For those of you who were able to join us at our recent Annual General Meeting in March, you’ll have had the pleasure of meeting Joanne already. We’re delighted to share that Joanne has now started her new role as Glaucoma UK’s Chief Executive. We sat down with Joanne to learn a little more about the person behind the role, and her vision for the charity.
Are you happy to share a little bit about yourself?
Absolutely. I have had a wonderful time in my first few weeks finding out about the amazing people who make Glaucoma UK so special, so I am very happy to have my turn on the other side of the interview table. I live in Ashford (just a stone’s throw from the Glaucoma UK Head Office) with my husband and two teenage daughters. I can’t cook for the life of me, but I am the family’s nominated representative for DIY and minor plumbing jobs.
If you could have coffee with three people from any time in history, who would they be and why?
Ooooh – that’s a tough one to start with. Emily Brontë is the first name that comes to mind. I would love to know where on earth she got the inspiration for Heathcliff while living in that sedate little parsonage…
Then Billy Joel, as some of my happiest times have been singing ‘Piano Man’ loudly (and badly) at his concerts.
Finally, perhaps Sigmund Freud. I would enjoy telling him that one of my daughters once thought that ‘Freudian slip’ were two people (eg ‘Froidy ‘n’ Slip’). Priceless!
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
I don’t seem to have a great deal of spare time, but I do find that talking books are a way of having downtime while doing other things. I am listening to one about forensic pathology at the moment (although my family aren’t terribly keen on hearing the highlights at the dinner table, for some reason…).
What motivated you to want to join Glaucoma UK?
My own family has been affected by sight loss and so the prospect of helping to prevent that outcome for others is a very powerful motivation. It was also clear to me that the organisation had an excellent vision for the future and an extremely talented team of staff, volunteers and trustees. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to help steer such an important ship.
Can you tell us a little bit about the roles you held before joining Glaucoma UK?
I started my working life as an English Teacher and moved from the classroom into the museum and heritage sector, as Director of Learning and Visitor Programmes at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. That was my first taste of working in the Third Sector and I was quickly hooked on the enormous sense of personal satisfaction that working for a charity can give.
I moved from built heritage to natural heritage for a rewarding spell within the Wildlife Trust movement and from there went on to head up a fundraising foundation, helping to offer bursaries in a public school.
Most recently, I spent seven-and-a-half years as CEO of a charity providing homes and training for adults with a learning disability. I have a brother with a learning disability, so – just like Glaucoma UK – it was a cause that had a strong personal resonance. Making a positive difference to people’s lives is a theme that runs through all my roles to date; it is the fuel that drives me and so this new opportunity to help support those living with glaucoma is especially exciting.
What do you feel are some of the biggest opportunities and challenges ahead for the charity?
The key challenge – how to achieve the greatest possible impact with only modest resources – is a conundrum that faces every charity, especially in the current financial climate. With the number of people living with glaucoma due to rise appreciably throughout the next decade and beyond, we will need to be efficient, creative and smart in order to meet that demand in a sustainable and effective way.
I am hugely optimistic, though. The team are constantly seeking new ways of reaching the people who need us, research into glaucoma is becoming ever more aspirational and our collaborative links with eye care professionals across the country are growing every day. Most importantly, we have an invaluable community of donors and supporters who believe in the value of helping us to help them. That virtuous circle is, perhaps, the greatest opportunity of all.
What do you hope to achieve in your role as Chief Executive of Glaucoma UK?
At the most fundamental level, I want to ensure that the Glaucoma UK team have a working environment in which they can be happy, develop and achieve. That, in turn, will ensure that the people we support receive the greatest possible benefit from the work we do.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our supporters?
Most importantly, I would like to thank them for being part of our Glaucoma UK community and for their support and encouragement of our work. As I get to know the charity in these early weeks, I am very keen to speak to as many individuals as possible about their experiences – both of living with glaucoma and also of engaging with us. The discussions I have been lucky enough to have with members and supporters so far have been extremely useful, so if anyone feels happy to share their perspective, I would be very glad to hear from them.
If you’d like to share your experiences and views with Joanne, please contact Richenda Kew on R.Kew@glaucoma.uk or 01233 64 81 67.