Pippa joined the Charity Commission as Wales Board Member last autumn and here she reflects on the Commission’s work in Wales.
The sporting community and charity sector are two distinct ecosystems, yet as I’ve learned in my first six months as the Wales Member of the Charity Commission Board, I continue to be surprised at how the two are similar. Both sectors are underpinned by good governance, strong leadership and a deep-seated commitment to drive outcomes that really matter to people.
Like in sport, without good governance, a charity cannot thrive. At best it will be inefficient and at worst, reckless, in the choices it makes. Conversely good governance facilitates effective, accountable and fair decision making, clarity of focus and leadership and ultimately more effective results, so there is support for those who need it.
My career has evolved from being a competitive athlete to working with leaders in sport, and beyond, to develop their inclusion and governance structures, support organisations and instil fairness. It was this opportunity that drew me to my most recent role as a Board Member for the Charity Commission.
Fairness sits at the heart of everything I care about, and so the emphasis placed by the new Chair, Orlando Fraser KC, on leading a Commission that is Fair, Balanced, and Independent resonated really strongly with me.
A TIME OF REFLECTION AND CHANGE
I feel I’ve joined the Commission at an interesting time. The Commission operates across England and Wales and they have always maintained an office in Wales, which accommodates a skilled and experienced team. Over the years, the Commission has trialled different approaches to how it engages and regulates the sector in Wales, some more successful than others.
Earlier this year I joined our team in Newport to hear of their experiences and ambitions, and I look forward to coming to know our work in Wales much more closely in the coming weeks and months, using my own knowledge and experience of Wales, and my role as Board Member to support this work.
The number of charities in Wales is considerably smaller than in England, around 8,000 and 161,000 respectively. Wales and England are similar in many ways, but there are substantial differences too – from language right through to politics. The same can be said for the charitable sector, many organisations have the same shared experiences but, because of the landscapes (both physical and cultural) they operate within, their experiences can also be poles apart.
I have already seen that the Commission is mindful that not one organisation can claim to speak for the sector in its entirety and is always seeking a diverse representation of opinion. That also means including the Welsh perspective and I hope I can highlight the diversity of opinion that exists within the sector.
One of the keys to effective regulation is improving the data we have about charities in Wales. We are looking at improving the data we collect and how we use that data to inform our service delivery, the guidance we produce to support trustees and sector leaders and the way we interact with charities.
Importantly, the way we acquire information is not limited to statistical surveys and online reporting, as some of our most valuable data comes from meeting with charity leaders and sector representatives. The pandemic and associated restrictions impacted on the Commission’s ability to meet in-person, but this is changing, and in the last six months the Commission’s leadership has visited several charities across Wales, with the conversations we’ve had helping to inform several Commission workstreams.
APPROACH TO THE WELSH LANGUAGE
The Welsh language is one of the obvious differences between the two nations. It is something that is truly unique to Wales and a central part of Welsh culture and heritage. The Commission is committed to providing a first-rate service for its Welsh-speaking customers and is currently undertaking a holistic review of how it approaches the Welsh-language – not just in the delivery of public-facing services but also internally too.
CONNECTING THE COMMISSION AND THE SECTOR
I am really encouraged by the steps the Commission is taking to improve its visibility and presence here. I too am keen to be active and visible in my role and I hope to be an effective connector between the sector in Wales, the Commission and its leadership.
This is especially important now, during a cost of living crisis, when our economic circumstances require our Welsh charity trustees to display more than ever the age old virtue of prudence, and the Commission to assist them in doing this. I will continue to engage regularly with WCVA and I hope to meet with many more of you in the future. In the meantime, keep on with all the wonderful work that you are doing here in Wales.
Pippa Britton is a double Paralympian who competed on the GB archery team for 15 years and represented the Welsh able-bodied team on more than 20 occasions. Whilst competing Pippa became the first para-archery athlete committee member at World Archery, representing archers all over the world, and after retiring from competing was inspired by this to move into governance. Pippa is currently the Vice Chair of Sport Wales and Aneurin Bevan UHB and sits on the Board of the British Paralympic Association.