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.
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In this episode, Vicky Browning meets Ruth Taylor, CEO of the Abortion Support Network. ASN provides information and support for women from Northern Ireland, Malta and Gibraltar who need to travel abroad to access an abortion. We talk about the power of stories, the challenge of working with charity founders and how leaders need to work on the business, not in the business.
“I think one of the most important things that you can have as a chief exec is empathy and being able to let other people get on with their jobs. Being able to trust your team is really really important.” Ruth Taylor
Vicky Browning [00:00:00] Welcome to Leadership worth sharing, a podcast in which I talk to civil society chief execs about their careers, their experiences and what leadership means to them. There are so many inspirational leaders working to make a difference and I hope that hearing from some of them will inspire and challenge you, in the same way I’ve been inspired and challenged by all the people I have met through ACEVO. Today I’m speaking to Ruth Taylor, CEO of the Abortion Support Network. ASN provides information and support for women from Northern Ireland, Malta and Gibraltar who need to travel abroad to access an abortion. We talk about the power of stories, the challenge of working with charity founders and how leaders need to work on the business, not in the business.
I’m really delighted that you’ve joined us for our podcast today. Thank you. I just want to start off by asking you a little bit about yourself: where you’ve come from, your background and how you got into the social sector?
Ruth Taylor [00:00:09] I’ve been in it essentially since I left university. While I was at university I also did a lot of volunteering and fundraising. When I left uni it was the obvious step for me. Got two history degrees but alongside that I’d been making change happen. I’d been volunteering on an HIV and AIDS awareness project in Uganda. I volunteered with underprivileged kids in Birmingham. I’ve done all sorts of other things. I’d organised our university surfing society and I’d kind of got the fundraising bug and the organising bug. So yeah I went to uni in Birmingham and…
Vicky Browning [00:00:41] Not a lot of surfing in Birmingham!
Ruth Taylor [00:00:44] No! People always say that!
Vicky Browning [00:00:44] I was sort of thinking oh she must have been down in Cornwall.
Ruth Taylor [00:00:49] Furthest from the sea but also pretty much equidistant from various different places where you can go surfing. So anywhere was three hours away. So I was staying in Birmingham after my masters. So I started looking for jobs and my first proper job was for Acorns Children’s Hospice. I went and worked for them as the face to face and telephone campaign coordinator. Which was a massive job. It was setting up a whole new team and it was intimidating, scary and actually it was very bad timing because the recession than happened. I ended up being made redundant from it but I learned so much about what I was interested in and what kind of work I wanted to do. And then ever since then I’ve worked in organisations that have been making some sort of change happen in the world or providing some sort of service that supports people who need help. I think what I’m most interested in is work that leads to large scale social change. So I’ve worked on ending female genital cutting at Orchid Project, where I was the founding staff member, working with the founding chief executive. And then I worked at a Good Gym, which is an incredible charity that combines running and volunteering, trying to get people to do two things that most people don’t do either of. And then I joined Abortion Support Network, ASN, at the beginning of 2018. And we support people who need to travel to get an abortion because they live somewhere where abortion is illegal or hard to access. I think sometimes when I look at my career trajectory and sometimes when other people look at it looks like it’s been a fairly clear path and I suppose in some ways it could look like I’ve just gone up through these steps. But actually I have had to take some pretty big risks along the way and do things that weren’t just applying for the next job, that were meeting someone and thinking oh this is really exciting, I’m going to be unpaid on this for a few months and see what happens, as I did with Orchid.
Vicky Browning [00:02:40] You talk about being very keen on campaigning and social change. ASN is actually a support organisation rather than a campaigning organisation. But obviously one of the biggest changes, one of the biggest bits of progress in women’s sexual health rights is the repeal of the eight in Ireland. You couldn’t campaign on that issue.
Ruth Taylor [00:02:57] No.
Vicky Browning [00:02:57] Was that frustrating? That you were kind of thinking this is the big thing that could really help people but can’t campaign. How do you reconcile that kind of you offer support but you’d like to be campaigning.
