Leadership Conferences


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Visionary Leadership Conferences 2018 round up

Thank you to everyone who joined us at Visionary’s three Leadership Conferences in Birmingham (24th April), Leeds (30th April) and London (3rd May). We were joined by 65 delegates who came together over three conferences, to problem-solve, network, feedback to the Visionary team about their needs, learn something new, and find out about new initiatives in the sector.

Following the opening address by Visionary’s CEO, Fiona Sandford, the one-day programme comprised of two plenary sessions (Leadership Forum and Member Engagement) and three afternoon workshops (Governance and Succession Planning, Dig deeper into GDPR, and Technology – Apps, Goggles, Books and Pockets).

With a nearly all-new Visionary staff team, the leadership conferences were a great opportunity for members to speak with open minds, find out about Visionary’s plans to support members, network with other CEOs and trustees, and gain new knowledge in specific areas of work.

Emerging themes from sessions

Throughout the three conferences there were some emerging themes that came out of various sessions summarised below.

Leadership forum

  • How organisations and CEOs deal with conflicts of interest.
  • The need for leaders to be supported by their trustees.
  • The desire for trustees to be supported to deliver good governance.
  • Great to have a trustee forum to debate issues.
  • The wish for skills training for trustee Chairs to conduct appraisals.
  • A desire among leaders for greater showcasing of best practice.
  • A desire to be connected to a mentoring service for CEOs and trustees.

Membership engagement – this session was an opportunity for members to say how they would like Visionary to support them and the Visionary network further. The large lists that were produced brought out some key areas:

Governance and income development – Several ideas of how Visionary might support further were raised by members.

  • Signing up collectively on behalf of members for one of the funding databases, eg through the Directory of Social Change. 
  • Use Visionary’s national reach to fundraise nationally and then share this funding/delivery through the membership
  • Sharing best practice ideas for funding and projects, technology etc… throughout the membership – especially the innovative, weird and wacky!
  • Sharing docs or templates, via the Knowledge Hub around disaster management & succession planning in particular.

Succession planning

  • There was support for the idea Fiona proposed of Visionary offering an interim CEO programme and support to Boards when a long-standing CEO leaves to help bridge to gap while recruiting for a new, permanent CEO.
  • Support with Board recruitment would be welcomed.
  • Working with Visionary to find a way to champion and recognise the work of trustees across local sight loss organisations.

Your feedback
Your individual feedback at the conferences and specific comments on the post evaluation survey evaluations pointed to some emerging themes to consider for the leadership conferences in 2019.

  • Diversity of the organisations attending – some smaller, others larger potentially may have different needs to address.
  • CEOs, trustees and managers would benefit from separate sessions.
  • A greater strategic focus would be good for CEOs around leadership and training.
  • Views on venues were mixed depending on which conference was attended.

Evaluation survey

Our evaluation survey was completed by 36 delegates.

  • Overall you rated the leadership conference 8/10
  • 89% of those answering our survey went away having learnt something new and useful for their work and felt this knowledge would make a different to their work
  • 83% delegates rated the networking opportunities at the conference good or excellent.

Some of your comments from the survey:

Our priorities for support in 2018

Immediately (next three months)

Following your feedback in the Member Engagement session and other more informal feedback we will:

  • Investigate providing an HR consultancy service for members via a third party. We are currently in talks with a supplier and hope to be able to offer members some free consultancy time on all things HR in the immediate future. Watch this space.
  • Continue to support you on your funding needs when requested.
  • Ensure all regions have a Visionary regional network set up.
  • Set up a system where we can put members, who are happy to participate, to connect with each other, providing peer to peer support on specific projects.
  • Ensure that a Visionary staff regional lead is set up for all regions and all members know who their rep is and how to contact for further support needs.
  • Ensure all members who did not receive an annual visit last year do so in 2018.

Looking forward to 2019

Visionary will be looking closely at the evaluations from our three conferences as we draw up our conference programme in 2019.

We very much wish to continue to offer three conferences in three locations to enable all members that wish to attend to do so.

