute of Directors (IoD) to deliver a programme that included training in board governance, management accounts and the geo-political makeup of the South West. 

Emma Huxham, who is also Global Talent Management Strategic Partner at Mars, coached the cohort who also received mentoring from top board directors and participants were invited to sit in the board meetings of leading organisations across the South West.

Karl Tucker, Chair of the HotSWLEP, said: “Rather than just hope that our board would attract a diverse range of suitably qualified applicants, we decided to be proactive.  It is an accepted fact that diversity on boards improves the performance of those boards and organisations.  This programme was focussed on looking to help some of the talented individuals we have here in the region to improve their skills and confidence to participate and add value to boards across the area.

“We hope that some of the participants on the programme may also become part of the LEP board.  We partnered with Devon & Plymouth Chamber to deliver a comprehensive programme that has developed the participants to be prepared for board positions.”

Stuart Elford, CEO of Devon & Plymouth Chamber, said: “The importance of board diversity cannot be overstated and so we were thrilled to be asked to deliver this project on behalf of or the LEP and work with our colleagues in the FSB and IoD to prepare the next generation of ‘future leaders’ for board positions.

“We are now seeking funding to expand the programme and widen its reach across the region for the benefit of everyone in the South West.”

Sam Smith, (pictured), Director of local media business Ocean City Media, was one of the cohort: “I feel strongly that everyone should be given the same chances in life and so was delighted to be asked to take part in the Future Leaders’ programme.

“I learned so much and it equipped me with what I needed to serve on a board. In fact, as a direct result of the programme, I have joined the board of Plymouth Culture as a Non-Executive Director and look forward to applying the skills and experience I have gained to add value to the organisation.”

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