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Cobseo Emerging Leader Programme – A tool-box of delights.

Robert Thorburn, Clore Fellow

From what I believe these days is termed a ‘portfolio career’, my work has taken me across a broad range of organisations and geographies that have seen me lead, and be led, in a range of situations. Throughout this time, one of the enduring idioms I’ve found myself considering more than any other, is “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. Since hearing that, it has resurged to the forefront of my mind numerous times as I’ve observed many hammer wielders smash their way through situations that certainly weren’t nails. The shock that things hadn’t worked out as expected was fascinating to behold and I, of course, was also guilty of leaning on my favoured way of operating. I can list more than one occasion where I’ve reached the end of a project and fiercely tried to reconcile with myself the reason something I’d led hadn’t turned out as expected.

When I learnt about the Cobseo Emerging Leader Programme I saw a genuine opportunity for me to learn more about how I liked to work and, crucially, how others liked to work. Ultimately, I craved access to that critical insight and experience from renowned experts who’d honed the craft of leadership and so could help me become a better leader.

I hadn’t appreciated at the time of submitting my application, just how much more I would get from this programme/experience/journey. It certainly met these expectations but also introduced me to a network of inspiring and experienced peers, a space to experiment with new techniques and the time, not just to hear the information presented, but to listen properly and consider it thoroughly.

From online learning, several residential packages, coaching sessions, group tasks and challenges, a full spectrum of quality opportunities were presented to me and my fellow students. These were all led and delivered by a range of expert speakers and facilitators with no question left unanswered, or any discussion that didn’t reveal something of use. There’s so much to write it’s overwhelming just to think of it all, so I will have to revert to the clichéd You’ll have to see for yourself. It is a busy and packed programme and you have to work hard; but what you get at the other end is completely worth it.

Having finished the course I will claim several things: I was somewhat surprised that I wasn’t told to put away my old hammer, in fact I am now able to swing it harder and faster for use in those situations where I really am faced with a nail. The focus of this programme isn’t just on learning new methods but recognising and building on your existing skills and style. However, I also now know that this isn’t my only option, my only capability or my only approach. I now have a box of tools I can confidently reach for when I’m faced with different, complex or new leadership tasks or challenges involving people who operate differently to me.

Throughout the course, I really felt struck by the difficulties of leadership. The cacophony of voices online and in print, the distractions, the lack of role models, the mistrust and a seeming deficit of what can be considered ‘good leadership’. When was the last time you read a piece of independent writing that positively represented a leader? Or heard someone talk about a leader they admired? And for any positive pieces, how many negatives have there been?

If you’ve read this much of the blog I hope you’re considering this course, and if you’re asking yourself whether it’s right for you, then believe me, it is. We’ll all lead at some point in our lives whether professionally, socially, domestically or otherwise, and the variety and intensity of challenges of leading when operating in the climate mentioned above makes a programme such as this not only useful, but necessary. An holistic leadership journey travelled with the support of experts and peers will give you and your organisation the best possible preparation you can undergo in order to confidently lead and succeed in your life.

This course is for you. It is challenging, and will require a frank conversation with your employer. But I’m confident you can ask anyone from the course and they’ll say that it’s 100% worth doing. I certainly would.

To apply for the 2019 programme see >>

Rob Thorburn is the Grants Officer at Forces in Mind Trust, a member of the Army Reserves, and the Trust’s leading fly fisherman.

New research highlights public perceptions of ex-Service personnel as Government launches Veterans Strategy

The general public holds veterans in high regard, and yet is concerned about the institutionalising nature of service and the difficulties of transition to civilian life, according to new research published today by Forces in Mind Trust and the Ministry of Defence. 

The research, carried out by YouGov and launched to coincide with the new Veterans Strategy, finds wide recognition of the benefits and skills related to serving, yet also a strong public belief that government should do more to support men and women after they leave the Armed Forces.

Those questioned as part of the study commonly associated terms such as ‘brave’, ‘disciplined’, ‘loyal’ and ‘strong’ with those who have served, and the majority thought ex-Service men and women can make a valuable contribution to society. But some believe service comes at a cost, linking it to mental ill health, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “This research highlights the public’s expectation that government should do as much as it can to support the men and women who have served in our Forces, and the high regard they hold them in for doing so. The Veterans Strategy, launched today, is a powerful demonstration of the commitment to do just that, and we particularly welcome the inclusion of new census questions from 2021 and a focus on generating reliable data to further our understanding of ex-Service personnel – good policy, after all, starts with good evidence.

