Welcome to Leadership worth sharing, a podcast in which ACEVO chief executive Vicky Browning talks to civil society CEOs about their careers, their experiences and what leadership means to them.
In this episode, Vicky travels to Glasgow to meet Duncan Dunlop, chief executive of Who Cares? Scotland, the charity that supports, connects and advocates for care experienced people. They talk about listening to the voices of people with lived experience, how to turn an organisation into a movement, and what happens when you host a love rally on the streets of Glasgow.
“If you don’t have love I just really think you struggle to (…) find purpose and to belong. And what we realised through our work with care experienced people is they desperately want to belong, and they desperately want to have purpose, and to matter. There’s something so powerful in love that we don’t talk about it.” Duncan Dunlop
Vicky Browning [00:00:00] In this episode, I travel to Glasgow, to meet Duncan Dunlop, chief executive of Who Cares? Scotland, the charity that supports, connects and advocates for care experienced people. We talk about listening to the voices of people with lived experience, how to turn an organisation into a movement, and what happens when you host a love rally on the streets of Glasgow.
Vicky Browning [00:00:00] Duncan, tell me about the organisation Who Cares Scotland. What do you do? And why it matters?
Duncan Dunlop [00:00:04] Who Cares? Scotland. We’re just over 40 years old now. We are a unique organisation in a lot of ways because we represent the voice of care experienced people. Whether that’s foster care, residential care, kinship care. And then there’s those who are really on the edges of care within that space. Anyone who’s in it or been in it or been affected by it – we are there to represent them and their voice. We do advocacy, which is for individuals mainly within the system. Not just formal processes, it can be the situations of living within, having a voice, saying “I want to stay in this foster family, they’re trying to move me” or “I want to leave this residential house” or “I want to see my brother and sister as was meant to happen and it isn’t” to “I wanted wifi”, “I wanted more pocket money”. But we do I guess about 4000 cases a year. That might be for about 2000, up to about two thousand people, 1500 to 2000 people in one year, about 4000 different cases.
Duncan Dunlop [00:00:58] And then the second layer. We help to connect them together. That layer is around just to help them understand you’re not alone. You’re in care and there are others going through the same situation. Because quite often, particularly in rural areas… People go “oh my God there are other people in foster care. I didn’t know”. You know, we do big and national events. But we also do local events. So we create spaces and that’s very young. We also have alumni care which we started up for those who are generally over 26. We try not to be too prescriptive on ages. And then also it’s about having a lot of fun. So we create spaces where they can just be… not just a community but more of a care family.
Vicky Browning [00:01:30] One of the things that’s very clear in the stuff you… in your website, and the way you talk about the organisation is this sense of love. You talk about love a lot. It’s something that might feel a bit uncomfortable to some organisations. Tell me about how that came about. Is that such a recent thing, that realisation of this sort of family and the love element. Is that a new thing or was that always been part of what you guys do?
Duncan Dunlop [00:01:51] Yeah I mean… I think… We are 40 years old and we’re currently going through a 40 years of us project, in which we can see all our evidence, the history, the archives and everything, and it’s fascinating. Because what we realised is this is not new. The same issues come up time and again, generation after generation. And that isn’t surprising because care isn’t new. Care is a 150 ish years old. And that’s when I think really the last great innovation happened in care. Which was the invention of stranger care. They realised strangers would actually look after children, wasn’t just the parish … It wasn’t just kinship care and the family. But that was it. And it’s 150 years ago. I think what’s interesting if you look to the evolution of care, and then after the Second World War, when there was a great chance and opportunity for change. What happened was we have to give back services to working people, and this is why great things like the NHS were created, but that was for all people services, it was kind of carte blanche across and that included care. And all we actually did was, I mean, children in care need a service. Whereby… here’s the thing, I got this wrong. Actually a lot of people don’t need a service. You do if you’ve broken your leg, you need the service. But a lot of people just need a relationship. And with care, that’s what people need. Fundamentally they need a relationship. For children in care, they’ve been removed for their family often for a good reason, they need a relationship. What you mean by relationship? We mean love. It doesn’t suit us as professionals to talk about love because what is that? Philosophers for millennia talked about love, what it means, what is it, and how do we define it and you can’t put that in law, and you can’t legislate for it. But if you don’t have love I just really think you struggle to really have a fundamental foundation to find purpose and to belong. And what we realised through our work with care experienced people is they desperately want to belong, and they desperately want to have purpose, and to matter. There’s something so powerful in love that we don’t talk about it.
