We are fast approaching the end of the first year of the Aspiring Leaders Programme (ALP) 3. What a year it has been!

We are marking this milestone with a bit of a celebration to congratulate the students for getting this far and to thank the many people who have contributed, helped and supported along the way.

This year has broadly focussed on the individual. Much of the academic work has been on providing the individuals with a clear understanding of social enterprises, from governance structures to understanding some of the contemporary issues. This has been supported by a range of development work looking reflectively inwards.

ALP is a leadership programme and since September the focus has been on self-leadership: understanding the characteristics, strengths and areas to develop to then build on in the second and third years of study as we look at teams and leading others.

This has been supported throughout by linking examples and situations to the host organisations where our students are based, making it real, relevant and relatable. We also had some great visits to a range of diverse organisations to find out how they work and get an insight into the challenges faced in different parts of, or completely different, sectors.

As you would expect, this has been a bit of a rollercoaster. There have been tears, smiles, laughter and despair. Friends have been made and fall-outs have occurred.  It has been great to watch the participants grow; in confidence, knowledge, passion and spirit. People have stretched and developed in lots of different ways.

Engaging with a programme such as ALP always provides upheaval. Stepping out of the routine of work, family and social life to undertake a full-time degree is a massive step! All of the ALPers have responded in a really inspiring way by diving head-first into the world of academia (referencing, library-loans and seemingly endless assignments) while treading the fine line of work-life balance; often juggling jobs, volunteering, and the family with reading and compiling reports, essays and portfolios. Sometimes the balancing act hasn’t worked and learning has happened to try and prevent future repeats.

The attitude and tenacity has been particularly present during the residential elements at Brathay, often run over a weekend. These have frequently followed long working weeks and assignment submissions (and maybe some burning of the midnight oil?) but the participants have done a great job to rally and immerse themselves in the learning.

We have covered all sorts of stuff- from looking at neuroscience, MBTI and preference to learning styles, Transactional Analysis and Mental Toughness coupled with experiential activity to bring personal reflections to life. A full on few days, followed by heading home for a quick recharge before leaping into the next week- inspiring stuff.

This is why we are celebrating the achievement of the ALPers. It is so easy to keep your head down and plough on, through the good times and the tough, without looking around you. This is the opportunity to stand up, look back and take stock. To think about where the participants were almost a year ago and the journey that has ensued. To consider the learning, both the good and the bad, that can be used by individuals to develop and thrive over the next two years.

It is a great time to thank the fabulous supporters, sponsors, family and loved ones for the backing they have offered, and will continue to do, as ALP3 progresses onwards. The perfect moment to pause, reflect and congratulate before recharging batteries to engage fully once again in September.