“The public view of military service is often broadly held to be one of difficulty and damage. This new research suggests a much more balanced and realistic view among the general population. There is a recognition of the benefits, the transferable skills and the positive character traits the Armed Forces offers, yet this sits alongside a similarly strong recognition that some of those who have served may need help, and that government is responsible for providing that help.

“It falls now to all who work to support members of the Armed Forces community, whether government, business or charity, to ensure that the value of the Service leaver is recognised and utilised, and that where help is needed, it is swiftly and adequately provided. The Veterans Strategy is a significant step in the right direction on this, and we look forward to working with the MOD and governments across the United Kingdom to translate this vision into a better reality.”

You can see the YouGov public perceptions report here.


Call of the wild making a difference for ex-Service personnel struggling with civilian life

A programme for Veterans – centred on the Scottish wilderness –has made significant improvement to participants’ lives while also being cost-effective and high value for money, new research has highlighted. The programme has delivered overall benefit impacts to society in the region of £2.6m to £4m; for every £1 spent, £4.56 of societal benefit impact has been generated.

Venture Trust’s Positive Futures Model is a combination of cognitive behavioural approaches, experiential learning, skilled facilitation, relationship building, coaching, mentoring and aftercare. It is delivered through a three-phased programme in the community and in the wilds of Scotland.

Positive Futures has been independently evaluated by GAP Communications for the past three years. During that time Venture Trust has supported 90 veterans and the programme has the potential to support hundreds more in the coming years.

Some of the key research findings from GAP Communications’ evaluation include:

• 0% of ex-Service personnel who participated in Positive Futures have re-offended following the programme.
• 43% of participants have since entered into employment, education or training.
• Over a third (34%) of participants who were homeless or in insecure accommodation are now sustaining their own tenancy.
• Improved mental health for participants has led to more openness with family members and calmer, happier households.
• The overall benefit impact to society through a) reduction in interactions with state services (reduced costs) and b) moving into the workplace (tax gains) or volunteering is calculated to be over £2m. The average benefit impact is over £45k per person.
• The programme has delivered overall benefit impacts to society in the region of £2.6m to £4m; for every £1 spent, £4.56 of societal benefit impact has been generated.
• The model, if replicated, would work with veterans needing support in other parts of the UK.

Referrers have said the service appeals to ex-servicemen and women who refuse to engage with therapeutic programmes but who will engage with an outdoors programme.

Positive Futures was funded by a grant of £689,453 from the Forces in Mind Trust. The programme creates a therapeutic environment where those participants with mental health issues (frequently part of a complex presenting set) can identify behaviour triggers and develop, and practice, coping strategies as a foundation for making and sustaining positive life changes.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The funding for the Positive Futures programme is the largest grant awarded to date by the Forces in Mind Trust. The measure of its success will be the lasting change that it brings to those who undergo the experience.

“The Report provides evidence of a model that can be used to help some of the most challenged ex-Service personnel make a successful and sustainable transition into civilian life. This proven effective model should be expanded so that every ex-Service man and woman across the United Kingdom who needs it, can easily access and gain benefit from it.”

Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive of Venture Trust, said: “We are delighted to share the findings of the Positive Futures programme and its impact for ex-servicemen and women who may have struggled in civilian life. This work represents three years of collaboration to reach those individuals in need and a shared goal of sustained positive change to ensure a civilian life which is fuller, with improved wellbeing and a renewed sense of purpose. We hope that the proof of concept that is Positive Futures and the research findings offer fresh insight and recommendations to enhance support for individuals who struggle with transition. We are hugely grateful to FiMT, the Armed Forces Covenant, partners in Scotland and particularly the ex-service men and women who took part in the programme.”

The report also contains some recommendations for the Veterans’ support sector:

• Sustain and replicate the methodology of the programme through continued investment and effective marketing to ex-Service personnel and also their families.
• Find ‘hidden veterans’ through the collection and sharing of data between services and develop more rigorous enquiries regarding Armed Forces history.
• Higher levels of inter-agency co-operation and partnership across the military and non-military services’ sectors.
• The Armed Forces look at introducing, based on the markers identified in the research, a mechanism to identify, and monitor those at risk of poor transition from point of application and throughout an individual’s career.

You can read the full report here.