Ruth Taylor [00:03:06] I knew when I joined ASN, in the interview process was made very clear to me that ASN it’s not a campaigning organisation. And I think they made it especially clear to me because of my background, because I’d come from Orchid Project doing advocacy and campaigning and I said okay, understood. I think when I then joined what became clear to me was that the very fact that we exist is a campaigning tool. The fact that we’re needed tells people in power that they are being remiss. And we’ve maintained the fact that we don’t campaign.
Ruth Taylor [00:03:38] We did a strategic review last year and came out with a new strategy for the next three years and we’ve retained that non-campaigning attitude. And in the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment, yes we couldn’t campaign as you probably know the laws mean that people from the UK couldn’t donate to the Together for Yes campaign. However, what we could do was share stories. And the referendum result really demonstrated not just from us but from all sorts of different sides, the power of people sharing their stories. On some levels it angers me. It angers me that women have to continually share their stories of things that have happened to their bodies in order to effect change. However, it did effect change. So we participated in that way as well. You know, Mara my colleague who is our founder, in the run-up to the referendum did something like 47 interviews and part of that was her just saying this is how many thousands of people have called us, this is how many people need us. And that is very powerful because abortion funding is in itself quite a radical act. It is in itself one that leads to social change.
Vicky Browning [00:04:42] And did you find that the women that you’ve helped were eager to tell their stories or are they reluctantly telling the stories because they got to do something to make things change?
Ruth Taylor [00:04:52] Yeah so in the run-up to the referendum most of the stories that we shared were fairly generic. It was this is how many people we’ve helped. These are the sorts of stories that people have told us rather than any specific case studies. I am confident that people who we’ve supported, clients who have come to us, will have shared their stories. And I think Mara, my colleague, knows of a couple who she was able to go: Oh yeah. She’s one of us. But most… A lot of the people who kind of stood up to be counted in Ireland did so through a sort of Facebook campaign called In Her Shoes, and through termination for a medical reason, and some of them remained anonymous. And some of them didn’t. Most of them were, I think, willing to share their story because they wanted to see change happen. I don’t think they would have necessarily done it for any other reason. But talking about abortion is still really taboo. In this country between one and three and one in four women will have an abortion in her lifetime. So it’s incredibly common but it’s also quite taboo.
Vicky Browning [00:05:55] But personal stories are very powerful and we relate as a species. You know we relate to storytelling. So our role as charities and as organisations that want to create change is to channel and protect at the same time isn’t it? To gather experiences and share those because we can be the front of it.
Ruth Taylor [00:06:15] Yeah.
Vicky Browning [00:06:16] And protect the people who are vulnerable to exposing.
Ruth Taylor [00:06:20] Yeah. And I think for me it’s a combination of empowering people who want to tell their stories. And that was something we very much did when I was at Orchid Project as well because we were talking about ending female genital cutting. And again people relate to the stories. But again that’s a woman having to tell the story of a traumatising event that’s had a massive and potentially traumatising event it’s had a massive impact on her. And I think it’s for me it’s a combination of empowerment and amplification, as well as as you say a bit of protection and being able to be the mouthpiece in some ways. Although at ASN, the same as Orchid Project, we certainly didn’t profess to tell women stories for them. Because I think that’s really important as well. I think it’s about ensuring that if someone wants to, they know how they can do that, and about making sure that people have the tools and also that they know that it’s fine to tell your story. It’s also fine not to.
Vicky Browning [00:07:13] Yeah.
Ruth Taylor [00:07:14] I was at an event in Gibraltar a couple of months ago, the beginning of March. So we opened our service to people from Malta and Gibraltar in February on Valentine’s Day. You get lots of nice jazzy ‘roses are red violets are blue people in Malta and Gibraltar need abortions too’ lines like that. And then I was in Gibraltar at the beginning of March working with some fantastic activists there who’ve all only been involved in activism for less than a year, and women were over the course of a couple of days I was there, a huge number of the women in this group shared their stories of their abortions. Some of them were 30 years ago and some of them were two years ago. But all of them had had to leave the country they live in Gibraltar and go somewhere else. They felt that they were, I suppose, sort of held in that container of that group, therefore they had the support that they could start to speak about it in a way that they never had before. Which also I think demonstrates the power of when groups of women come together and start focussing on trying to make change. Is that they think: right, I have had this experience and I’m going to stand up for my past self and for all of these women in the future who could be empowered by me feeling empowered to tell my story. If that makes sense.
