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Free, online, and open leadership resources

Refreshed leadership courses

We are delighted to announce the launch of our refreshed leadership courses.  The updated courses draw on new insights from CVSL team members' research and feedback from our learners to remain current and relevant to practice.  Follow this link to find our new home on OpenLearn

Facilitator Pack

Many online learners enjoy sharing their learning with a group of people within their own or similar organisations.  CVSL has created a Facilitator pack to help you work through our leadership courses with a small group of learners in your locality. We envisage this will be particularly useful for infrastructure organisations, training officers, and peer groups wanting to develop their own leadership practice.  To request the pack, please click here, and fill your details into the automated email request. We will then send you a copy of the pack.  We would like to know if the pack is useful to you, so that we can continue to adapt and grow our resources, so we will ask your consent to keep in touch.

If you would like to talk with us further about facilitating a group, please email, and we will respond to arrange a phone conversation.

Voluntary sector leadership courses from CVSL

"This course has really challenged my views on leadership and leaders…"

"Moving beyond understanding leadership as an individual doing amazing things really helps to challenge everyone who works within the organisation and will help to share the burden we put upon the traditional ‘leader’."

"The course has helped me to think differently about leadership – and how much there is still to learn  I hope that one of the things I will do differently is to think less traditionally – about where and how we work together – about telling stories – about listening and encouraging and critiquing."

"Participating on this course has really opened my eyes and altered my approach to working – even the reasons for undertaking the course have been questioned."

(Course participants, Introducing Leadership in Voluntary Organisations)

Whether you are new to leadership, have years of experience, or are simply wondering what on earth leadership is all about anyway, CVSL’s courses will give you a fresh take on leadership – and at no cost.  Our aim is to offer accessible leadership development opportunities, particularly for smaller organisations with limited resources for professional development.  Our open access online courses are completely free, they can be accessed at any time, and completed at your own pace. 

They will help you think again about who practices leadership and how.  Rather than focusing on the skills senior managers need to tackle the challenges of their roles, we explore how everyone contributes to making leadership happen – people with and without a management position (volunteers, staff and trustees); and in so doing ‘makes a difference’. Knowledge and insights gained will be applicable in small local voluntary groups and community activism, as well as larger organisations. 

Introducing Leadership in Voluntary Organisations and Collaborative Leadership in Voluntary Organisations build on real-life case examples to help you reflect on your own practice and the practice you see around you.  We encourage you to interact with other learners through the course discussion forums, but you can also work through the course on your own.  Follow the links to take a closer look at the course content or watch the videos below in which the lead author, Owain Smolovic-Jones talks about CVSL’s fresh take on leadership in voluntary organisations.


Introducing leadership in voluntary organisations provides an opportunity for people who work within voluntary organisations, as paid employees or staff, to develop energetic, practical and thoughtful leadership practice. The course explores this rich concept from a number of different perspectives but emphasises that any group of willing people is capable of energetic, collaborative leadership.


Collaborative leadership in voluntary organisations helps learners to reflect on and develop collaborative leadership practices that make a difference. The idea of collaborative leadership has achieved prominence in recent times as a way of leading that engages with others, crosses boundaries, and recognises that that leaders and followers alike contribute to leadership. The course is aimed at people who work within voluntary organisations as paid staff or as volunteers, but it will also be useful for people who work regularly with voluntary organisations, such as public sector staff or politicians.


Open access voluntary sector courses from The Open University

The Open University offers other open access courses useful for staff and volunteers in voluntary organisations, and for those considering whether to engage with voluntary and community groups. Currently achieving a 98% satisfaction rate, they together provide a comprehensive introduction to the voluntary sector and the opportunities and challenges of engaging with the sector. 

Introducing the Voluntary Sector covers the context and features of voluntary and community organisations including: the structure and history of the UK Voluntary Sector; values and beliefs; funding issues; understanding stakeholders; power and empowerment; and the role of volunteering. The course is introduced by Baroness Martha Lane Fox, the OU’s Chancellor.

Working in the Voluntary Sector focuses on the practicalities of working or volunteering in voluntary and community organisations including: working with volunteers; marketing and communication; budgets; fundraising; taking part in meetings; working in teams and partnerships; and building resilience.  

Taking part in the Voluntary Sector was developed by the OU’s Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnerships (CICP) in partnership with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

CVSL is extending its portfolio of courses.  We would love to hear from you about the courses that might be useful to you, and we can work in partnership to develop your ideas.  Please contact the CVSL team at