– ENDS –

Research reveals the complex nature of transition from the Armed Forces

A study released today, Thursday 1st November, by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has revealed that more awareness about the demands of transition is needed for families of Service leavers.

The report contains a list of recommendations including the need for:

  • A shift in culture (for policy makers, service providers, Service leavers and families themselves), which better appreciates the breadth of transition and the need to engage with it from an earlier point in a Service leaver’s career.
  • Raising awareness of the importance of advance planning.
  • An education piece to cover transition entitlement and processes.
  • Tailoring support to families’ specific needs.

The report, the first to specifically look at the lived experience of Service families, reveals the complex nature of transition and affirms the six ‘elements’ of transition: housing, health, education and children, employment, finances and wellbeing.

Authors of the report – the Naval, Army and RAF Families Federations – highlight the need for further research to better understand specific cohorts of families such as Foreign & Commonwealth, those whose Service leaver is being medically discharged and the challenges faced by Service children.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said:

“The process of transition is not solely about the Service personnel, it affects the entire family unit. What has become clear, from the library of research funded by FiMT, is that the earlier planning for leaving the Armed Forces starts, the more successful and sustainable is the transition.

“The recommendations within this report highlight the need to do more to ensure that the families of Service personnel are given the support required to successfully navigate the transition pathway.”

Sara Baade, Chief Executive, Army Families Federation said:

“The Army Families Federation is very grateful to FiMT for the opportunity to conduct much-needed research showing more needs to be done to support those going through transition out of the military. This work strengthens existing evidence in this area and the report’s recommendations are invaluable in supporting the case for improved resources and services that families can use to ensure their transition is successful, whatever their make-up. This key evidence also supports the Veterans’ Strategy announced by the Defence Secretary earlier this year; those transitioning out of the Forces are the veterans of tomorrow, and ensuring families overcome the many challenges transition can pose goes some way to ensuring a successful civilian life.”

Anna Wright, CEO Naval Families Federation, said:

“The unique nature of Naval Service life is reflected by the ‘can do’ attitude of our families. However, it doesn’t automatically follow that all Naval Service families find the transition process to be without challenge. This report provides those in decision making roles with an insightful and honest bank of information to help support their thinking and consider the needs of Naval Service families when reviewing or updating appropriate policies.

“We are hugely grateful to all the families who took part in the research, offering their time and

sharing their ‘lived experience’ to inform this report.”

Graeme Spark, Acting Director, RAF FF said:

“We have been delighted to have been part of this project – understanding completely the need for a holistic approach to transition to best support RAF families now and in the future. We now look forward to helping deliver where we can some of its recommendations.”

You can read the full report here.


FiMT sponsors King’s Centre for Military Health Research 2019 Veterans’ Mental Health Conference

Military Mental Health Annual Conference Speakers and Programme Announced

Forces in Mind Trust is sponsoring the King’s Centre for Military Health Research Annual Veterans’ Mental Health Conference, for a fourth consecutive year.

The 2019 event, entitled “Evidence, Innovation and Practice”, has a stellar line up of UK and international speakers, including a contribution by the BBC’s Defence Correspondent, Jonathan Beale, on the media’s view of mental health and the military.

Tickets are now available. Access all the conference details and booking information, including the concessionary ticket rate for Cobseo Full and Associate members, here.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said:

“This is the fourth year that Forces in Mind Trust has sponsored the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference and we are proud to do so. The subject for the 2019 conference embodies what FiMT is all about: evidence leading to lasting change.”

“As a Trust we can fund an abundance of research; but unless our recommendations are put into practice, the potential impact of our work is constrained and we will be unable to fully achieve our aim of enabling all ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition.”


Recruitment opens for leadership development programme for the Armed Forces charities sector

Clore Social Leadership has announced today, Thursday 11th October 2018, details of its 2019 Cobseo Emerging Leader Programme designed in partnership with the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo) and the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT).

Aimed at emerging leaders working in the Armed Forces and Service charities sector, the programme seeks to build agile, resilient, and effective leadership, while consolidating solidarity, collaboration, and joint action within the sector. Drawing on all aspects of Clore Social’s Social Leaders’ Capabilities Framework, the programme is designed to help leaders become more empowered, focused, and generous, and gain a greater understanding of their strengths, abilities and preferences.

