Peter Hickson of Orbis

A chance meeting eight years ago helped the chairman of the blindness prevention charity to become involved

Peter Hickson
Peter Hickson

It was the simplicity of the organisation's objectives that attracted Peter Hickson to the international blindness prevention charity Orbis, which he now chairs.

He first became involved as a donor 20 years ago, when he saw a flyer for the charity.

"The charity's message is that you can cure preventable blindness," he says.

"And if you do, you not only create an opportunity for someone to lead a reasonable life, but you create two opportunities, because the person who had to look after the blind person is also freed up. It seemed to me a good charity with a worthwhile and simple aim."

After a chance meeting with Rob Walters, who was chair at the time, Hickson was persuaded to take up a seat on the board eight years ago. When Walters stood down nine months ago, Hickson stepped in. "I'm an experienced chair and when they offered it to me it seemed to be logical," he says.

Hickson is currently chair of two public companies: the marketing services company Communisis and the defence company the Chemring Group. The key to a good board, he says, is a wide range of skills.

"It's important that you've got an efficient, businesslike organisation that is actually making the best use of the donor's funds. There are people on the board with backgrounds in the Foreign Office, which is very important because we're operating in different countries.

"We have people with medical backgrounds and some generalists who can be helpful in terms of contacts and knowledge. So the art is getting a board with skills that can improve the quality of the management of the charity."

Hickson says the role allows him to use his skills.

"I couldn't do a cataract operation, but I enjoy pulling together board members and getting them to help," he says. "It's good to see staff achieving their objectives."

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