A personal statement from Steve I’m stepping aside as Chair of Think Malawi, 11 years after founding it, though am very much staying on as an active trustee. After all this time, you might firstly ask why step aside now, and then upon reflection, why didn’t you do this sooner?
Well, in answer to your first question, (A) the pay is awful, non-existent in fact, (B) running a charity involves whole layers of red tape which as a designer in my day job I’d been spared in the past, (C) the hours can be long at times, (D) there is always pressure to keep the money coming in, (E) you have to keep a bunch of disparate people happy and working well together and (F) who enjoys asking people for money?
None of these are the reason I’m stepping aside. The seed for the move was planted at a training course for charity Chairs, where the trainer remarked that a charity Chair shouldn’t be in place for more than a few years. This is to keep the organisation healthy and to enable fresh ideas to be integrated into the charity’s work. I’d already been in the role for at least six years by that point, and put the remark to the back of my mind. Over time though it kept resurfacing, and after a couple of years I finally made the decision to step down.
I hadn’t thought too hard about succession to that point, and it took another couple of years until we found our new Chair, Dev Aditya. Dev runs a social enterprise which educates thousands of people remotely. These people are often living in precarious situations around the world, including many in refugee camps. I was keen to find someone who could elevate the charity, and firmly believe that Dev has the skills and energy to do this.
So with A to F to worry about, why didn’t I step aside sooner?
Well, (G) it was a chance to support a cause I really care about – education, (H) we got to learn about new ideas and use them to innovate in our work, out of both necessity and choice (I) I felt that the charity was my baby, having originally founded it with my wife and my mum in 2009. It's been an immensely rewarding role to take on, in terms of being able to try out new ideas to raise money in the UK, and then seeing the direct results of this in improving the education of children in Malawi.
I've been privileged to work with a host of amazing people and have done lots of weird and wonderful things along the way, which often took me well and truly out of my comfort zone. You can read stories from my 11 years as Chair in a separate post, which will be out very soon. Now it’s Dev’s turn to keep the charity moving forward. I’ve had a glimpse of his vision, and can’t wait to see what’s next for Think Malawi. Find out more about Dev here.