Seb Elsworth

History and Philosophy

After graduating in history and philosophy, Seb spent two years on the LUU Exec. He was involved in leading the Union through major strategy and governance changes and significantly influenced the national debate on how students’ unions should be run. Seb is now head of policy at ACEVO.

What is your current profession?

I am Head of Policy at acevo, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations. We represent 2,000 chief executives of charities and other non-profit organisations and focus on developing leaders in order to make their organisations more effective. We are a leading national and international voice, speaking on behalf of our members in the media and significantly influencing government policy.

Describe your role.

I lead a team of 5 staff and our role is to influence government, policy makers, leaders within the sector and the public on issues which matter most to non-profit chief executives. These include the way in which charities can play a greater role in delivering and designing public services, the way in which they are funded, the way in which they are governed and why it is important for them to invest in leadership and development.

We work closely with ministers and officials in government, with think-tanks, with our members and with the media to get our messages across.

What did you do immediately after leaving University?

After graduating I was elected to the executive committee in Leeds University Union as Societies Officer. I was then re-elected as Finance and Commercial Services Officer. It was a great privilege to do that job for two years and I learned an enormous amount. As a team we were leading the Union through some really significant changes, developing a new strategy and new governance structures. I am really proud when I see how successful the Union is now and I am still close to the great people I worked with.

How did you get to be in your current role after leaving the University of Leeds?

Whilst at LUU I became very involved in national debates in the student movement about how Unions should reform their governance arrangements. In so doing I came across acevo and the work they had done on making organisations more professional. I met Stephen Bubb, acevo’s chief executive, and was invited to do an internship. I began working full time for acevo as a project officer in July 2006 and became Head of Policy In June 2007.

What did you do whilst studying that helped pave the way into your chosen career?

I was not sure of how my career would evolve while I was studying, although I knew that I was unlikely to go into the corporate sector. I became increasingly involved in various activities in LUU, as the treasurer of the photography society, and as I learned more about the role on the executive committee being elected became my goal.

What skills and attributes did you develop as part of your course?

When you do a degree like History or Philosophy what you really take with you into a career like this is how to analyse and be critical of information and how to write succinctly. These are skills which I use every day.

What skills and attributes did you develop from your co-curricular activities?

Working in a small team to run the photo society taught me many of the skills around influencing people and building consensus which I use in the leadership roles which I have had. But getting involved in co-curricular activities was also a great way to meet people.

What advice would you have for students studying today?

Take all the opportunities that you have while you’re at Leeds. Never in your life will you have so many opportunities to try new things so easily.