Parting Shot: Barbara Young of Diabetes UK

The outgoing chief executive says the sector has been a stimulating place to work

Barbara Young
Barbara Young

My job here has been hard work, but we've achieved a lot. The charity has grown by 50 per cent over the past five years and there is a much higher profile nationally for both diabetes and the charity. In England we're involved in the biggest diabetes prevention programme in the world.When I arrived in the job I didn't realise how big a challenge the diabetes epidemic was and, even more staggering, neither did many key people in the NHS.

After five years I'm ready to move on and I'm looking forward to spending more time on environmental activism, which is where my heart is – I used to head the RSPB. I'm particularly looking forward to playing a more active role in the Lords, where I am a Labour peer.

What I've found great about the voluntary sector is that you can pretty much do what you like as long as it's legal and you have the backing of your supporters and board. That means it can be an incredibly stimulating and creative place to work compared with the public sector, where you have politicians and government departments breathing down your neck.

My advice to other voluntary sector leaders is to be bolder. The sector has been getting a good kicking, but we need to be out there getting across to the public what great stuff we do. We should be much better at standing up for ourselves and our achievements.

It's vital that voluntary sector leaders are clear about what they want and have the confidence to ask for it. My mother used to say "if you don't ask, you don't get". We shouldn't be shy about saying exactly what we want to achieve and asking government, funders and the public for the sorts of donations and support we need.

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