Tags:Strategic PlanVolunteersEducationPrimaryLeadership

Case Studies
5 min read

How to take your strategy from good to great

How long do you have to be a principal before you are a truly confident leader? Ten years, twenty?  

How about thirty-eight?  

When Alison Spence, Principal of Kohia Terrace School applied for the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP), that’s how much experience she had.  

And while she was confident in her ability to lead her school (and saw the results in operations, strategy and pedagogy), she couldn’t be 100 per cent sure.  

She sought some comparative analysis – some ‘what if’ thinking, and someone to challenge her established way of doing things.

In Lindsay Cowley, Capacity Partner and GM at Spark, she found her perfect match.  

Building the foundations of learning

Lindsay’s role was to give Alison fresh perspectives on leadership, supporting her learning process throughout the year long SLPP journey.  

Meeting once per month in workshops, Lindsay began by asking Alison open questions centred around what she wanted how she wanted to change things.  

“Alison had a good charter and strategic plan,” Lindsay notes, “but the story was missing.” 

“So, throughout the year, we worked on what the strategic problems were. If this is her ambition for the school, what needs to happen to address these? Filling in the gaps between A and Z.”

Filling the gaps 

As these discussions continued, Alison uncovered – with Lindsay’s help – some problem areas that held back her plan from being truly great. They found these by tracking backwards from strategic values or initiatives, and ensuring everything was as logical as it should be.  

The process raised some important questions for Alison. 

“A big thing for me became why we are doing what we are doing. Where does it fit into research? Or best practice literature? Then putting those answers in a succinct way, so anyone picking up the plan gets it.”  

Lindsay adds that it was a tweaking process, rather than a transforming one.  

“All the material to succeed was there – it just needed to be structured in a way that made sense to the layperson. What I respect so much is that Alison was always open to that feedback; to a fresh perspective and new ways of looking at things.”  

Trading places and trading lessons 

Springboard Trust’s cross-sector model is a unique opportunity for both New Zealand principals and business volunteers to learn each other’s ways of working.  

For Alison, a highlight of this partnership was visiting Spark’s Auckland offices and seeing first-hand the modern environments that her students would experience when they joined the workforce.  

This gave her great insights to take back to her Board of Trustees, giving gravitas and backing to her strategic plan’s focus on modern learning environments.  

Just as Alison drew from business to inform her school, Lindsay learned a lot that he could take back to his role:  

“Being a Capacity Partner is a great opportunity to see what goes on in schools. Things are really different now from when we were in school, it is a difficult environment with a lot to deal with.” 

SLPP gave me an opportunity to develop a real appreciation for how complex today’s schools are
Lindsay Cowley

Leadership ripples in effect

While Alison believed she was already a confident leader, she jokingly notes that SLPP and Lindsay have made improved her to “a real eight out of ten!”.

Even better, she is growing a leadership team who are all aligned in achieving improved outcomes for their students – which Lindsay agrees with wholeheartedly.  

“Alison has been able to divest herself of some of the responsibility she held and has brought her entire team into the journey with her. She recognises that they too have a role to play in leadership – there is much more shared accountability and people empowerment to achieve student outcomes.”  

“I think Alison had those things before. But it’s one thing to have them in your head, and another to articulate it to people around you and bring them with you. Alison is just so much clearer. More than an eight, she is easily a nine or a ten in the leadership department!” 

Want to know more about Springboard's volunteer opportunities?

Subject Matter Experts

Bespoke support and development for school leaders Time commitment: Variable, anything from an hour to ongoing long-term support Work in existing programmes, deliver single sessions or support a leadership team The Subject Matter Expert (SME) role is a flexible opportunity to support school leaders as they take on a bespoke project built around their strategic plan.   This might be assisting them at a Kickstart Your Strategy workshop, helping them review an annual plan, giving a one-hour webinar for a cohort, or simply sitting down with a principal and/or their team to help them clarify goals for the year ahead. What makes a good Subject Matter Expert? SMEs are typically senior leaders in their organisation, and have a wide range of expertise, including but not limited to:  Change management  Strategic leadership  Instructional design and leadership  Project management  Transformation projects  Coaching  Strategy analysis and refresh Marketing, branding and communication  Depending on the project, we may require more specialist skill sets for principal support. We would ideally prefer SMEs to have previously worked with Springboard as a Capacity Partner.   Time requirements Due to the variability of the work SMEs do, requirements may vary. Setting up a project usually takes 8-10 hours, while implementation may be anywhere from four hours to 50, across three to 12 months. However, this role is also ideal for those who have only an hour or two of their time to contribute. To find out more about volunteering with Springboard Trust in 2021, please get in touch with our Volunteer Manager Rebecca Brown.