Vicky Browning [00:03:47] I think there’s something about us as charities as well is that, you know, all these years, decades, we have been told to be more professional and to get more efficient. And with that, in a sense, and maybe it’s come a bit more of detachment? That we are here to do a service, we are here to advocate for or help people. Perhaps some of that genuine love has gone out of it. Do you think that’s more universal? Or do you think it’s particularly relevant to children that you work with?
Duncan Dunlop [00:04:12] I get there’s good intentions with getting rid of love and care. Go back a hundred years: really, these children need love and probably structured discipline back in those days. And then after the – you know, you ever need this within our system, and we’ve had various causes of it and then we’ve had abuse. And actually, that love was being used as an excuse to basically abuse kids, so we stopped certain things because they were environments that enabled abuse to occur and we’ve gone way too far to the other… the media, they see so much in our culture – it’s like, you can’t put a plaster on the kids’ knee.
Vicky Browning [00:04:39] Yeah you can’t give them a hug.
Duncan Dunlop [00:04:43] And I struggle with doing it. We were abusing children by not loving them. To not meet the emotional needs of a child and not love them.
Vicky Browning [00:04:49] It’s a form of abuse in itself.
Duncan Dunlop [00:04:50] It’s abuse. Every country and culture in the world does various iterations of family. But at the heart of it one or two people are the core relationships and love the children and if they move or die or something happens to them, then hopefully somebody else can fill the primary role of being the ‘love giver’, if you like. But that has different connotations in our relatively limited English language. And it’s totally mixed up with romantic love, there’s nothing to do with it. You have to love a child or it just does not survive. You have to have… Some might love more than others but you have to have some love in your life, to know that you belong, or you matter or your life really bereft of purpose. And we’ve been really scared of it in care. I knew there was a lot of abuse but there’s other ways around that. We didn’t need to knee jerk so much and it’s actually become: that isn’t about protecting children anymore, it’s about protecting the professionals, the adults. But the other thing is, we’re not good at thinking what life would be without love, if we’ve never lived without it. I guess it’s a really hard concept think about. Like, what is it like to be hungry? We’ve all been hungry, but to live a life without actually being loved is probably quite a difficult thing to imagine.
Vicky Browning [00:05:48] How do you, as the leader of the organisation, set the tone and culture within the organisation? How do you… is it quite relaxed? So, actually it’s about enabling people to understand that they set their own boundaries. Is it about talking about this so that everybody’s on the same page? How do you go about making sure that the love is given in an appropriate way, but without kind of regimenting it?
Duncan Dunlop [00:06:11] Well I don’t think that… We encourage an environment with a lot of time with individuals and the relationships we have with individuals. Sometimes people are in crises, and whatever else, and we say ‘look, you’re not doing this cause you’re paid to do it. If you want to maintain a relationship with that person who is in severe difficulty at this juncture that’s totally up to you. I’ll support you, you can have time off work, you can do whatever you like but it’s totally up to you’. You know it’s not without with challenges to say it’s OK. What we’re not trying to say is everyone should love you. We should say we care about you. We genuinely do. Our job isn’t to be a loving relationship. Our job as an organisation – we’re very influential, powerful, with integrity is we cannot deliver a care service. So I’m not going to be here saying we’re gonna give you foster care. But yeah it has come with challenges and that has come with implications. We have to deal with it, but I do think there’s better ways in which we could deal with problems or misinterpretations as a society or as organisations then we currently do.