Given the emerging themes we will be looking very carefully to ensure we can provide specific sessions at each location for the three main groups that attend these conferences, namely:

  • CEOs – sessions strategy and leadership
  • Trustees – specific trustee sessions on governance
  • Operational lead sessions around funding, marketing and HR.

We will also consider whether we can run a session in the plenary that splits between smaller and larger organisations to tailor more to their needs.

For more detail on our leadership conferences please see our full report:  << ADD MAIN REPORT >>


The 2017 Visionary Leadership Conferences (formerly the CEO Conferences) were held in London, York, Manchester and Bristol in March. We had a total of 63 members attending from 46 organisations and all threw themselves into some lively discussions and debates, so thank you to all of you who attended. Alison started the day with an overview of what has been happening at Visionary central over the last year and how we have expanded our focus from the initial priorities around engagement to more active work with members. This included some discussion around the latest Visionary Roadmap which can be seen here – Visionary Roadmap/ Visionary Roadmap (text). This was followed by an update from Keith Valentine, Deputy CEO of the Thomas Pocklington Trust, who outlined the plans for bringing together VISION 2020 UK and the UK Vision Strategy to provide a unified body for the eye health and sight loss sector. As part of this he set out the importance of Visionary’s role in contributing to these plans and ably dealt with some healthy challenges and questions from members on the topic.

Andy Haynes and Alexa Sage then led an interactive session with members on different approaches to Income Development including some interesting sector statistics. It was surprising to hear that Visionary members, collectively, spend more annually than Guide Dogs and almost as much as the RNIB (¬£106 million, ¬£104 million and ¬£123 million respectively in 2015/16). However, it wasn’t surprising to hear that income generation for members is becoming increasingly challenging. Not all members raise monies from the same activities, especially contracts and charging for services, and we’re working to develop activity to support members to increase and better manage their income. After lunch the groups split in to two for a presentation on Eye Clinic Services and Rehabilitation and our open forum discussions. Emma Cruickshank and Michelle Baxter Wickham from Visionary worked with colleagues from the RNIB to give some excellent presentations on the attempts to recognise and, where necessary, raise the quality of service delivery across the sector, particularly in relation to Eye Clinic Services and Rehabilitation. The slides are available here –Visionary and RNIB presentationand the documents referred to during the sessions can be accessed here – Eye Clinic Services and Rehabilitation. Members were also encouraged to access the training and support available for both ECLO and non-ECLO staff and volunteers, including signing up for the Early Intervention Support Network – Training and Networks. Alison, Matt and/or Andy facilitated the open leadership forums where members were able to share current challenges and progress with each other. These discussions covered a range of topics including trustee recruitment and training, communications from Visionary central and across the sector, and funding, amongst others. A particularly popular topic was that of how we collectively respond to ongoing changes at the RNIB and play a part in shaping new models of service delivery. We gathered some great input from members on this through the sessions and have reflected further on this below.

As the plans for the development of a new unified body for the eye health and sight loss sector progress, bringing together the UK Vision Strategy and VISION 2020 UK, we have a real opportunity to engage in this work and to contribute to future plans. At the same time, as previously communicated, we will be working closely with the RNIB to share local perspectives and to discuss new ways of working as their own change plans progress. There are some great examples of joint working under way such as development of service standards and ECLO services. These will continue and grow. However, we are aware that there are a number of issues arising in relation to these changes that members would like to highlight, both in terms of general themes and in terms of specific local developments, and we are keen that we capture these in a constructive manner to feed into upcoming discussions with RNIB and others. As members will appreciate, there are a lot of regional and country variations that need to be considered when developing collective plans; changes like this take time to develop and implement; and the road to success is often a bumpy one. We are, therefore, currently considering how best to gather essential input and feedback from members on this and will be communicating more in the coming months. In the meantime, if you have any specific issues or areas of concern in your area that you would like to highlight, please call your Visionary relationship manager to discuss or drop us an email at visionary@visionary.org.uk.

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