Vicky Browning [00:08:22] It does. Absolutely. The launch in Gibraltar and Malta created backlash. This is a very divisive issue particularly in countries that have a strong Catholic heritage. As the chief executive of an organisation which is so polarising, how do you protect yourself from the kind of potential abuse and pushback?
Ruth Taylor [00:08:40] Yeah that’s a really good question. The backlash after our launch was mainly from like the Maltese press who hate us. They love talking about abortion. There seems to be an article in the Maltese press kind of every other day about abortion and we usually get mentioned. So they’re giving us a lot of free press coverage which is fantastic.
Vicky Browning [00:08:58] But the articles are about the terrible thing that is abortion.
Ruth Taylor [00:09:01] Exactly. They are. Exactly.
Vicky Browning [00:09:03] Rather than ‘hey ASN is here, excellent!’
Ruth Taylor [00:09:05] No. They’re about, you know, abortion is awful and this horrible organisation in England which has started to support people who need to travel and they are murderers. You know, the thing that worries us isn’t so much us. It’s about the impact that that sort of writing has on women in that country who need an abortion. We don’t believe that women who have abortions are murderers but that sort of press coverage is cruel, alienating and it’s frankly wrong. So that happened a lot from Malta but very little from Gibraltar. I mean Gibraltar is a very small place, 35000 people, and they have actually published a… they’re probably going to change their law in the next couple of months which is great news.
Vicky Browning [00:09:46] That’s amazing.
Ruth Taylor [00:09:46] And that’s partly due to this group No More Shame who I was with in March putting pressure on them which is really exciting. Whereas in Malta we’re a long way off. And, you know, it seems like Malta’s probably where Ireland was about 40 years ago. So in terms of how we… How we treat that potential for abuse or backlash, I have been in some ways quite lucky because I don’t have a massive social media or internet presence. I mean I have a small one.
Vicky Browning [00:10:17] You wait until this podcast goes out, my God you will be famous!
Ruth Taylor [00:10:21] However, Mara who’s our founder, my colleague Mara Clarke. She’s been in the abortion world for 10 years. She has got a reasonable Twitter following. And she has dealt with all sorts of trolls and abuse. The way that she deals with it these days, which is how she’s taught me to handle it as well, is to sort of laugh about it and to really not take it in. As an organisation, we have a general policy of not feeding the trolls. So on our Twitter, on our Facebook. And obviously people do comment on things that we post, people who are what we call “antis” and our general policy is just to delete and ignore if it’s on our Facebook page. Occasionally Mara might engage and depending on what the comment is like or one of the… So our social media is all run by volunteers, who are incredible who’ve all been doing it for quite a long time, and occasionally one of them might engage with something. But by and large, our policy is do not feed trolls. Ultimately these people who are spending their lives on the Internet criticising other people or trying to get inside women’s bodies and control them, they need to get a life. You know, we’ve read these comments and I’m just like get a job do something better. And I think having that perspective on it and it’s not a personal attack either. And I know that what we’re doing is crucially important and that it’s so much more meaningful than anything those people are doing.
Vicky Browning [00:11:45] Yes that helps a lot.
Ruth Taylor [00:11:46] That helps a lot. Exactly.
Vicky Browning [00:11:48] I mean you’re a small organisation. ASN is around 200000.
Ruth Taylor [00:11:53] Yeah yeah about, our turnover last year was about 240000 yeah.
Vicky Browning [00:11:58] And the need is huge. There’s potential to go to other countries and help. How do you and Mara balance that sense of wanting to do more for more people with the realities of the kind of income levels that you can expect?
