1. News
  2. 2016
  3. July
  4. Business with a social purpose
News from City, University of London
Cass CCE Director Alex Skailes in conversation with Ian Joseph, Managing Director of Russam GMS
Arts & Culture Series: Magazine

Business with a social purpose

The Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School is a place where social value meets corporate prowess. Mickella Nikoi speaks to newly appointed Director Alex Skailes and some notable alumni.

by City Press Office (General enquiries)

Formed in 2004, through a partnership between Cass Business School and the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants, the Centre for Charity Effectiveness (Cass CCE) set out to transform the nonprofit sector. Through its varied services, the Centre imparts the necessary knowledge and skills to lead sustainable organisations.

Cass CCE is the leading centre of its kind in the UK and offers a three-strand programme of Masters and executive education courses, academic research and consultancy. Situated within Cass Business School, Cass CCE is uniquely positioned to support excellence that extends beyond financial value.

What does this mean for the nonprofit sector?

Alex Skailes took up the position of Director of Consulting and Executive Education this year. An alumna of the Centre herself, she stresses that her decision to take on the role was influenced by a desire to use cross-sectoral learning to enhance the sector.

“For me,” she says, “it was the opportunity to be part of a Centre dedicated to improving and strengthening the nonprofit sector, which at the same time sits within a global business school – working across sectors to draw on best evidenced business practice and marrying this with the culture, values and needs of the sector.”

Cass CCE’s place within a university makes it unique in that the Centre acts as a trusted educator, providing independent thought and advice while also having first-hand and practical engagement with the individuals and organisations that comprise the nonprofit sector. Alex explains:

Our engagement each year with hundreds of students, clients and their organisations enables us to gain a deep understanding of the issues that are being faced within the sector. We can draw on the combination of extensive practitioner experience underpinned with robust learning from our academic research.

The Centre boasts a strong network of alumni and supporters whom it can support throughout the trajectory of their careers. “One of the things we are most proud of as a Centre is our ability and track record in helping people in numerous ways over time. A great example of this is one of our MSc alumni, Mo Wiltshire, who graduated in 2007, went on to become Chief Executive of King’s College London Students’ Union in 2010 and commissioned Cass CCE to develop a bespoke leadership development programme for her organisation. As well as fostering the development of others, last year she refreshed some of the learning she gained on the MSc course by attending our Outstanding Leadership workshops and the Charity Talks series. She is also a mentor for a current student. We’re really lucky to have such engaged champions of the Centre.”

Mo comments:

Whenever I have experienced Cass CCE as a student, client or audience member I feel I am in the company of experts who have the brains, background, curiosity and connections to both challenge and support me. There is a quality about the interactions that I trust.

A government statistic from December 2015 suggests that 40 per cent of UK charities have an annual income of less than £10,000.

So how does Cass CCE support smaller organisations? “We are fortunate to have the support of City University London,” says Alex, “which allows us to keep our Masters and executive education course fees as low as we possibly can.”

Cass CCE’s courses and knowledge exchange events provide a platform for people to come together to learn and, crucially, to share experiences and best practice. “This is really valuable, particularly for smaller organisations,” says Alex.

The Centre also provides free online toolkits and other knowledge sharing publications, often enabled by sponsor support. As the Centre continues to support and educate nonprofit leaders worldwide, Alex has a vision for its future: for Cass CCE to be the recognised and trusted partner for those working within and with the nonprofit sector. “We want to drive the effectiveness and sustainability of a sector that already creates a huge amount of social value,” she says, “such that it can extend its reach even further and deliver even more.”

Cass CCE

Meet the alumni who are using the skills and knowhow gained at Cass CCE to make a positive difference in the world.

Mike Adamson

Chief Executive, British Red Cross

Mike Adamson
Q: Why the nonprofit sector?
A: I was excited by the opportunity to make a positive difference to people’s lives as part of a great volunteer and staff team in the largest humanitarian movement in the world. That has continued to motivate me, together with the challenge of how to get things done and measure success when the impact cannot be measured in a financial bottom line.
Q:Any advice?
A: If you are inspired by the chance to change the world and still willing to learn from all sectors, then go for it. It is hugely satisfying, but no picnic.

Q: Why Cass CCE?
Cass offered a uniquely tailored development course for voluntary sector leaders, with an emphasis on a blend of experiential and academic learning that was both stretching and rewarding.

Ian Joseph

Managing Director, Russam GMS; Founding Director, Trustees Unlimited; Board Member, Cyclopark; Advisory Board Member, CharityWorks; Chairman, Institute for Migrant Research.

Q: Why the nonprofit sector?
A: I’ve always been passionate about the sector and have worked in it and with it wearing many hats. The sector touches the lives of most people and our society is richer and more humane because of it.

Q:Any advice?
A: Be humble; you can learn a lot from those who work in the sector. Do not leave your commercial head at the door; charities are not businesses but they need to be run like businesses. Channel your passion, but don’t allow it to cloud your objectivity. Become a trustee so that you have experience of being in charge of a charity and develop your understanding of the sector.

Q: Why Cass CCE?
A: As a 29-year-old chief executive of a charity I was concerned that I was not leading the organisation effectively. Cass CCE gave me the confidence, the tools and the relationships to become a better leader and I’d like to think that lots of disenfranchised people both here and overseas benefited from that investment.

Akash Ghai

Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Development Three

Akash Ghai
Q: Why the nonprofit sector?
A: Giving back is heavily ingrained in my family’s background, so working with nonprofit organisations became a no-brainer for me. During my formative years, I quickly saw how public benefit organisations can change the lives of those experiencing difficulties. My ambition has always been to build the capacity of these organisations so they can achieve greater impact.
Q:Any advice?
A: The sector is hardly straight-line profit/loss, so listening to those who have experience in the sector is imperative. Before I enrolled at Cass CCE, I spent a lot of time speaking with NGO leaders to fully understand the challenges they face and to figure out whether pursuing a career in the sector was right for me, which, thankfully, it was.

Q: Why Cass CCE?
A: It was the content and quality of the NGO Management course that made me apply. At the time there were many ‘veterans’ of the charity sector enrolled in the course. I realised there were strong learning opportunities both academically and practically; opportunities that I simply couldn’t pass up.

Mickella Nikoi is an Alumni Communications Officer within City’s Development and Alumni Relations Office. She oversees City’s alumni communication channels, including the website, blog and social media.

40 years of culture at City

City’s first Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration was launched in the mid-1970s and featured an innovative combination of detailed study, industry secondments and close collaboration with the Arts Council of Great Britain. Today, City houses the first BA Cultural and Creative Industries to be launched in the UK and the internationally renowned MA Culture, Policy and Management. Alumni, staff and students came together at the Jerwood Space on the Southbank in June 2016 to celebrate the last 40 years and look forward to the future of Culture and the Creative Industries at City.

Share this article