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust said:

‘We are delighted to support the second run of the Cobseo Emerging Leader Programme. Leadership development, such as this excellent Clore programme, enables committed individuals to enhance their abilities and transform their organisations. Through investing in the development of strong and adaptive leadership, FiMT can help increase the sector’s effectiveness and ultimately improve the outcomes for the organisations’ beneficiaries. This is exactly the type of innovative and system changing approach we were established to take’.

The programme will run for 6 months and is structured to fit around existing leadership commitments, providing a blended approach which allows for self-directed learning, while offering the opportunity to work together with a group of peers who will support, challenge and inspire each other.

Fraser Gilmore, 2017 Cobseo Emerging Leader Fellow has emphasised the benefits of working and learning with other leaders:

“I understand the context of leadership in the third sector better and this has helped me grow in my role. Meeting other leaders in the sector has expanded my network and that of the organisation which has led to some interesting conversations about future work. This has created better collaboration which can only be good for the sector”

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Shaks Ghosh, Chief Executive of Clore Social Leadership said: ‘We know that effective leadership leads to stronger, more resilient and successful communities. This is why we are very excited to continue to work with the Service charities sector. Developing these dedicated future leaders will ensure their organisations adapt and thrive in times of change’.

Applications are now open with 24 places available for emerging leaders with a minimum of 3 years’ experience leading a team, department, or organisation in the social sector. Senior leaders from sector organisations are invited to nominate their most determined and talented people eager to expand their leadership skills and make a lasting difference in their organisations and sector.

For more information and to apply, please visit:

 – Ends –

Minister of Defence People and Veterans, Tobias Ellwood MP delivers keynote speech at inaugural FiMT Research Centre Conference

The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) held its inaugural Research Centre Conference today, Thursday 11th October, at Church House, Westminster and presented two awards for excellence in research.

Over 100 delegates from across the academic, Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces sectors attended, with a host of speakers including Lord Ashcroft, who was the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Veterans’ Transition from 2012 to 2018 and conducted the Veterans’ Transition Review.

The Lord Ashcroft Veterans’ Research Award went to Shared Intelligence for their ‘Our Community – Our Covenant’ project, and the FiMT Research Centre Award for Most Impactful Research went to Community Innovations Enterprise LLP for their ‘Call to Mind’ project series. Both have influenced policy makers, led to further research projects and have had an impact on services provided to veterans.

The Research Centre was launched last year to support the research needs of the Armed Forces Community. The Centre’s purpose is to facilitate research in the UK that deepens shared understanding and develops links between the academic community, government organisations, statutory and voluntary service providers, the media, and the public.

To help toward this purpose, the Veterans and Families Research Hub (VFR Hub) is part of the Centre. This is an easily-searchable and free-to-use online resource offering an authoritative source of research-related information on ex-Service personnel and their families. The VFR Hub was jointly established and initially funded by Lord Ashcroft and FiMT.

Lord Ashcroft said: “One of the main findings from my work on veterans’ transition was the need for a source of good, reliable, authoritative and easily accessible research and information on service leavers, veterans and their families. That is why we established the Veterans’ Research Hub, whose work is providing a solid basis of evidence for policymakers and will help to combat some of the myths and misapprehensions about veterans that can make the transition to civilian life harder than it needs to be. I am delighted to support this conference and congratulate the award winners for their exemplary work.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “This is the first conference that the FiMT Research Centre has held. The opportunity to assemble researchers already interested in the Armed Forces Community in one place will foster collaboration and develop links which will lead to more research projects and ideas. This will enable the Forces in Mind Trust to utilise the results of research to influence policy makers and services providers as we seek to improve the transition pathway and thus succeed in our objective that all ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition back to civilian life.”


New research highlights challenges Veterans face in becoming self-employed

New report calls for broader support from the MOD to help Service personnel transitioning out of the Forces and into self-employment

A new report, ‘Self-employment and the Armed Forces Community’, has revealed the barriers ex-Service personnel face in becoming self-employed after leaving the Armed Forces.

Research conducted by The Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick, supported by defence technology company QinetiQ and X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) – which supports entrepreneurship in the military community – and funded by Forces in Mind Trust, was carried out to understand what more could be done to support ex-Service personnel successfully move into self-employment.

The report is being launched today (10th October) at the X-Forces Enterprise fifth Anniversary event at the London Stock Exchange.

The findings show that self-employment is highly desirable among veterans, with being their own boss the most attractive aspect. However, many veterans become self-employed years after leaving the Services, often as a result of disillusionment with their experiences in paid civilian employment. The survey of veterans, targeted towards those who had already moved into self-employment or had considered it upon leaving, and those currently transitioning into civilian life, found that 43% of veterans said they had planned to become self-employed on leaving the Forces, compared to 55% who said they’d seek full-time employment.