Vicky Browning [00:07:05] And you have a really high proportion of the people that work at Who Cares? Scotland are people with lived experience of care. So that’s obviously a deliberate culture that you’ve put in place. How do you go about recruiting and embedding people with lived experience of care in your staff and in your boards and at the same time kind of helping them through? Is it partly helping them through their issues as well? How does that all fit together?
Duncan Dunlop [00:07:27] The interesting bit is that most days, most issues, I could just do it. People like me could just do it, a white middle class male professional. I could advocate for salmon farming, either way, alcohol pricing, or kids in care. It’s a very similar narrative in terms of a representation of, you know, we talk about the white middle class man driving that. I did a lot of work abroad. I worked in a lot of different countries, I’m a youth worker, did a lot of community work in other places from the Balkans, peace-building work, through to Lithuania to India to Ghana, in different places. And I was really conscious in some aspects of the colonialism basically of what you do. You come in, you give aid, you give knowledge, you give expertise, you write, and almost watching locals laugh at you as they work out how to play the game with a system of – you know, the foreigner or the missionary or whoever else you’re coming in. I’ve always had that perspective this has to be care experienced… To have integrity as a movement. We do see this as a liberation movement and we’ve learned that in the last seven years, five, six years, actually, when the power of the care-experienced voice went to a parliament and asked them to raise the care-leaving permanent age to 21. And that came off our work on love and understanding what that was. When that happened, why did that change so quickly? We weren’t even a campaigning or lobbying organisation, when I started six years ago. We just did advocacy back then. There’s such an appetite to hear from care-experienced people because of the overrepresentation and the poor outcomes of our society. The social policy workers are always trying to work out “well, why is this?” Well, we didn’t really know how to talk to care-experienced people. We haven’t enabled it to be a community that feel safe and empowered. And what came from that journey, of them really owning their experience in that density was: It wasn’t people like me going and lobbying for raising the caring age. It was them.
Duncan Dunlop [00:09:11] When you realise that as an organisation… Your real power for change has to be the community. How do you enable a community with integrity to do it? And so we said yeah. Therefore, Who Cares has always had care-experienced people on its board. Now we want people to have a contemporary care experience, I would say, and we have at least half of our board – I think it only has to be a third, but about half of our board are. What we’re looking for is people who have lived experience to work alongside those who have some of the professional skill set we need. And if we get professional skill set and lived experience that’s perfect. But we don’t have that. So if I need an accountant, I need someone that’s good at HR, or media then yeah great if they’re care experienced but if not, I do need that skill set. So we didn’t go for the exclusive you must be care-experienced. So we have that blend and that’s the same within out operational staff, we go for the blend. Your lived experience really matters. But we want to make progress quickly and we know that this is a very new concept, that there’s a care family, there’s a care identity. So our target is 30 per cent at every level in our organisation. So we’ve got a bit to go there. We have at various stages and levels, but not everywhere, not every department. We’ve got four years to really properly work out how we’re going to make this happen. And actually more what will happen is people are more… what you find is, you employ people for a year or two sometimes and they say ‘oh, I’m care-experienced’, and it becomes apparent that they’re care-experienced. It’s not something they necessarily want to talk about straight up in their application for the role or placement. Sometimes that happens and we want to be a place that relies on care experience, and it does matter to us, because there’s integrity in it, and the continuous process of different care-experienced people coming through different roles matters too. Because it’s “oh, it’s not just that person” – it never is. You’re never really clear. If you do simple storytelling you shouldn’t be doing that for long concentrated periods of time. You shouldn’t be defined by your story.
Vicky Browning [00:10:46] I’m interested in this story about how you became a campaigning organisation, from being an advocacy organisation. Some of the stats that I saw when I was prepping for the chat: 15000 care children currently in Scotland, despite care leavers making up just one and half percent of the population; they account for a third of all prison inmates; only four per cent go to university compared to 39% of their peers; almost half have mental health issues; and almost a fifth are homeless within five years of leaving care. So that was the starting point as it were from the legislator’s point of view. They were saying: “these are really terrible outcomes. What can we do about that?” And then you fed into that the voice of people who had those experiences and that’s what kind of led to the whole campaigning side of things to amplify that voice? Is that is that basically what the pattern was?
