Location: Soho, London
Current job: Head of CSR for Turner, the company behind CNN, Cartoon Network &TCM
One word that best describes how you work: Helping
Current mobile device: iPhone, iPad and iPod
Favourite website: Spotify
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I started in an editorial on a movie magazine and moved through various TV companies doing publicity while also getting involved with the production and putting on events. I came to Turner to look after publicity for the entertainment channels and linked Cartoon Network with several children’s charities. At the same time I set up a short film festival with some well-known directors and actors and so this experience of helping young people’s careers and the charity links meant it was a short step into CSR.
Why did Turner get involved with your ActionAid?
We get involved with a lot of organisations as we have very diverse output and offices throughout EMEA. We pick ones which relate to our output and/or our locations so work with a lot of children’s charities, schools, homeless and environmental organisations. For several years we have been working with ActionAid to build schools in Africa which is a project that our staff from around EMEA get involved in. As well as fundraising all the money for the project they spend a week living in a remote African village helping the builders and getting to know the local people which is always an unforgettable experience. So far we have provided buildings in nine countries and are about to go to Zambia to build a pre-school.
What motivates you?
It’s very exciting when you realise that by using your assets you can make a big difference. Our assets are our people who all have paid volunteering time, our channels, websites, cartoon characters, presenters and expertise. So for example, we can donate airtime or web banners for a charity to fundraise, give the rights for an organisation to use one of our famous cartoon characters to front a campaign, encourage our staff to use their skills mentoring young people or send a team of volunteers to paint cartoon characters in a playground.
What is the process of finding your cause or charity partner?
Our strategy is to work with a broad range of organisations working in a variety of areas and therefore we don’t have the pressure that companies have when they just have one charity of the year. This allows us to test the water with new organisations to find which aspects work for both of us and often they grow and prosper in ways that no one imagined at the start. When new organisations contact us we look for the synergies and work out what we can offer and what the links are, but it is different in every case.
Tell us about a moment when you knew that it was all worth the hard work
There have been several small things that we have done that really brought that home to me. The one I will never forget is when we were in Rwanda building a school there was a young boy who always stood at the back of the other children, didn’t join in and covered his mouth. He had been born with a very disfiguring cleft palate and as soon as the volunteers knew this we organised and paid the surgery which completely changed his life. At the other end of the scale, we built a school in Mali to replace a grass hut which housed over 100 children. The local government was so impressed that they built another building and put in playing fields, so what had been one primitive shack now looks like a western primary school.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
I love the sea and the countryside and go to the south Cornish coast as often as I can. It’s wild and unspoiled, miles from anywhere, there are great beaches and walks, friendly people, lovely pubs and not much phone coverage so it’s perfect.
What book are you currently reading?
Ernest Hemingway’s short stories. He writes very succinctly but somehow describes people and situations better than anyone.
What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
I would have moved into the CSR world earlier although my varied background and experience are very useful in doing this job.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see Miranda Harman from ActionAid answer these same questions.
The WeGiveIt #WORLDCHANGERS series asks heroes, experts and leaders to share their ambitions, routines and more. It’s published regularly at www.wegiveit.co.uk/blog.
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