Pilotlight has already strengthened our ability to face the future

Posted 04 Jan 2018 | Blog | Growth & Sustainability

Five months into their project on the Pilotlight Programme, Swansea Women’s Aid (SWA) is already seeing a difference. As a Project Manager, it’s the ultimate validation to hear that the work we’re doing is making an impact even when we’re only halfway through the project! Pilotlight exists to bring together talent from charities all over the UK and skills from businesses to engage in a collaborative mentoring and coaching programme. Our aim is to help make charities more effective and resilient, especially in the current climate of local authority cuts and grant competition – and therefore more sustainable in the future. 

Small but impactful

The charity may be relatively small, but it is enormously effective and genuinely changes the lives of its service users. SWA offers support, refuge (through safehouses), and advice to women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse in all its forms. With a group of Pilotlighters whose expertise spans strategy in insurance, media, trading, and HR, CEO Lynne Sanders, her trustees and the staff team have all been engaging with the project meetings and exploring the challenges that SWA faces.

Part of the project structure incorporates a site visit, where the team see the charity’s premises, meet the staff and potentially service users – Pilotlighters commonly say that this meeting is one of the most important in the whole project, as they experience the day-to-day life of the charity and fully understand its impact. In Swansea, the hugely impressive and dedicated staff all attended the meeting, answered Pilotlighters’ questions, and introduced them to women who are currently being supported by SWA. The Pilotlighters all went home with newly-opened eyes to the issue of domestic violence and were very moved by the conversations they had.

In subsequent meetings, the Pilotlighters have been discussing with Lynne the strengths and weaknesses of the charity, in order to determine how they could help. They then decided that the project aims (a Pilotlight tool to help guide the meetings) should cover impact measurement and communication, people capacity, and business planning. These particular issues all feed into the crucial broader theme of increasing SWA’s effectiveness within Swansea, and in the wider region.

Pilotlight’s impact so far

I caught up with Lynne recently to discuss how she felt the project was going and she commented:

“SWA applied to Pilotlight in order to gain a fresh perspective from a panel of highly experienced business professionals on our way forward strategically. This was in recognition of the varied skills, knowledge and experience they would bring to the table that would complement those of the SWA trustees, Chief Executive and staff team. Having been involved in the process for five months, it has proved to be a positive learning experience for all and one that has provided an examination of the existing status quo and a focus on strategic direction. This has been invaluable at a time when the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence women only sector is facing increasing challenges through competition and procurement processes. Our involvement with Pilotlight has already strengthened our ability to face the future with the knowledge that we will be best placed to secure a sustainable, high quality specialist service for the women and children we support. What could be better than that?!”

As the Project Manager, I’m very much looking forward to seeing where SWA will be at the end of the project. The dedication of Lynne and her team in engaging with these difficult discussions has been impressive, and I have no doubt that this, as well as the Pilotlighters’ input, will help SWA to emerge from the Pilotlight process stronger than before.  

Applications for the Weston Charity Awards are now open and the prize package includes a year on the Pilotlight Programme as well as £6,500 from the Garfield Weston Foundation. For the first time, they are open to charities in Wales. If you would like to see what impact the Pilotlight Programme could have on your charity, apply here.