Supporting great leadership in the voluntary sector

The Walter Dickie Leadership Bursary aims to help leaders in the voluntary sector to develop their entrepreneurial leadership skills. The annual award grants £2,500 to support an individual in Wales to become a better leader.


As a member of WCVA’s board Walter Dickie’s expertise, experience and commitment to the voluntary sector have had a profound impact on the work of WCVA and those who had the pleasure of working with him.

For more than ten years Walter supported WCVA as a trustee where he played an instrumental role in guiding the organisation and helping to set up the groundbreaking Communities Investment Fund which lends money to social businesses. That fund still runs today and remains the cornerstone of so much of our ongoing social investment activity.

Thanks to Walter’s dedication, WCVA has been able to lend over ten million pounds to community organisations, many working in the most deprived areas of Wales. Amongst a myriad of successes, the fund has helped save the last pubs in rural communities, given a kick start to the extreme sports boom in North Wales, provided a safe environment for children whose foster care has broken down, brought old buildings back into community use, created hundreds of jobs and enabled communities to control assets in their own towns and villages.

Walter sadly passed away in 2017 so to honour his memory, and continue the development of entrepreneurial leadership in the third sector that he gave so much time to support, WCVA set up The Walter Dickie Leadership Bursary.


A bursary of £2,500 will be awarded annually to someone in a leadership role within a voluntary organisation in Wales to help them become a more entrepreneurial leader. This could be someone working in a social enterprise with an idea of how to develop their trading activity, or a leader within the sector who wants to generate income from trading for the first time.

The parameters of how the bursary can be spent are open and applicants are encouraged to come up with interesting ideas to support their own development as an entrepreneurial leader. Walter had a passion for travel and for learning, and WCVA wanted this bursary to reflect that. The money could for instance be used:

  • on a particular course of study
  • on funding a visit, possibly overseas, to see how others approach things, or
  • simply anything that the beneficiary feels will move them and their organisation forward

The only limits are in your imagination!


The scope of the bursary was developed pre-pandemic and we realise that travel might not be possible or advisable this year because of COVID-19. Please follow government guidelines and consider whether the activities you outline in your application could be affected by a change in restrictions.

Because of coronavirus we are encouraging applicants to think differently about how they might use the bursary. This year we will be prepared to make more than one award within the available £2,500 if applicants apply for less than the full amount due to travel restrictions or other COVID-19 limitations.


There is no formal scoring system for applications. The judging panel are looking for the proposal that inspires them most and is in keeping with the ethos of the award. All that is asked in return is that successful applicants share their experiences within their own organisation, with WCVA and with the wider sector.

If you have any queries on the application process, or to request an application form, please contact Social Investment Cymru on or call 0300 111 0124.

The deadline for applications for 2022 has now passed.


Two smiling women hold an award certificate

Karen Chalk of Circus Eruption was announced as the winner of the £2,500 bursary at WCVA’s AGM and Annual Lecture in Llandudno.

Read more.


Isla Horton, Development Co-ordinator at Grow Cardiff, was announced as the second ever winner of the £2,500 bursary at WCVA’s Annual General Meeting at the Wales Millennium Centre on 22 November 2018.

The bursary will enable Isla to embark on a study tour of Montreal in Canada, visiting respected organisations across the area that are promoting natural resources and revitalising their communities through gardening projects – as well as visiting local schools where they use gardening as a learning tool across the curriculum.

The bursary will also pay for Isla to undergo three courses of study at the Thrive centre for therapeutic horticulture, based in Reading.

Isla will be using what she has learnt to enrich Grow Cardiff’s projects, including work with schools, social prescribing, and neighbourhood community gardens. She will also be sharing her learning with the wider sector and external partners through Grow Cardiff’s membership with various third sector organisations (including WCVA) and schools, health and well-being and social prescribing networks across Cardiff.

‘I have had very little training other than on the job and out of necessity since starting Grow Cardiff, and I would like to use this bursary as a space to reflect and grow – a time to develop myself as a leader, something I have often denied myself, but that on reflection, I very much need,’ says Isla, ‘I want to become the leader that Grow Cardiff deserves and that I have the potential to become if I allow myself the time and space to explore.’

Read more about Isla’s journey in her blog: Voluntary Sector leader? Invest in Yourself


Steve Brooks from Sustrans Cymru was announced as the first successful Walter Dickie Leadership Bursary recipient at the WCVA AGM and Annual Lecture at Venue Cymru in Llandudno on 22 November 2017.

Sustrans Cymru is a charity that aims to make Wales a better place for people to walk and cycle. Steve used the bursary to fund enrolment on the ‘New Technologies and Changing Behaviours’ course, part of the Global Challenges in Transport programme run by Oxford University’s Oxford Leadership Programme.

The bursary also paid for Steve to travel on a study visit to Copenhagen for the annual Copenhagenize Masterclass, to learn how they helped transform their city into a bicycle-friendly urban centre. To bolster the impact of Steve’s activities Sustrans organised mentoring and ongoing strategic advice to complement his learning.

Read more about Steve’s adventures in his blog series for WCVA: