Parting shot: Virginia Beardshaw of I Can

The departing chief executive on the difficulties and successes at the speech, language and communication skills charity

Virginia Beardshaw
Virginia Beardshaw

For more than 10 years, I've been chief executive of this speech, language and communication skills charity, but I'm stepping down at the end of the year. My youngest child has a severe speech and language issue, so I know the importance of the work.

Over the past few years we've had to diversify our funding. We have created a social enterprise that trains teaching assistants and others in how to use our programmes, which is now making a contribution to the charity. We have always been good at attracting money from corporate trusts and foundations, and we've broadened this to include major donors. But it has been very difficult.

I'm immensely proud of our social enterprise, but I was really naive when we started out. My advice to other charities that are thinking about going down a similar route is: don't underestimate the level of cultural change and the change to your skills base you have to make, especially if, like us, your charity has been around a long time - we're 125 years old.

We also helped to found the Communications Trust, an alliance of more than 50 charities connected with speech and language. It has been crucial in getting our voice heard, particularly by government. Charities need to do a lot more of that joint working. We're getting clear signals from government that it is not interested in people being scattergun.

Now I'm moving on I'm going to take a rest and do things I haven't had time to do, such as travel abroad. I'm a governor at the London School of Economics, so I'll have time to do that properly. I also plan to volunteer for the Stay In Europe Campaign, because I feel passionately about that.

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