Duncan Dunlop [00:11:35] The main issue in why we became a campaigning organisation in this situation is because we have somewhere between 40 and 50 advocates any one day out there. And they’re dealing with situations where brother and sister have been taken into care on the same day from horrific circumstances in their home. But the one thing that had made sense of their life had been their brother and sister. They had been a source of love. I mean they’d loved, or parented, before a carer splits them up. So we realised fundamentally care was broken. Why do you get outcomes that you listed? I could give you hundreds of terrible statistics, when we know we are as close as possible to being the organisation who can represent that voice to say “this has to change” because we know we are their Amnesty, we are their union. If we’re gonna fulfil that mandate for young people then we have to be prepared to say “your system’s creating that problem. It’s not just their birth family that’s creating the problem here.” And so when you’re in a room with a bunch of advocates telling you the stories about how a boy can get over 20 charges in three months because both his mom and dad had died, and he was aged 11 or 12 and he had to go into care, what are we charging for? He’s clearly – grief is clearly an issue. We think the best thing to do is to be in a residential place where they call the police when he kicks off a bit. So we had to really work out how we were doing it. So we had to become a campaigning organisation to work with integrity with our staff, to say “how do we not just change it so we’re not advocating for that same issue in another years time?”. And we’ve gone through 40 years worth of evidence, and we’ve been advocating for the same issues for a heck of a long time, and that’s not on. This isn’t to blame anyone that can talk about conspiracy – there isn’t. It’s just people are desperate for the solution. Why can we make such massive progress as a pretty naive, probably at times relatively, well certainly, cumbersome, clunky campaigning organisation, not understanding that politics is the way you actually make influence, so we went to talk to about what we’d just kind of say it. Because sorry, but this is what matters. But we’ve always tried to do it in a way – these are some of the biggest human rights abuses there are in my mind. We deal with children, but we do in a way that’s constructive. And so far people haven’t said no to us.
Vicky Browning [00:13:24] And do you think that’s partly because, or largely because, the voice is the voice of the people with experience? So it’s not a white middle-class man telling them, it’s actually young people saying this is what’s broken and this is the effect it had on me.
Duncan Dunlop [00:13:36] Yeah I totally do. This integrity is very hard. You look around at this blackboard. This is the blackboard behind you which, in very basic terms depicts care and its problem, was the one that we used to convince Nicola Sturgeon. When we did the… she should listen to a thousand voices to do a care review. It’s also the one Jeremy Corbyn was here about six weeks and the photos on this board, which are actually the stories the people who came and talked to Jeremy Corbyn that day.
Vicky Browning [00:13:58] That’s obviously a key thrust then for the organisation going forward and for you to make those voices heard, to change that narrative, to let that kind of authentic voice of people with lived experience come through. That’s a real kind of key thread of what you’re doing going forward.
Duncan Dunlop [00:14:11] Yeah it is. It totally is. I mean the change happened because of such an appetite for change ironically, paradoxically, but you’re saying I think is there’s such an appetite for change that’s saying right, okay what’s the solution saying? Why we ask Sturgeon to listen to a thousand voices and we credit to her personally, that she is with integrity. She gives a lot of time up to this, it’s not just with us as an organisation, we triggered it but she’ll be out seeing a number of other organisations and care-experienced people, to hear their perspectives, to understand their life. She’s had people in her office to hear it from them privately. She’s come to our summer camps to be part of that, in the field. You know, she’s come to the various events she’s doing this with integrity. My real hope is that she’s clearly an intelligent woman, she clearly cares about this. She’s not gonna make much political capital out of it, but she cares about it, because of the amount of time and commitment she’s done on it. And she cares about it and that gives us hope. Because she also wasn’t involved in delivering it. We didn’t expect her to do this personally. Really glad she is, and there’s great integrity to her, so she will have a real reasoning over what needs to change and she will recognise what was punishing the current system, which was pouring money into basically maintaining the same thing. So she did it. We also asked for them to set up an independent care review, we’ve also got abuse inquiries going on, which says what change should be and what we realised is we have to give our own perspective of what this should be, in terms of our evidence to all of these different people and bodies to say this is our perspective from the care experienced population. We grow at over a member a day, so we must be at about 2500 members. We have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, who have been involved in the organisation in the forty years. What is our story and our evidence telling us?