Develop and care for a full cohort of principals and volunteers, delivering a unique learning experience. Time commitment: 50-60 hours across nine workshops (SLPP) or 16 hours over 12 weeks (HPLT) Runs February to November (SLPP) or during Terms 1, 2 and 3 (HPLT) In-person, virtual or blended delivery Build your group management and leadership capabilities while bringing Springboard's programmes to life for school leaders. Facilitators work in two of our programmes – the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme and High Performing Leadership Teams (HPLT). In the former, they work with a full cohort of six principals and volunteers, while in the latter they work with full leadership teams from a single school. While facilitating SLPP means working with principals new to Springboard, in HPLT they will be working with experienced principals (not their first Springboard programme) and their leadership teams. This presents a unique set of dynamics every time, and can be an incredibly rewarding for those who volunteer their time.   What makes a great facilitator?  Typically, facilitators we work with are middle to senior leaders in their organisations, with extensive experience in people coaching or leadership. They may also be emerging leaders looking to accelerate their development, or highly skilled individuals in this area.   The key aspects facilitator should excel in are the art of facilitation itself, the ability to bring the content to life for the participants and how they can relate it to their own unique context.  Experience working with High Performing Teams and Leadership Development helps bring the programme to life for the participants.  Facilitation of SLPP in particular, facilitators should have experience in leading teams, as well as the ability to engage large groups of people and tell stories with ease.   It is critical that facilitators have strong emotional intelligence skills as you will facilitating cohorts often in varying situations of need , and contexts you are not familiar with.  Empathy and listening skills are a must.   Please note that in most cases, we prefer Facilitators to have prior experience as a Springboard Trust Capacity Partner so they have experienced the programme from that perspective. Time requirements Facilitation volunteers for SLPP will need to volunteer 50-60 hours, including induction (for first time facilitators), across the calendar year. For HPLT, facilitators are asked to commit to up to 16 hours over a three month period. To find out more about volunteering with Springboard Trust in 2021, please get in touch with our Volunteer Manager Rebecca Brown.

Capacity Partners - Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme

Develop a principal's strategic skills Time commitment: 40 hours (approx) across nine workshops Runs February to November In-person, virtual or blended delivery Capacity Partners are matched with a principal undertaking the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme, meeting one-on-one with them throughout the year with through nine workshops and supporting the beginning of the principal's leadership journey with Springboard. Capacity Partners build trust, understand the needs of the principal and their context and support them in building their strategic plan and their leadership in their unique situation.   As a Capacity Partner, you will work with principals who are new to Springboard Trust and may have backgrounds, specialisations and experiences vastly different from your own. Taking the time to listen, learn and leverage your expertise to support them is critical to success.   The experienced Springboard Trust team will match you with a principal, making all the necessary introductions before the programme begins. You’ll also be part of a cohort with up to five other principals and their volunteer Capacity Partners, as well as a volunteer who will facilitate each workshop.   Who makes a great Capacity Partner?  Typically, Capacity Partners are senior leaders in their organisation, who are highly capable and skilled professionals.  Experience is typically in strategic planning, change or programme management with strong coaching skills. They may also be emerging leaders hoping to support their learning and ongoing career growth, or who want to accelerate their development in this area.   Volunteers who are also skilled and experienced in leadership or facilitation.   You’ll have experience in coaching, understand how to lead people (particularly from a strategic perspective), and grasp the core ideas of strategic planning, change management and transformation. Time Requirements Capacity Partners are asked to volunteer approximately 40 hours of their time annually, including a three-hour induction for first-time volunteers and nine half day workshops over a calendar year. Programmes typically start in February or March and have their final celebration workshops in November. Participation in the workshops is encouraged to ensure maximum learning and impact for the volunteer but also encourages the conversation and discussion that happens within the cohort.  To find out more about volunteering with Springboard Trust, please get in touch with our Volunteer Manager Rebecca Brown.


Ongoing support and one-on-one coaching with school leaders. Time commitment: 10 hours (approx) Runs in each of Term 1, 2 and 3 each school year Support and feedback through a 360-degree feedback process Volunteer coaches work in the Springboard Coaching for Leadership programme, building an individual principal’s leadership insight, capability and practice – all with the goal of them successfully leading their school to better student outcomes and delivery to their strategic plan. You could be working with alumni principals, their leadership teams or their middle leaders.  What makes a good coach?  Our coaching volunteers are typically senior or middle leaders in their organisation, with extensive people coaching experience . They may also be emerging leaders, looking to accelerate their development but still have a core capability to coach and development others  Due to the advanced nature of the SCL programme, Coaches should be highly skilled in the usual areas of requirement: coaching, leadership development and planning, accredited or experienced in debriefing 360-degree surveys and analysis, as well as in-depth emotional intelligence.   Time requirements Coaching volunteers will have to spend at least 10 hours on the HPL programme, over a 90-day period (a single school term).   To find out more about volunteering with Springboard Trust in 2021, please get in touch with our Volunteer Manager Rebecca Brown.

Our Strategic Partners