Ruth Taylor [00:12:12] When I was considering joining ASN and going through the recruitment process I looked at the annual reports and thought oh this looks promising. This looks exciting. You know ASN has grown… We started in October 2009 with several volunteers, a mobile phone number and a bucket of change. Between October and the end of the year we were contacted by three people and spent 300 pounds supporting them. I think the following year in 2010 we were contacted by something like sixty nine people, moving through to 2017 which is when we so far peaked, and we were contacted by over a thousand people and we funded two hundred and forty three. And then last year 2018 we were contacted by over eight hundred. So slightly fewer but that’s probably because Northern Irish women can now get abortions for free on the NHS. The availability of safe but illegal pills online meant that fewer people contacted us. But last year we spent more money and we gave more grants and just we were able to support people who needed us and give them a bit more.
Vicky Browning [00:13:17] Right.
Ruth Taylor [00:13:18] So last year we spent £92000 supporting clients. So while our turnover if you look at it isn’t massive, actually… And our growth has been I would say our growth has been steady rather than exponential. And if you look at our, look at our income and our expenditure, but the need has grown massively and it’s grown… The graph is a very satisfying graph to look at. You know and obviously more people have heard about us therefore we’ve been able to help more people and therefore also more people have started donating to us. So when I was being recruited to come to ASN I was really excited. In my second interview I had to look at the accounts and draft and write some management accounts as I’d present them at a board meeting. And it also gave me an insight into the organisation’s finances as they were there and then. And I was absolutely amazed and just so impressed at the level of regular giving ASN has. I found that quite inspiring and quite reassuring. And so over… our turnover last year and the year before, over 90% of it comes from individuals donating to us. A lot of those are people donating monthly. So we have about a thousand regular donors of our database of 4000 people which is pretty impressive sort of database penetration. And then we have people who donate to us ad hoc and through appeals. Those people are what keeps us going.
Ruth Taylor [00:14:43] We haven’t historically had any statutory funding, that’s never gonna happen. We’ve had very small grants from trusts and foundations, and that’s an area that I think we’ll be looking to grow in the future. So in terms of how we balance our sort of ambitions for the future as well as our resourcing and our capacity, I think we are fairly confident that we can continue to grow and that we can grow our income and grow our expenditure as well. So continue to bring in new supporters and continue to find people who continue to support people who need us. And we know our supporters really well which I think is something that is again really powerful. And as we grow I want to make sure that we’re retaining that as well. People, you know, feel that they know who we are. They know who our clients are and that they can trust us which I think is really important. Last year in September we did a support survey because we knew that we were going to be doing some expansion. We knew that with the repeal of the eight fewer people in Ireland were going to be needing us. And we knew that we wanted to do more elsewhere.
Ruth Taylor [00:15:45] So we asked questions to bring people along with us, to find out from them would they be on board? And the answer was a resounding yes. You know, I think 83% of people who we surveyed said yes they’d be happy for their donations to be used in other countries. Another 16% or something said that they’d need to know more. And like, one individual person said no. So that was really powerful for us to know that actually people weren’t going to be leaving us if we said okay we’re going to open up some other countries. And also we asked the question the eighth has been repealed, are you still with us? How do you feel? And the answers to that were fantastic. You know, we had people saying I’m going to keep giving you money until you tell me you don’t need it anymore. That’s because of the work that our fundraising volunteers have done over the years in terms of bringing people along and telling the stories and staying in touch with them. Which I think means we’ve got people who are so committed that they’re with us for the long haul. And I also think that that is something that’s quite particular to sexual and reproductive health and rights and abortion. I think if you’re really passionate about abortion on either end of the spectrum, you feel very strongly about it. And people are really willing to kind of put their money where their values are and to donate and to go out and campaign and to support in that way. And I think also the specificity of what we do is really exciting for people. And we’re sharing stories of the people who we are helping, we’re telling you where your money’s going and we’re telling you what we’re doing next which I can see is really appealing.
Vicky Browning [00:17:18] And you talked about your donors using their values or putting their money where their values are, but you also have a really big volunteer base. Ninety volunteers and your staff is really small, four, five people?
