Faiza Khan MBE is Director, Policy and Communications at Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Her previous roles include supporting education policy for the London Borough of Hackney and for the Local Government Information Unit, working in Children’s Services for the London Borough of Camden, Deputy Chief Executive for the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, and working with The Involve Foundation and NHS England on a national citizen engagement programme.
Diversity helps you make better decisions. At PHF (Paul Hamlyn Foundation), we have a number of staff here who are from different backgrounds, who have got lived experiences, and have been out working in the charity sector. They understand what it’s like to perhaps run a charity in that particular sub-sector or support communities, which really helps us make good grants.
But we’re woefully poor on diversity at the leadership levels. I mean all of us in the sector, and that’s translated in terms of leadership within civil society as well. We’ve got a really big mountain to climb in that.
There’s a troubling disconnect between large charities and small charities. If you look at the 2018 NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac, it clearly shows that the larger charities are recovering from pre-recession levels. They are getting the lion’s share of contracts in local areas, and the smaller ones aren’t faring so well. That’s creating a gulf between our larger and smaller charities.
Digital capability is a massive challenge for smaller charities. 45% of charities don’t have digital capability. Smaller organisations don’t have the ability and the headspace to be able to take advantage of new digital approaches. It could threaten the very fabric of civil society if we’re not able to compete in these channels as the commercial sector does.
You can have an impact long after you’ve left a job. When I see young people coming in to PHF, and it’s been years since I’ve seen them and they might’ve been 15 when they volunteered with the youth charity I was involved in. Now they’ve set up their own charity, or they’re doing something really purposeful and amazing that they’re enjoying. I think that’s when I feel the greatest sense of achievement.
Listen more and talk less. That’s something I’m still trying to learn.
We need more of us working together. If we can learn together and share our knowledge, what we understand is working, what isn’t working — that collaboration has to be what we aspire to. As one of the largest grant-makers, we at PHF need to play our part in pioneering these philanthropic approaches.
We’re losing our voice. The Lobbying Act has caused problems for a lot or organisations in terms of their ability to campaign and feel comfortable campaigning. Whether or not that’s the intention is irrelevant — that’s been the impact.
Trust is an increasing challenge for all our charities. We’ve seen cases in the media that have damaged some of that trust with the public. We should celebrate, instead, what we have in this country. We’re so lucky and we should protect it.
Cause & Effect is a series from Hope, in which leading figures who have been involved in building and promoting good causes tell us what they’ve learned from their experiences. Interview by Michael Isaacs.