Leadership Exchange: A Blind Date-style adventure for public services – Emily Martin

When I imagined my career, I definitely did not expect to become a matchmaker. But here I am, pairing people according to their needs and interests. My goal: sending you off with a perfect stranger, to embark on a stimulating journey out of the ordinary.

Of course all of this is strictly professional.

I co-ordinate the well-established Leadership Exchange Programme, a partnership initiative across sectors which offers colleagues the opportunity to see the world through somebody else’s eyes: to meet a peer from a different sector and accompany them to their respective workplace, in order to share a range of work activities which will help them improve their mutual understanding of each other’s work.

“Working and learning together, we really can make a difference” (Hilda Campbell, CEO of COPE Scotland)


Looking back at 160 leaders from public, third, and private sectors paired in Leadership Exchanges, I am now really keen to offer this specifically to colleagues working in health and social care. The ability to collaborate beyond traditional sector boundaries will be crucial to make health and social care integration a success.

Leadership Exchange provides the framework for leaders to learn from and about each other. We make the connection between exchange partners and offer support along the way – but once matched, the exchange partners are able to plan according to their own learning goals and diaries.

Dr Anne Hendry, National Clinical Lead for Integrated Care at Joint Improvement Team and Scottish Government and Hilda Campbell, CEO of COPE Scotland, a Glasgow-based health charity which provides a range of services to individuals and groups, were among the first integration-related exchange teams paired in 2014 (pictured above).

One year later, I met with Anne and Hilda to hear how it’s been – you can view a series of short clips of this interview here on Vimeo.

Anne’s and Hilda’s organisations – the national government and a small community-led organisation – couldn’t be more different in size, culture, and decision-making structure. And yet some of the challenges turned out to be very similar.

“Everybody has an opportunity to benefit from a Leadership Exchange” (Dr Anne Hendry, JIT/Scottish Government)

After a few introductory e-mails, Anne and Hilda met up for a coffee and an open chat. (You can learn more about the easy process from Anne here.) Invitations to each other’s events, collaboration on a number of pieces of work, and increased confidence as leaders are just some of the benefits they got out of their exchange. (Hilda speaks about how she personally benefitted in this clip, and Anne speaks about opportunities for collaboration through her exchange here).

“We had a common vision around improving individual’s well-being and building links between services which could support this”, says Hilda and adds: “Our understanding of the challenges our statutory colleagues face has improved, and this helps us understand how we can better work together in a spirit of co-operation and respect.” Anne is also pleased that she participated in the programme. One of the things that particularly intrigued Anne was the the creative and agile way in which COPE manages access to services – for example the fact that they have no waiting lists: “I want to find out how they do it!”

 Your match starts here

To participate in Leadership Exchange, you don’t have to be a chief executive or even a manager. If you demonstrate leadership in your work and want to make a real difference, you are welcome to apply. You will develop your leadership skills, understanding, and the ability to work collaboratively. Some of the benefits an exchange will offer you are:

  • The space to stand back and reflect on your work, organisation, and the challenges ahead
  • An opportunity to enhance your understanding of another organisation and sector
  • A confidential and supportive sounding board to exchange and challenge ideas

But the really intriguing thing about an exchange is the unexpected – the surprising insights and new perspectives. Are you ready to go on your own professional blind date and learn something new?

Join now, read more, or browse our list of leaders looking for exchange partners, or contact me at emily.martin@acosvo.org.uk if you would like to discuss this in person.

Leadership Exchange is a workstream of Workforce Scotland led by ACOSVO.

Blog originally posted on Integration and Reshaping Care.

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