The big hire: Sue Tibballs joins Sheila McKechnie Foundation

The charity's new chief executive who's 'fascinated by organisations built around supporting campaigners'

sue Tibballs
sue Tibballs

Her new job as chief executive of this campaigning and training charity has given Sue Tibballs an opportunity to reflect on her own campaigning experiences.

She cut her teeth at the Women's Environmental Network, where she volunteered after graduating, in 1991, before taking a job. Her first campaign, she says wryly, was the "glamorous" cause of persuading women not to flush sanitary products down the toilet.

Glamorous or not, her Bag 'n' Bin It campaign was effective, persuading manufacturers to change packaging advice, netting her a British Environment and Media Award and setting her on course for a career as a campaigner. And that, she says, is why she's so keen to get started in her new role in January.

"As a campaigner, I'm fascinated by an organisation that's built around supporting campaigners," she says. "There's an opportunity to really think about the skills, techniques and tools of effective campaigning, but also about how we protect them at a time when there are issues around campaigning."

Tibballs will be able to draw on her experiences outside the voluntary sector. After leaving WEN in 1994, she consulted for the Department for International Development (then the Overseas Development Agency). She co-founded the Women's Communications Centre before her career took a turn into the private sector as women's affairs campaigner for the cosmetics retailer the Body Shop.

"I've worked on campaigning in the private sector, and I think some corporates are more progressive than some charities, and some are more progressive than government," she says. "I don't think you can assume the moral high ground is always in the voluntary sector, and you can learn from that."

After stints with the Future Foundation and as an independent consultant, she became chief executive of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation. After two years back in consulting, she says she's looking forward to stepping back into a chief executive role.

She pays tribute to her predecessor, Linda Butcher, but says she will inevitably be a different leader.

"It makes the challenge a bit tougher when you're succeeding someone who's done an excellent job, but I'll take that challenge," she says. "There's so much to think through, and I'm really looking forward to that whole process of talking to the board, reviewing the landscape and thinking 'where can we take things now?'"

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