Clive Jones, chair of the Disasters Emergency Committee

It's vital to be transparent about funding, the charity chair tells Kaye Wiggins

Clive Jones
Clive Jones

Clive Jones, the former chief executive of ITV News and Regions who has this year taken over as chair of the Disasters Emergency Committee, says he is fascinated by the charity.

"It moves from being this tiny organisation to a huge, effective body within days of launching an appeal," he says. "It's incredible. From a standing start it will raise millions in days. It's an intense and very active period."

Jones, who took up the role in March, says he didn't have much time to settle in before he witnessed the process first-hand. "Within a month of me starting, we had launched the east Africa appeal," he says. "Fortunately, I'm blessed with an incredibly strong executive team."

Jones says the chair's main role when the DEC launches an appeal is to ensure there is consensus from the board. "You have to be absolutely certain that this is an event of real importance and that all 14 humanitarian agencies feel it is something they need to mobilise around," he says. "This is a major decision for them."

Sometimes, he says, the decision can be difficult - as when the DEC decided not to launch an appeal for those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March. "There were calls and messages coming through asking, understandably, why we weren't launching an appeal for Japan," he says.

"We had strong reasons for not doing so. Japan is the third-richest economy in the world. The DEC's brief is to help disadvantaged people in developing countries. Our member charities had few staff on the ground in Japan, unlike in east Africa, where they have a strong presence. Their ability to help would have been limited.

"It made me realise how important it is for the DEC to be transparent and explain clearly to the public how we have made our decisions."

When the charity is not in the midst of an appeal, Jones says, his role centres on building strong media links.

"In more normal times, I work on talking to broadcasters, radio stations, the print media and new media organisations, including Google and Facebook, to make sure we have the right relationships," he says.

Jones is well placed to build these links. He began his career as a local newspaper reporter and spent 32 years working at ITV, eventually landing the job of executive director.

"I'm now lucky enough to know a lot of people in the media," he says. "I think the thing I can offer to the charity is my ability to network and be an ambassador."

He says, however, that he does not play a role in the normal running of the charity. "It is not my role in any way to get involved in the day-to-day activities," he says. "The senior management team is far more expert at that than I am. My role is about agreeing a strategy and holding the executive team to account."

Jones says he enjoys board meetings because the trustees, who include the chief executives of the DEC's member charities, are an expert, highly experienced group. "You see occasional flashes of competition between them," he says. "They're not sharp- elbowed in the way commercial boards sometimes are, but they do tend to gently poke each other."

Jones has several other governance roles: he chairs London Metropolitan University and the race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, and is on the board of the Young Vic theatre. "I'm a ruthless time manager and ferociously well organised," he says. "I have been doing a hell of a lot of work since March, but I think things will settle down soon."

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