On Friday 30th June, WRC held its ‘Collaborative Change: Women’s Sector Leadership Conference’ in London. It was the first in-person conference that WRC has held in many years, and it was attended by around 150 women from across the country. It was a day filled with a sense of sisterhood and collaboration and a true celebration of all the work, resilience and leadership in the sector. It provided an opportunity for women to come together and discuss key issues, like the cost-of-living crisis, wellbeing in the sector, and how to build more solidarity amongst us. Just being in the same space after all this time made many of us realise that we are not alone in dealing with these things and can make change by coming together. We also heard from and shared leadership experiences and learned from each other. The day was full of variety, with individual speakers, panels and workshops as well as performers, artists in residence, information stalls and sellers as well as a lunch and drinks reception.  

We kicked off the day with an inspiring keynote speech from Esua Jane Goldsmith about the history of the women’s movement. This was followed by a moving performance by Tiwa King with a song written specially for the conference.

Having set the scene for collective leadership in the women’s sector, outlining how far we have come, Esua then chaired a panel discussion looking to the future. The panel was made up of accomplished and diverse women from across the sector, discussing their own unique leadership experiences. Each woman brought their perspective on what collaborative feminist leadership meant to them and shared examples of where they had seen this successfully in action – from the UK to Rojava!  

The panel discussed different key themes related to leadership, including the power of mass movements, the value of collectives, the importance of having a structural analysis of women’s inequality, interrogating the role that power plays in leadership and how collaboration can positively feed into that. The importance of recognising differences and building solidarity towards shared goals was also raised, as well as centring self-care as an act of political resistance, both of which were key themes that we took forward in the afternoon workshop sessions.  

There was then a chance for wider audience discussion. This centred around the need for the sector to come together in the face of the rolling back of our democratic and basic human rights. Women also talked about understanding commissioning as ‘coercive control’ and how to recognise and use our power in delivering critical services that the government is reliant on. The idea of setting up alternative and independent justice systems to challenge VAWG and the oppression of women was also discussed, seeing as the legal system’s track record on this is so abysmal. This is something that had a lot of support in the room and WRC will be considering how to develop this in the future.


Following a well-earned lunch break and time to catch up with colleagues from across the sector, the afternoon session commenced with five different workshops. Feeling energised from the morning's discussions, this was a chance for women to put collaborative leadership skills into action and develop specific skills or engage on specific issues. There was a wide range of topics to cover all interests, from learning about UN mechanisms such as CEDAW and how to set up a regional partnership consortium, to looking at how to engage better with the media and prevent staff burnout.  

In the cost-of-living crisis workshop, we built on suggestions from a previous event, and explored creating an action plan for how to take actions forward and engage the sector. One idea put forward was to have one day across the country where all women’s organisations would take part in marches and other actions - aiming to march from one end of the country to the other - combined with targeted contact of local MPs, a mass social media campaign and Twitter storm. The issues of utilising social media and engaging with the media were key, and the idea of creating a documentary was put forward to bring the issues into the public eye. WRC will be considering all these suggestions and taking forward some key actions with any women who are interested in being involved – please get in touch with WRC if so!  

The day closed with some poetry by T. Balogun, which got the whole room laughing, before the awarding of the Audre Lorde Leadership Prize. This was awarded posthumously to Rupa Sarkar, WRC’s visionary Chair who sadly passed away earlier this year. The day also provided a platform for WRC to launch its petition advocating for a specialist women’s fund led and distributed by our sector, for which there was support and a clear call to action during the day. You can sign the petition here. 

Attendees then moved upstairs to catch (a bit) of sun on the roof terrace where they enjoyed a drinks reception and an opportunity to catch up with friends across the sector after years of working from home, all set to the wonderful music of Floetic Lara 

This inspiring day bought the sector together to collaborate and share in a safe space where women could re-energise and mobilise. It provided a platform for animated and productive discussion on key issues affecting the sector and the women and girls we work with. We are already looking forward to the next one in 2024!  

Here is what some of the attendees said about the day:  

“One of the most inspiring conferences I have attended in recent years. It was fantastic meeting new people and learning, listening and sharing.”  

“The collective experience of being in a room with so many women (people) working towards similar causes, was really uplifting”  

“There was something magical about the energy in the room.” 

 We'll see you all next year!