Ruth Taylor [00:17:29] Smaller!
Vicky Browning [00:17:29] Smaller?
Ruth Taylor [00:17:30] Yes. We have an incredible base of volunteers. We’ve got about 90 active volunteers. We’ve got our trustee board. We’ve got about 30 or 40 people who are hosts, so they’re available for clients to stay with them overnight when they’re coming here for an abortion. And then our helpline is staffed completely by volunteers who are the most committed incredible bunch of goddesses I’ve ever met. They are literally abortion goddesses. They all, they do week-long shifts about every five or six weeks, and they all do it alongside their full-time jobs and they are the frontline. You know, they take the calls. They respond to the emails, they speak to the clients and they escalate things they need help with to Mara or I depending on who’s on call. Then we have our fund…I’ve got about 15 people on the fundraising volunteering team doing all sorts of different types of fundraising. We’ve got our social media team who volunteers. And then we’ve got me and Mara. So Mara is our founder and she works full time for ASN and she took the decision to move into a more operational role rather than being the chief executive or director. So she did that from January last year when I joined. So she manages our helpline, volunteers, supports our clients, supports some of our other volunteers as well. And then I’m responsible for obviously the chief exec side of things which, Mara puts it, you know, I get to do all the boring stuff. Which some of it is… Some of it is less interesting than other bits which I think most people listening to this will identify with.
Vicky Browning [00:18:57] You talked about Mara a lot. She is obviously incredibly inspiring, and Orchid Project you also worked with the founder.
Ruth Taylor [00:19:03] Yeah.
Vicky Browning [00:19:04] The charity sector is built on inspiring individuals who cared so much and still do about issues that they’re going to set something up to change it. But you are kind of serial worker with founder type. What are some of the experiences and lessons that you’ve learned about working with this sort of incredible passionate driven people?
Ruth Taylor [00:19:22] There was another one in there as well, because I worked with the founder of Good Gym. So I’ve worked with three founders now since 2010. As you say the charity sector is based on organisations that were set up by people who saw a need and saw a gap. And actually, in the case of the three organisations where I’ve worked with founders, they are all completely unique. They are organisations that… All three of them I think would rather have not set up an organisation. All three of them did a horizon scan and looked at what else was out there and actually didn’t really want to set up a charity. And then found that there really wasn’t anyone doing it so they did need to do it. And I think for me, working with them in that capacity has just been really exciting. At Orchid I was there right from the beginning. We did the charitable status registration. We got that first five thousand pounds and then by the time I left I think our turnover was about seven hundred and fifty. That was just incredibly exciting for me. But being part of those sorts of organisations at the very beginning or near the beginning, is what’s really exciting to me. I like working with a founder who has a vision and working with them on how to bring other people along with that vision. Because if you can’t bring anyone else along you’re not going to achieve anything. And if you can’t operationalize a vision you’re not going to achieve anything. What I’ve realised I’m very good at is sharing someone else’s vision.
Vicky Browning [00:20:50] And delivering on it.
Ruth Taylor [00:20:50] And delivering on it. Yeah and I think that’s also what’s really exciting about where ASN is now. And one of the reasons again why I came to ASN… When I was in the recruitment process, I think the Irish government said Oh we’re going to have a referendum next year, which already that was massive news. And you know, when I started they said Oh it’s gonna be in May. And there was all that lead up and we knew that if it was a no then it just meant business… You know, carry on as usual. And it would have been absolutely gutting. But if it was a yes… That was… And even when I was still in the recruitment process I was thinking Okay hopefully something’s going to change in Ireland and we’re gonna be able to look more broadly. Because having worked in international development for five and a half years I’ve got that international perspective. For me, with ASN I feel like we’ve had our first 10 years really, and now we’re stepping forward into the next 10 years. We’re not a startup anymore. You know, we’re in sort of the next bit, we’re becoming a slightly more, don’t know if a mature organisation is quite the right way, but we’re in young adulthood now as an organisation, which presents different opportunities and different challenges. And I think that’s really exciting.