Duncan Dunlop [00:15:42] And we used care day to talk about you’ve gotta engage with the public, and things that, I don’t want to preamble, but come within some of that space, but we’ve talked about publicly around the need for care to be a protected characteristic. Why not? These are the people you looked at the outcomes. The outcomes for any minority group are worse than the mainstream society because they’re marginalised, because they’re discriminated against. But the worst outcomes for these people because they’re the most marginalised and discriminated against. They’ve got the worst life chances. So what are we going to do about it? Legislation to protect them. We can’t do that exclusively in Scottish law. It will require, in terms of its maximum impact, it does require Westminster. But we have partners down there that will work within that type of issue. So that may be around rights and respect. And the third one will probably around, then, well what is care? What does the relationship from the best version of care look like? And that’s our evidence to Scotland, and beyond,you know from care of you to a first minister to abuse inquiries to Westminster. To everyone we said “this is what we believe. There’s a different way for this to be.”
Vicky Browning [00:16:35] So you, with your members, are setting out a blueprint for what care could look like in the future?
Duncan Dunlop [00:16:42] Well, we don’t have the resource for that so what we’re really trying to do is more… I guess, we’d look at a strategic plan or probably down to as sub-objective, objective, sub-objective level. We don’t have the resource to do the fine engineering of this and what needs to happen where and when and all the rest of it. But we’re quite clear that we kind of have the three core areas that we think would make up what a better and different reality for care would be. We don’t want paradigm shifting rhetoric, we want action. There has to be time for elections, we know it will take time. That would require it. So, I guess like we did when we launched our thousand voices it was a manifesto. We had several themes in it, it’s not dissimilar to the imagery you’ve got around here, that was said this is roughly what you would expect. You can probably drill into quite a lot of specifics and move on, you know. You know there’s tons of stuff you could affect there, and benefit care-experienced people’s lives. Even since we’ve been doing this work, they get a bursary of eight grand to go to university or college. That’s evidence we gave to the widening access commission. One of our recommendations is you need to do this with care-experienced people. Because this process is going on in Westminster and government they went “Yeah we’re doing it.” That’s significant. I can’t remember what the figures are but its millions of pounds a year. So that’s the sort of thing.
Duncan Dunlop [00:17:44] So what we will have… So that when our members come out and all these processes come to an end, they can say well, is that good, is that good enough, is that OK? And we can say, here’s our perspective. We do believe things have to change. We don’t want to be the people just saying there’s a problem. We do think you have to be involved in creating a solution, or saying that solution fits well, or it doesn’t. We’re quite clear that the engineering isn’t our bag at all, it does a number of areas that wouldn’t work, but we’re quite clear that we will get that by then, what care ought to look like. And it’s been a great process. We talk about organisation just get behind something. People here are really driven by this issue because, again, you start doing advocacy in the same issue I got kind of worn down, that we say here’s our route to change. Look at how engaged our parliament is, and other people are, and how interested – there’s real heat in this issue. They go, OK, so what can I do. How do I go above and beyond. So teams of people without it being in any of their mandates currently going through a ton of evidence. Saying, this is what this is telling us.
Vicky Browning [00:18:35] Because they can see how change might be possible?
