Ardoch 2023

Welcome to Lasting Difference Ardoch 2023!

‘Sustaining change’: an advance retreat

12pm Thursday 15th June to

1pm Saturday 17th June 2023

Every two years we run a special residential retreat for 16 invited guests and the Lasting Difference Team. Whether you are a past or current client, a partner or someone we have just met, we have invited you because we find you interesting and inspiring, and we think other people will too.

What happens when we get 16 interesting and inspiring people together in one place like this? Watch this short film about our 2017 retreat to find out!

About Ardoch

Ardoch Loch Lomond matches our own ethos – it’s unique, modern, inspiring, calming and informally professional. It takes you out of work so can think more clearly about work. Overlooking Loch Lomond and the Trossachs beyond, it provides the perfect setting for inspired thinking. Find out more here (the link contains spoilers though!).

About the Lasting Difference experience – an Advance Retreat

The original vision for these events was to give something back to the people and sectors we serve. It’s our way of creating ‘off-the-clock’ time and space for some of the brightest leaders in the UK to learn with, from and alongside each other. Being a Lasting Difference event, it will be creative and fun, but grounded in reality. Yes, you will return from the retreat thoroughly refreshed, having encountered new ideas and perspectives. But you will also return equipped with decisions, plans and practical tools to advance the ‘wicked’, complex problems you face. We call these experiences ‘Advance Retreats’.

What to expect

Advance Retreats are uniquely open and creative. An outline programme provides purposeful structure, but we base the content and activities entirely on the challenges and contributions people share on the first day. It’s a bit of a facilitation feat, but transforming your challenges into practical, tailored activities is what makes the process so special.

Day One is all about getting to know each other, though lunch and dinner also feature strongly. Once we’ve broken the ice, we share the challenges we have all brought. This may sound daunting, but it’s usually the most positive and affirming part of the event. Not only are you not alone, you are with 16 expert peers, each committed to helping one another.

Mornings are usually gentle, with optional activities (often run by participants) followed by a short group meeting or Lasting Difference team input before breaking into workshops, activities and discussions based on the challenges we’ve shared. (We also encourage non-participation when you just need time and space to yourself).

Lunch brings us back together, maybe leading into another structured input from the core team. More workshop time is followed by dinner. Evenings usually find people mingling over drinks in the lounge, around the campfire or under the stars.

The distinctive format works because it is ‘content light’, allowing participants to bring their own challenges, ideas and contributions. We shape the programme as themes emerge. This high degree of responsiveness has proved to be an extremely popular and effective model for facilitating leadership development. (83% of past participants cited this as one of the best elements of the experience). People also value being part of a well-curated, carefully chosen group of sector leaders (92% reported this as one of the best things).

In summary:

  • Two full days and nights to allow you to fully explore and begin addressing your individually identified issues
  • Structured inputs from and uninterrupted time with the Lasting Difference team (see below)
  • ‘Content-free’ space for self-directed activity, reflection, discussion, play and planning
  • Participant-led inputs, sharing and support.
  • Plentiful food! If you have a special diet you will be catered for on an entirely equal basis – other people get cake? You get cake. Other people get choice? You get choice.

The theme for 2023 – sustaining change

Each event has had its own identity and themes. In 2015, we ‘Unplugged’ (follow this link for notes), providing opportunities for leaders to switch off from everyday concerns and reconnect with what matters most to them. In 2017 (click for notes), we provided ‘Time and Space’ to reflect on our priorities, intentions and values as leaders. 2019’s theme was Leadership for a Lasting Difference

This year, our theme is ‘sustaining change’. What have we learned from the scale and pace of change during the pandemic? What is system change and how do we do it? What about the changes and transitions in our own lives? (Don’t tell your board, but significant life or job changes are not uncommon after an Ardoch weekend).

