Chief Executive, Catherine Kevis writes...

7 months into my new role….. A brief foray into my notes, calendar and inbox reminds me of the breadth and depth of knowledge one has to acquire as new CEO of a charity…... And more is to come.

First, there is the “getting to know people” which, with 50+ employees, and as many volunteers across a geography that spans undulating countryside and roads from Hereford to Telford, and from Shrewsbury to Worcester, this is going to take some time! But with 4 board of trustee meetings, 7 senior management team meetings and a few visits to community based projects under my belt, I’m now settled.

In parallel, there are the CEO connections with external stakeholders. I joined the Worcestershire Voices’ governance board recently and I’m excited to be part of a new conversation with colleagues across the sector, along with my peers at Onside, Vestia and the Pershore Volunteer Centre. Princess Ann came to our event in Hereford, and I was pleased to meet colleagues from the community and public sectors for a roundtable discussion entitled “Working Together in Herefordshire now and in the future”; over 70 people attended and networked with each other and YSS colleagues. Mindful not to usurp the existing relationships between my team of Directors and their external colleagues, I am also minded to establish relationships with current and new partners with an eye to the future. Over time, relationships with my peers and other organisations’ CEOs will also provide an additional source of support to discuss common issues.

On the internal organisation front, our work needs organising into processes and systems and I’ve been able to do a desk-based review of ours. I shan’t bore anyone, or myself, with the long list here but let’s say that a good system provides the backbone of an organisation and ought to support our work, not direct it. The best IT, equipment, facilities, policies and procedures are tools to make our lives easier and enable us all to maintain our sense of purpose and mission. To summarise my systems thinking, the key words are digital, data and stories, and how to make best use of our collective organisational intelligence to advance our mission.   

We will have our fair share of challenges over the next couple of years, with changes to the Probation Service and significant contracts due for re-commissioning. Alas, we’ve not yet found a way of funding that provides enough income for self-sustenance but we are in the privileged position of working with commissioners and funders who are open to our suggestions and value the first-hand knowledge that we bring of the communities and people we work with. I have a sense of the excellence and values-based practice and ethos here – YSS is an organisation where people talk a lot and discuss things with each other, by phone, mail, meetings and general banter in the office (although in some offices they have to whisper!) I find this encouraging and very conducive to the creative process in teams. Talking and debating also shows that people care about what they do and enjoy working with each other.

Last but not least, my thoughts on the people we work with (we have yet to find the appropriate term: our service users, beneficiaries, customers, clients) but put simply, people with their own set of skills, talent, knowledge and life, the positive part of them that is also part of their identity. Be they an ex-offender or a young carer, a grown woman, teenager or a veteran, who they are is not defined by what they have done; let’s not forget to spread some hope and confidence in their own capabilities.