Duncan Dunlop [00:18:38] Yeah, because we have that momentum at the moment. We said we have this momentum, it has to happen. It has been a really beautiful constructive journey. It’s not been nasty, it’s not been cynical, it’s been – maybe we’ve just been really fortunate – but something around the integrity of people making themselves vulnerable, and saying: “here is my testimony and my story. I need you to change this please.” That’s really made it be a great journey so far and it might be the cut of a politician’s hair that we’re working within Scotland versus other places. Yeah, no doubt. We’re not that naive. But we need to make the most of this opportunity. Jeremy Corbyn was equally interested in hearing what had to be said from something that we might have by the end of the year. Although we are saying it this matters because you can see the integrity of care-experienced people, not just in Scotland then we had people from across England engaged in that process.
Vicky Browning [00:19:22] You as a person: where do you stop, and Who Cares? starts? Because you’re really bound up in the organisation. You’re obviously clearly passionate about it, you’re clearly passionate about the outcomes that you collectively can achieve. You’ve seen a growth in the organisation that you’ve doubled your income over the last five years; you’ve gone from 30 staff to 130 staff, something like that. You must have been pretty integral to the change and the shift and the momentum. Do you see yourself as a leader who creates change?
Duncan Dunlop [00:19:53] A couple things within that. One thing is that we’ve never had a growth strategy. The problem of a lot of charities is they think getting bigger or fatter is better. Never had that as a policy. It was probably… I’ve always had one mantra that, yeah I’m a natural disruptor. Pick a fight alone in a room, really, when I’m alone by myself, so I’m naturally disruptive and inquisitive in what I’m thinking or looking at. So you’re naturally looking for people to be inquisitive and disruptive and integrity in who they are. And so the main reason that we have success is because of people. I reckon that in crude terms, to talk about splitting something between people, strategy and structure, and I reckon if you do get percentages to those it’s over 90 per cent about your people. Because if you have great people who form relevant strategy you just go naturally fit into a decent structure. And so we have phenomenal people. I guess as one of the uncomfortable things in this space in terms of I’ve never met – I’ve met very few people who work in charities who I don’t like. I do think that they have decent values, they are good people. But they’re not all very effective. In leading charities I’ve often seen, particularly small ones, you have one or two people killing themselves to make it work. I watched people who aren’t really doing very much. Part of what then happens in that space is that I don’t think the charity is as good as it can be for the people that it exists to serve, or work with. And when I look back, we went on that journey about getting people who were really motivated who weren’t being cynical about what we might achieve or what we might do who really want to make this happen. And building teams of people that have got that and offering real autonomy. And there comes some problems of autonomy, but giving them real autonomy, and I don’t know quite a lot of what goes on this organisation. OK, fair enough, good idea that. Well. Fine.
Duncan Dunlop [00:21:25] They hold dear our values and none of them are idiots. But care’s been waiting for an overhaul for generations. So it wasn’t exactly, I don’t think it’s particularly difficult in this area. I just don’t think anyone’s taken the mandate. The reason I guess – so yes, the staff, but there’s also the people. I’m a youth worker, and so quite quickly I could make my own considered call on what was safe, and you get people to share. I started our storytelling work, for instance, modern iteration of it. I went to speak at a conference with some of those who are care-experienced. I’d get to know them, I’d work out which bits of the story to share, I can map its evolution. I don’t do a huge amount of that now with other people who do that property to a far better degree than I did, but because I knew people, and I could connect with young people I could block out what was safe and what was OK, and I worked out this was something that was OK. The mainstream rhetoric back then was “it’s not safe and it’s not etiquette, don’t do it.” No, it is, you’re wrong. So that was probably the key change, in terms of opening doors of opportunity and staff seeing opportunity and being able to do it. And yeah, these quality people, they really care about it – our staff come from such a wide range of sources. The growth has never been a growth strategy. We just try and wash our faces, and every year we problem manage. We’ve not had a year we’ve been in deficit but we’ve not had a year we’ve made more about 1 or 2 per cent. On our reserves we’re always tight, and it gets tighter every year, because you do want to maintain that care-experienced person and being able to work with a grant. How do we do that? So we hold a lot of… we have the policy which is helping them to establish… well it’s not policy, it’s not written down some of the stuff. Our intent is we don’t lose care experience, and if contract runs out and money runs out, our aim is not that we say “game over cheerio”. We’re always trying to make sure they progress into something that’s constructive or positive. But it’s all about people.