Past participants

Past participants came from a diverse range of roles and organisations, including (at the time of their participation):

  • Funders: Carol Downie, Gannochy Trust; Don Williamson, Shared Care Scotland; Frances Bain, Paths for All; Keith Wimbles, Voluntary Action Fund; Allison Mathews, The National Lottery Community Fund
  • Social entrepreneurs: Matt Fountain, Freedom Bakery; Moxie DePaulitte, Massive Outpouring of Love; Lori Conway, Wellbeing 1st
  • Arts and heritage organisations: Chrissie Ruckley, Creative Scotland; James MacBain, Chawton House Library
  • Health and social care charities: Anne Marie Monaghan, Community Brokerage Network; Flora Henderson, Future Pathways; Frances Simpson, Support in Mind Scotland; Virginia Anderson, Cerebral Palsy Scotland; Jane-Claire Judson, Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland
  • Youth and equalities organisations: Jane Griffin, LGBT Youth Scotland; Bridie Ashrowan, Columba 1400; Linda Rogers, Edinburgh Women’s Aid; Cathy Magee, Dyslexia Scotland; Amelia Morgan, Venture Trust; Fiona Sandford, Visionary
  • Policy and infrastructure bodies: Claire Stevens, Voluntary Health Scotland; Dee Fraser, Coalition of Care Providers in Scotland; Elspeth Gibb, Care Inspectorate; Alison Douglas, Alcohol Focus Scotland; Cathy Shimmin, Directory for Social Change
  • And others: e.g. Kate Wallace, Victim Support Scotland; Grace Martin, Sustrans; Margaret Gibson, EY Foundation

What people say about it (basically, it’s life changing)

Download the previous event reports (using the links above) to see how people describe the Lasting Difference at Ardoch in the warm afterglow of an event. In 2018 we also asked people from previous retreats for a more considered view. Here’s what they said:

‘I love the way the whole thing emerges and the responsiveness of the group to going with the direction that makes itself known to us.’

‘The event helped me to examine myself and have the confidence to see myself as a leader. It was a brilliant early step in a year of building confidence in myself and my capabilities. It was enlightening in many different ways.’

‘I valued the way looking after yourself was given priority and we each got to share the challenges and demands we faced in our work place and it was safe to be really honest about the struggles as well as the good things!’

‘There’s nothing else like it and being able to take time and share experience with like-minded people is something that we don’t all get to do often enough.’

‘It is an outstanding opportunity to reflect and renew.’

‘I’d recommend it because of the combination of thoughtfulness, ingenuity and genuine insight that will be available to you as a result of participating.’

‘Excellent space for reflection, learning and restoring perspective.’

‘From personal experience it has helped me be more focused, look after myself better and realise I am not alone working in a difficult climate and culture of change.’

‘It has a positive impact professionally and personally. Builds trust and shared understanding.’

‘Space to stop and think about the change you’re trying to lead and stop the ‘reacting’ cycle.’

‘A very different sort of experience – a step into the unknown in terms of personal or professional outcomes, and all the better for that.’

How much does it cost?

The fee is £1000+Vat (£1200). This includes all meals, accommodation, resources and inputs, with a few creative treats and surprises thrown in.

We know the event is worth far more than we’d be comfortable charging, particularly because some people have to (or choose to) self-fund their place. So please don’t let money be the deciding factor – talk to us if it is an issue. It’s impossible to put a figure on what the event is actually worth in terms of the ideas, experience, contacts and outcomes you will develop with us and our guests.

Ready to join us?

We hope you will join us for what people tell us is a one-of-a-kind world-class leadership and organisational development opportunity.

If you haven’t already confirmed your place please contact Graeme as soon as possible via or by calling 01506 23 95 95. To secure a booking we’ll ask for a 25% deposit upfront and full payment 4 weeks in advance (these are also what the venue asks from us).

Our team – your hosts for the weekend

Graeme Reekie set up the company in 2013. He has 30+ years experience in the not-for-profit sectors, with post-graduate qualifications including an MBA, Fellowship of the Chartered Management Institute and recent studies at Stanford University. His distinctive understanding of and commitment to the sector make him one of the best known and most respected consultants around.




Jen Curran joined as an associate in January 2017 with 25 years experience of policy, strategic planning, organisational development and programme management in the voluntary and public sectors. Quickly gaining a reputation as a passionate ally to our clients, Jen went on to gain an MBA and become Director of Leadership. She oversaw creation of the Lasting Leadership guide in 2020 with the recently updated editions available here.



As our Director of Learning, Jenny Reekie writes and manages our e-learning courses. She has contributed as a leader and facilitator to each of the Ardoch events to date. With 20 years post-qualification experience of community-based learning, she left her role as Adult Learning Manager for West Lothian Council in 2018 to set up a new enterprise providing creative learning opportunities and resources for individuals and organisations: