Stephen is an experienced Chair, Trustee and Non-Executive working in the charity and NHS sectors. He has served as Chair of two charities (one national, one local) and as Trustee of others; and is currently Vice Chair and Audit Chair of an NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, and trustee of a transport think tank. He has provided consultancy services through Eastside Primetimers over a number of years.
Why did I get involved in EP?
After retiring from my ‘real’ job – in the civil service – I wanted to remain active on a part-time basis, particularly in the voluntary and health sectors. I ended up as a multiple charity Trustee and Chair, and a non-Executive in the NHS. The chance to use my experience to help other charities, through EP, seemed a great additional opportunity. My personal focus has been in the area of charity governance.
What has been most rewarding about my assignments?
It has been a huge privilege to work with a number of charities – mostly small ones. Each does important and fascinating work, with dedicated trustees and staff, and it is wonderful simply to get to know them. The real kick, however, is when you find that – despite some initial doubts! – it really is possible, as an outsider, to make a difference and help them move forward.
What’s been most enjoyable/difficult?
The most enjoyable part of my assignments has been entering worlds I didn’t know, meeting fascinating people, and hearing their stories. I recall having to interview one trustee perched on a box as he served (excellent!) kebabs at his busy street-food stall. The most difficult situation was having to tell a charity’s founder and long-standing Chair that it was now time for him to move on. I wasn’t at all sure how this would go down – but it was my honest advice. Fortunately, he took the message in good spirit and the charity was able to move forward and recruit an excellent successor.
What tips would I pass on?
As consultants, I think we trade on 3 assets.
One is the credibility of having ‘been there/done that’: working on charity governance, I’ve found it enormously useful to have been a chair and trustee of charities myself and had governance experience in other environments. The fact that EP consultants have hands-on experience is a major asset.
A second is methodology: in my assignments I draw heavily on the Charity Governance Code, an authoritative (but not mandatory) guide to what ‘good governance’ looks like in the sector.
However, probably the most important asset for all of us is more personal: our ability to listen, empathise, analyse and play back conclusions and recommendations in a way which the client can understand and accept, even where they seem challenging. I’d like to think that’s a dimension where EP can really score!