However, the research also highlights a number of barriers the ex-Service community face in becoming successfully self-employed including:

–        A lack of understanding of commercial environments and skills like marketing and communications

–        Lack of finance – with many experiencing difficulties in getting loans and having to use their own savings

–        Difficulty translating the skills they learned in the Forces into a commercial environment

–        Difficulty adapting to a civilian environment – where there was considered to be less teamwork and an overarching focus on money

–        Reality falling short of expectations – with some finding it much harder than expected

The report points to the need for better support, information and advice from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) as Service personnel transition out of the Armed Forces – about the realities and practicalities of working in the civilian labour market

Asked when support would be most useful, six months before leaving the Armed Forces and two years after leaving were seen as the most crucial times – showing the importance of having long-term support to ensure the transition succeeds.

The report calls on the MOD to invest more resources into supporting members of the Armed Forces in transitioning successfully into the civilian labour market, and particularly into being self-employed. This includes the suggestion of a ‘skills for life’ package for all veterans which gives support on how to pay bills, buy a house, manage finances and tax, as well as training in soft skills, people skills and commercial skills. It also calls for wider use of mentors, the wider promotion of Enhanced Learning Credits to ensure veterans are aware of their entitlements; and for longer-term support including access to top-up training up to 24 months after leaving.

Ren Kapur MBE, CEO and Founder of X-Forces Enterprise said:

“We’ve seen the incredible impact that self-employment can have on veterans and are proud of the work we’ve been carrying out for five years to empower ex-service men and women to reach their full potential. This research shows that challenges remain, but we were incredibly encouraged to see how many of the recommendations made are already being taken forward by organisations like ours. We welcome this in-depth look at the challenges faced by potential entrepreneurs, and look forward to helping even more veterans in the years to come.”

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust said:

“What is clear from this report is the need for broader support, advice and practical training for Service personnel before they leave the Armed Forces, and for sometime afterwards, if they are to successfully transition into the civilian labour market, and particularly into self-employment. This report contains a number of ideas of how the MOD and others can provide such support and we look forward to working together to take some of these ideas forward, such as through the recently announced Defence Transition Service.”

Professor Clare Lyonette from the Institute of Employment Research at the University of Warwick said:

“Military service develops unique skills and competencies which can underpin a successful transition into self-employment. However, our research participants reported a range of challenges which they encountered while trying to translate their skills into a civilian context.
The barriers and challenges reported to us highlight the need for a targeted, needs-based approach to support in transition – not all veterans will require the same levels of help. We hope that the practical recommendations we outline will make a real difference to all members of the Armed Forces Community, including military partners and reservists, as well as veterans.”

The research includes a full literature review looking at international comparisons and available data, as well as fresh qualitative and quantitative research with veterans, military partners and reservists.

You can read the full report here


FiMT to support six Specialist Fellows on Clore Social’s 2019 Experienced Leader Programme

Clore Social Leadership has opened recruitment for its 2019 Experienced Leader Programme. The one-year programme, starting in February, is open to individuals with six or more years’ experience as a social sector leader and the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has pledged support for six funded Specialist Fellowships.

The Experienced Leader Programme helps build social leadership capabilities, confidence, effectiveness, self-awareness, resilience and overall impact through working with others, and comprises a number of activities including executive coaching, action learning and a secondment.  The FiMT Fellowships aim to promote leadership within and connections between the military and social sectors, for those who have ambition to drive social change in their communities and organisations and have an interest in the Armed Forces Community.

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said:

“We are delighted to continue the support for the Clore programme for Experienced Leaders that we began in 2015. This opportunity will further grow our cohort of some 10 Clore FiMT specialist fellows, and we know will offer great benefits to the individuals involved and their respective organisations.  If we invest in the leaders of today we will increase the capability of the sector to make innovative and lasting change.”

Shaks Ghosh, Chief Executive of Clore Social Leadership said:

“The Armed Forces and Service Charities sector is a great example of like-minded organisations working together to address shared challenges by supporting and investing in their current and future leaders. We are delighted that the Forces in Mind Trust is supporting our 2019 Experienced Leader Programme and look forward to working with a new cohort of FiMT supported leaders over the next year.”

For more information and to apply see