First impressions of the third kind

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After one month in my new role I've realised that working for a charity isn't an easy job

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4th February 2016 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

I believe there’s a common misconception that working for the third sector is an easy option. I now know this is inaccurate.

Recently, I’ve made the transition from a career in the broadcasting industry to my first experience of third sector working. Having spent more than 10 years with the BBC, both in Glasgow and London in a number of management roles, I’ve now joined Sistema Scotland as interim chief executive based in our Stirling Big Noise centre in Raploch.

Nothing quite prepares you for the culture shift from one sector to another, and I think this is amplified when making the move to charitable organisations.

There are a number of reasons life is different in the third sector, firstly, employee engagement is extraordinarily high. 

Nothing quite prepares you for the culture shift from one sector to another, and I think this is amplified when making the move to charitable organisations

When extremely motivated and committed individuals come together, change is possible, outcomes are more achievable and objectives more realisable. Here, having values is a currency, which in turn creates an energy that’s hard to beat.  More importantly, how can you relate this power to other sectors? How often have we heard about ways in which we can improve the results of an employee engagement form and yet miss the fundamentals of how to get such motivated and committed staff?

Secondly, titles and roles are more flexible, hierarchies less defined and individuals will ‘do what it takes’ to get the things done.

In my first month, I’ve found myself chairing a meeting on strategic funding applications, and then carrying crates of apple juice across rain soaked streets just in time for children’s snack time. In our Big Noise Aberdeen centre within the Torry community, we collect the children from two primary schools via walking lines to our after school class and it’s here you’ll be reminded what’s important in life from the young conversationalists - I now know an awful lot about Minecraft! It’s this range of experiences in any one day which is uniquely rewarding.

Thirdly, I’ve been surprised by how little I knew about these differences. It reminds me how narrow-minded our assumptions make us, and it strikes me I might not be alone in this view of third sector organisations. How can very different sectors learn from each other when there are so few opportunities for interact. I cannot claim to have these answers but I’m now delighted to have the opportunity to ask the questions.

Colin McKerchar is interim chief executive of Sistema Scotland.

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