Light bulb moment: Elaine Kerr on how changing sectors brought great opportunity

An insight into the working life of the chief executive of Norwood, the Jewish learning disability charity

Elaine Kerr
Elaine Kerr

I worked in the NHS for more than 14 years and held a variety of board posts. In my last role I took on a project looking at end-of-life care and support for carers. I approached local charities to see how we could work together and that's when the penny dropped – I was working in the wrong sector.

I realised that I was envious of how innovative the local voluntary sector was, compared with the health service. Government did not prescribe what they should do – as a result, the charity sector was far more flexible and fleet of foot, and was not bound by stringent regulations. In a matter of days I decided to change my career and move to the third sector.

By changing sectors, I opened myself up to being innovative and learned that real innovation comes when you take risks. After being trapped by regulation and slow processes for so long, I embraced the opportunities that grabbed me.

Of course budgets are a constant challenge and we do have tight governance, but we do not have to be hamsters in a wheel. We have clear business plans, but are not afraid of changing them if the environment alters. If someone has a good idea, we can get moving on it.

Now, when other people move into the sector, I encourage them to throw off their shackles and think outside the box, and I remind colleagues that we are masters of our own destinies.

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