Vicky Browning [00:22:57] And you talked about the… some of the values. I mean, I was looking at the – what you describe as a building blocks here, the four key qualities. That’s belonging, authenticity, stability and determination. We’ve talked about the authenticity side of it which is having that voice of people who really know what it’s like to live these experiences. We’ve talked a bit about the belonging, because that’s the family and the connecting and putting care-experienced young people in touch with each other. Stability and determination: stability is that sense that you will… you will still be there, no matter what? Is that, is that how you would define the stability end of it?
Duncan Dunlop [00:23:35] Who will be there?
Vicky Browning [00:23:35] The organisation, Who Cares? Scotland. What you were just saying, though: you stick with them even if the contract runs out. You’re not going to kind of kick them out. You will stay with them.
Duncan Dunlop [00:23:45] Yeah, we recognise the fragmentation and contract basis of so much of care is what ultimately is one of those key failings. And so we do try to be a stable presence. I’m not trying to be a long relationship, we are stable. We are here to represent your voice. It’s your space, come and go as you please. You’re in charge of the relationship. When an advocate meets young person it’s… understand, you are our boss? And so it’s trying to give them power within that space.
Vicky Browning [00:24:07] And the determination presumably is that you can see what’s wrong and you’re not going to stop until you make enough noise to start changing, or to get it improved.
Duncan Dunlop [00:24:14] Yeah we won’t… that will come at a cost. That’ll cost us financially, probably significant implications to the organisation, our determination to stick with it. I guess it’s a measure of our values that we have summed up what we believe is right. We created a moment, and I do believe it’s relatively unique in terms of the interest and engagement of senior political figures that we now need to make the most of. And I have skewed that our board has always been really supportive of that too, they’ve understood that I’m sure there’ll be bumps in the road.
Vicky Browning [00:24:39] But you’re going to be there.
Duncan Dunlop [00:24:40] Well, we are. And that’s the, I mean, yeah… It’s not about so much the job and the condition. We have huge flexibility at work, our offices isn’t really big enough, internet is absolutely diabolical in the centre of Glasgow, but there’s various things we actually give people freedom. Work when you need to, do what you need to do, to do the job that you know you need to do.
Vicky Browning [00:24:57] Great. What about you, where are you going next? Are you staying here for the duration?
Duncan Dunlop [00:25:02] My ambition, but it won’t be mine to make it, is that Who Cares? Scotland needs to be led by someone who’s care experienced. I’m not care experienced. At the right stage when we get through whatever phase it is, our strategic plan, there’s four years to go. If the organisation is on the right trajectory I probably shouldn’t be leading it. I’ll still be involved in the organisation, emotionally I always will be, I’ve got a huge number of friendships, relationships that I will take with me. Yeah I don’t think, also, you should stay too long in any one place. But we created such change it’s working to a point whereby you should probably get off and let someone else drive the next bit. I do think it needs freshness.
Vicky Browning [00:25:33] You have very particular skills that you’ve brought to this organisation: your background in youth development work; your disruptive tendencies; your determination. Do you think that lived experience in the chief exec’s role, in the most senior role, is essential or desirable or…?
Duncan Dunlop [00:25:49] Well, what’s interesting here is – actually, what I’m best at is organisational development. I’m not very good at managing a service, incremental improvement by 3% a year, no… I’m good at organisation development, that’s why an organisation works. That’s actually what I’m good at, and doing that with integrity. The bit with our organisation unfolded that we haven’t talked about is we’ve actually done something really bizarre. We’re an organisation that’s actually become a movement, an organisation a really interesting space. We recognise this is a liberation movement.
Vicky Browning [00:26:16] Because you talk about – you don’t have beneficiaries, do you, you have members.
