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How peer support helped Selby District AVS leader during 2020

Leading in uncertainty

August 2021

Chris Hailey-Norris - CEO of Selby District AVS


IVAR introduction 

Leaders of smaller voluntary organisations experienced a prolonged period of uncertainty during 2020/21 in the height of Covid-19. Wanting to support the sector in a useful way, we offered sector leaders online peer support sessions called Emergency response support: ‘a space for solidarity and solace’.  From these sessions we built a picture of the challenges they faced and what they needed from funders in response: turning these into regular briefings. 

Following a positive reaction to the series of peer support sessions, our learning, and a clear need for continued support, we have re-launched peer support sessions with a focus on Leading in uncertainty. We asked emergency response session attendees to share their experiences of leading during the uncertainty of 2020 and how peer support sessions helped. Here, Chris Hailey-Norris of Selby District AVS shares: 

1.   What was leadership like during COVID-19 (2020)?

Leadership was a mix of emotions — and a roller coaster of decision-making, risk-taking and strategic redevelopment. In order to survive, we had to swiftly adapt and respond to the needs of the community and the organisations we support.

We had to rapidly adjust as traditional sources of income ceased and new opportunities emerged. We embraced new ways of communicating, increased flexibility in service delivery, and continuing to be a solutions-based service. This massive change meant that staff, volunteers and trustees needed increased communication, reassurance and emotional support from the senior leadership team on a professional and personal level.

On a personal level, at times, it could be isolating, frustrating, exhausting but also incredibly, humbling, emotional, and always worthwhile.

2.   Why is connecting with peers important for leaders?

It is important to connect with peers, as it is a refreshing opportunity to share thoughts and feelings, explore options, unburden yourself, and to realise you are not the only one tackling multiple issues within a changing landscape.

It provides the safe space to hear other viewpoints, ideas and strategies for tackling similar issues.

3.   How did peer support session/s make you feel after talking on leadership and organisational challenges? 


Each session was reassuring, informative, good humoured and inspiring. Facilitation ensured that everyone was given a voice, was heard, and that we had the chance to reflect.

It recharged my batteries and enabled me to move forward with increased confidence.

Leading in uncertainty

We are running 90 minute drop-in peer support sessions for up to 10 charity leaders at a time, every week, from June 2021 – via Zoom.  Join us for some time to pause and reflect, and to hear other leaders’ experiences of adapting to and coping with leading in prolonged uncertainty. Find out more and book your slot at this page: 

About Selby District AVS: 

Our aim is simple – to enable the voluntary and community sector to grow and flourish, whilst at the same time supporting an inclusive community for everyone living and working in Selby District.

How do we do this?

  • Partnerships and Collaborations – hosting and contributing to a range of networks and forums
    Support, information, and guidance for any community group / organisation.
  • Direct service provision – Community Transport Scheme, Social Prescribing Service, Career Development Coaching, Employability training schemes, holistic support for vulnerable people.
  • Opportunities – to share information, bring people together, address gaps in service provision, trial new initiatives, and research community needs.

Find out more about Selby District AVS at:

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