Vicky Browning [00:21:56] One of the challenges sometimes of working with founders is when the organisation grows bigger than the founder or needs to change and the founder won’t, or doesn’t see the need to change with it. You haven’t experienced that yourself. What would you say has stopped that happening in the organisations you’ve worked for?
Ruth Taylor [00:22:13] I think that’s a really good question. Mara is still involved in ASN, she works full time for ASN. She worked with the board a couple of years ago, a few years ago now, and they agreed that ASN needed to grow, ASN needed a new strategy, and that ASN needed another staff member. She decided that because of what she liked doing and because of what she wanted to do, she no longer wanted to be…
Vicky Browning [00:22:37] Doing the boring bits.
Ruth Taylor [00:22:37] Yeah doing the boring bits. Exactly. So she moved into her more operational role. I’m not gonna lie. It has been challenging. I’m happy with saying that publicly because Mara was there too. She also knows it was challenging and we’ve now got to a very good place with our relationship, and with how we work together and with where the organisation is. And I think we both believe that we are the right two people to be doing this work for the next phase for ASN. But it is a challenge. It has been a challenge, and I think it’s moving into, I think a founder shifting roles in any way is always going to be quite hard for them, because there’s so much identity wrapped up in the organisation. Mara has always been amazing at giving responsibility to volunteers. When I joined, it was seeing that and seeing how fully she has done that and how much she believes in her volunteers that actually did help me to believe that she was going to give stuff to me.
Vicky Browning [00:23:35] And does having a strong board, is that important as well?
Ruth Taylor [00:23:37] Having a strong board certainly is important. Absolutely. And I think having a coach has been very useful for me. I started working with a coach at the beginning of last year and that’s been very helpful to me because I think, especially in a small organisation where there’s only two of you and we have a bookkeeper who works one day a week but she’s remote, having that external person to talk to was really really helpful for me. And also I think Mara and I we had some very awkward conversations. I’m a big fan of Bernee Brown. I think she’d be proud of me, let’s say. And… But what’s happened is because we’ve had those difficult conversations we’ve now got to a place where they don’t have to be as difficult. Because we put the work in and had some conversations that were really tough. And I think I don’t know if I would recommend precisely what we’ve done to many or any people because I think it’s hard. And I think you have to be very patient. You have to try to be very compassionate and generous to each other and you also have to be really interested in working with the other person. And you have to have a strong understanding of, you know, she knew the board had recruited me for a reason or for various reasons and they decided I was the right person for the job. And I knew that Mara had almost 10 years of experience that was going to help me do my job. And us as an organisation do our job better. And I think that point about keeping the organisation as a thing that is separate from us, it is its own thing. And what we want to achieve in the world is separate from us as well. That has really helped.
Vicky Browning [00:25:14] You talk about having a coach but you also are a coach, aren’t you? What have you found from your receiving end an offering coaching about the kind of skills and the qualities that leaders need and, you know, what are increasingly complex and challenging times?
Ruth Taylor [00:25:30] I think one of the most important things that you can have as a chief exec is empathy and being able to let other people get on with their jobs. Being able to trust your team is really really important. And I think that applies for leaders in any type of organisation. And I think if you don’t trust your team and you think consistently that you should be doing the job better than them, or could be doing it better than them, I think that’s something that you need to work on. And again I think that was something I found great about Mara was the fact that she really trusted her team. So I think that’s really empowering. I think if you’re not empowering people to do their jobs properly you have a culture that makes people unhappy and doesn’t get the best out of people.
Vicky Browning [00:26:17] It just becomes about one person.
Ruth Taylor [00:26:18] Exactly. And it’s not that’s not the point. I’ve always been quite a hands-off manager. I love being more hands-on when it comes to and like pastoral support. And it’s very important to me to have regular one to one of the people who I manage and to make sure that they’re healthy and happy and that they’ve got all the resources they need to do their job properly. But if someone’s working on a particular project, my attitude is usually you know what you’re doing, go off and do and then come back and show me. I had some bad experiences when I was a lot younger with micro-managers and I think sometimes in work it’s quite useful to see exactly what you do not want to be.