Duncan Dunlop [00:26:19] Yeah, they’re members. It could be, it depends, you know – look at anyone on any one day, you don’t have to be care experienced, members that are having a rubbish time domestically, but I don’t think we will follow a policy and this is my time off here. We can have all of that but just take some space, I can support you. If you’re gonna have a movement, we do think we are globally leading this. This work and the time we’ve given to it, and the energy and connectedness through so many layers, and how do you speak so little connectedness a voice. We talked about earlier, those who are looking for a sense of justice through abuse enquiries and other areas is totally valuable work. But in terms of this and the contemporary connections, you said earlier the whole care community, care family. Has to be led by somebody with care experience. If you look at apartheid in South Africa, there were a hell of a lot white supporters, but it wasn’t a white person leading it. The integrity has to come from those with lived experience. It doesn’t if I’m doing it. And how that will happen – I know the great thing about organisation, we’re quite OK with it. Oh, well we split. We actually have to become something that’s different. Well our membership arm has to be different from the advocacy service delivery arm, there’ll have to be an organisation. How can they have a relationship? It’s like, well, whatever needs to be can be but we shouldn’t be scared of it. And being OK, because we’ve had to… we have had growth, we’ve grown about – we’re three times as big as we were last time. So we’ve had to change every year and what’s really difficult is, god, we’ve got bigger, that doesn’t manage that, that person’s managing twelve people, that can’t happen, how do we change, that’s gonna have an impact. So it’s trying to keep far enough ahead of everything. But when you’re creating such change and you have such interest, you’re, like, trying to look like the swan on the water, the duck, whatever: you’re paddling like hell beneath the water to try and work out where the hell you’re meant to be, you’ve got just enough space to make your next few yards and then you go, God, I’ve gotta go faster again ’cause something else has happened. But it’s far better we’re doing that in a progressive way than a regressive way, which austerity has created. There’s so many great organisations who are delivering services or other things who are just being shrunk and shrunk and shrunk.
Duncan Dunlop [00:27:56] So there’s something that’s been really great to see but we are in the space of being…yeah – we’re happy to be called a movement. We did a love rally where… that we did last October on the streets of Glasgow. We walked out here and probably somewhere between seven hundred and fifty to a thousand people marched in the streets of Glasgow demanding for care experienced people to be loved. Glaswegians… are the scariest bit was we finally left the safety of an office or a conference or the sector to go out and just rub hands with the public. Glaswegians were going, eh, what’s this about? “We’re asking for kids in care to be loved.” What are you talking about, are they not loved? “No” Well that’s a bloody disgrace. Can I get involved?” It was exactly that reaction because of one fundamental thing we know is every child in care, every person requires love and that’s really important. For someone who’s been exposed to trauma. who’s had to enter care, they have to be loved and, oh, it’s been a fun ride. You know you can pick any issue with care and you can, you can change – you can tackle or change it.
Duncan Dunlop [00:28:48] And the public will care. We know they will care, like Glasgow reacted. But then you look at Children in Need. People ring up and they give, like, a tenner or whatever up to fifty hundred quid. And they go, we don’t just want your money, we want your love. Isn’t that an important message when you don’t have that for these other minority groups. You haven’t had telethons for LGBT rights or issues around race or whatever else. They haven’t done it. We know that children struck a chord in our society. Why the hell haven’t we asked them to love them yet? You know we did, there was actually an event not so long ago. An education forum for civil servants to have this strategic plan if you like for Scotland. And one of the objectives talks about children being loved, and he goes, you guys did that, but we didn’t even know it was there, and it was like wow – we don’t understand the unintended consequences of what we’re doing. To make it OK to talk about love. So there’s, there’s amazing things that can happen and you gotta just keep the positive energy going. That’s hard sometimes because we do get quite a lot of criticism from all sources and spaces, and also hearing that we are making a difference. So it’s a total privilege working it.
Vicky Browning [00:29:41] Excellent. Well we’ll go out and feel the love. Well thank you very much indeed Duncan, for having me here, and for talking to me. I’ve really felt the love and wish you all power to the elbow of the organisation to make these incredible changes that you’re talking about.
Duncan Dunlop [00:29:55] Thank you. Thanks for taking time to come.