At the end of August, I’ll be leaving Chance for Childhood after ten and a half years. Being a small charity leader is not just a job, it’s a vocation and becomes a big part of who you are. It’s far from easy and requires an enormous amount of passion and commitment to ride the rollercoaster of uncertainty that comes from working in an ever-changing social, economic, and political environment. I came across a role at Chance for Childhood back in 2012 when we were Jubilee Action and were yet to be introduced to Street Child Africa and Glad’s House. I had just spent five years in the private sector working with large development stakeholders like the UK government, the UN and World Health Organisation. I was desperate to step away from ‘big data’ to see what development progress looked like at the community level and I haven’t been disappointed.
Being a small charity leader is not just a job, it’s a vocationKatie fowler
What unfolded during my time at Chance for Childhood surpassed all my hopes and expectations to make a positive impact on the lives of children and families across the world. I look back, with so much pride, at the achievements we have made alongside the communities we’ve worked with, but also with a huge amount of gratitude for the friendships I have built with extraordinary people who have taught me so much about leadership, dedication, collaboration and community. Here are a few reflections I’ve had about my time at Chance for Childhood.
No amount of work ‘experience’ I have will ever help me understand the needs of a community better than the community themselves.KATIE FOWLER
Empathy is better than sympathy but is no substitute for lived experience. Working with our community partners to co-design solutions to enhance the safety, protection, education and well-being of children in extremely vulnerable situations has been the key to high-impact programmes at Chance for Childhood. And for me personally has been both an enriching and humbling experience. A reminder that no amount of work ‘experience’ I have will ever help me understand the needs of a community better than the community themselves. Having this in mind has not only made me acutely aware of my own privilege but has also ensured that we’ve kept asking, how, why and where does our organisation add the most value?
Small organisations are AMAZING. It’s been a joy to build meaningful relationships with the partners we work with as well as with our supporters and funding partners. Being a small organisation has huge advantages; we’re able to carefully manage our finances, making sure we’re using every last penny as effectively as possible; we’re able to adapt to external changes very quickly which ensures we’re responding to the very urgent needs of those communities who, though resilient, can become vulnerable to external shocks; and we’re able to focus on how we can achieve the greatest impact. Small really is mighty and the depth and longevity of our impact really demonstrates this.
Leadership doesn’t come from a title. I’ve learned a lot about leadership during my time at Chance for Childhood and never more than from the people at the forefront of fighting for the children in their communities. Some of the best leaders I’ve met focus on creating an environment where someone can realise their potential; a safe place for someone to express themselves without judgement; a place for someone to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s not uncommon to witness as much leadership amongst street outreach workers and child rights advocates than in a boardroom. And this, in itself, is an important lesson in humility.
Our Values are everything. They are what we do, why we do it and how we do it and we have unapologetically stuck to our organisational values over the years. There have certainly been moments when compromising would have been the easy route. It takes energy and effort to collaborate to the lengths that we do, to acknowledge and correct the bias that can creep into our actions unconsciously, and to walk the path less trodden. Our values-led approach has felt all the more important while navigating the recent global events.
And the best is yet to come. The launch of our 2025 strategy earlier this year is a testament to our ambition and resolve to ensure that every child deserves a safe and happy childhood. As I transition from staff to supporter, I’m incredibly excited to see the impact that Chance for Childhood makes together with the children and communities we work with.
Katie with Co-CEO Anna-Mai Andrews at the launch of our 2025 strategy this year.