Vicky Browning [00:26:59] Yes, yes.
Ruth Taylor [00:27:01] In my first job at Acorns I was managing quite big teams and the HR obviously saw, sort of the human resources development manager, saw I suppose some potential in me and she put me on a number of different courses, including sort of line managers first hundred days and various different coaching and management and that’s actually where I first got into coaching. And those were so useful to me and gave me such an early on and quite a strong sense of how I wanted to be as a manager and then as a leader. Because also I think what people sometimes forget when they’re a chief executive is that you may be few people’s manager but really you’re leading the organisation. And that..you know, classic point about being on the business rather than in the business, is trickier in an organisation of the size that I’m in at the moment because there’s only two of us and obviously I have a lot… And one day a week I’m our fundraising manager. So there’s a lot of stuff that I am doing. But I think if you’re a leader in a slightly bigger organisation or a much bigger organisation then that’s what you really need to be remembering. Is that you’re on the business and you’re leading the business and you’re responsible for all of these other people who are delivering it, but let them get on and deliver and do their jobs. I read an article a few months ago that you might have seen as well. And was talking about how if you were chief executive in any organisation you’re responsible for raising money. I’ve said for quite a long time now that I want my next job to be one where I don’t have to do any fundraising. And every time I failed. But it is crucially important. There may be other people, you may have one hundred and fifty people and a fundraising team. But ultimately is the chief executive. Are you bringing in the money? Are you raising the money? You might not be doing the applications but…
Vicky Browning [00:28:50] Well I used to work in business. I used to work in a commercial… It was always, whatever level you were, you always brought in your own salary. That was the basic minimum. Everything else was considered a bonus. That’s.. Does apply I think in commercial world as well as in the charity world. There’s something about that leading from the front and demonstrating that nothing’s beneath you. Fundraising is a part of the way we operate. So it’s actually a really important aspect.
Ruth Taylor [00:29:18] And I think feeding on from that as well if you are leading an organisation that has volunteers, do the volunteering. You know, even if it’s one day a year, but get out and do it. And so when I joined ASN very quickly I did a shift on our helpline and I’ve done several shifts since. And it’s incredible. Speaking to women on the phone and saying to them “yes we can help you” is so powerful. You know, it’s not, it’s not easy all the time but it is incredibly powerful and it gives me such an appreciation for our phone helpline goddesses who are doing that all the time. It’s quite interesting reflecting on what I’ve just said. I think I’ve covered the sort of soft side of it in terms of empathy and listening to people, then the hard “you need to bring in the money”. But that’s certainly what I’ve seen from people who I’ve coached and people who I’ve worked with is if you’re gonna be a successful leader of, I think, any organisation and especially a vision-driven organisation, those are key things. And then maintaining your vision and also being open to shifting it and changing it. You know, when Julia, who is the founder of Orchid Project, and I set up Orchid it was 2010 and we said that we wanted to see an end to female genital cutting by 2015. And gradually in the next year and a half probably, as we learnt more and we did more, we realised that wasn’t going to happen. You know, we’d been wildly overly optimistic. There was new evidence coming out all the time about other countries were FGC was practiced. But we realised that we needed to change that part of our vision. But that wasn’t a failing, that was us learning more and sort of tweaking it. Yeah I think those are the fundamental things for me. Quite a few of them.
Vicky Browning [00:30:56] Yeah. That’s the richness of the role of the leader. It’s many faceted and you need to think about all the different aspects of it, as you say the hard and the soft. Brilliant. Thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been absolutely fascinating talking to you. I look forward to seeing ASN go from strength to strength and to seeing all the great things that you personally do next as well.
Ruth Taylor [00:31:18] Thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure.
Vicky Browning [00:31:20] This was Leadership worth sharing, the podcast by and for civil society leaders. Thanks for listening and we’ll meet again in a few weeks! If you want to know more about ACEVO, check our website acevo.org.uk (that’s a c e v o dot org dot uk) and follow us on Twitter, twitter dot com slash acevo. Bye!