As well as the satisfaction of contributing something to society, of equal value to volunteers is the opportunity to branch out into an area of work that is newly challenging.
Matthew Willis is head of business intelligence and marketing automation for Thomson Reuters’ Finance and Risk business.
A title like that suggests a breadth of experience; essentially, he runs a team of 20 staff who source information and data from across Thomson Reuters who then use that to improve the performance of the business and help decide strategy. A pretty handy set of skills that any social enterprise would like to take advantage of.
Willis was given the opportunity to work with SBT through Thomson Reuters leadership programme and has worked with two of the social enterprises that SBT have in its portfolio. He’s contributed about seven hours to Catch Up, who address numeracy and literacy issues through twice weekly 15 minute one-to-one sessions.
Helping them with a key performance indicator and dashboard development project was pretty straightforward for him: “That’s my bread and butter. Relatively little effort for me but should have a significant impact.”
With Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS), for which he became a trustee through SBT, it’s much more of a learning experience. HILS delivers meals on wheels as a means of living independently; it also combats isolation and loneliness.
Willis says that he is “surrounded round the board table by senior, experienced, smart people giving their perspective from all angles of organisational life”.
“It’s going to be educational,” he concludes. HILS is local to where he lives and he sees sitting on the board, which can last for years, as an opportunity to effect change over a long time period, which he says is the primary driver for getting involved.
“Secondarily, I will learn about running an organisation from a perspective outside of my own experience. Around a board table you make important decision about HR policy, for example. I get a birds-eye view of how an organisation is run”.
As well as the opportunity of being involved at the top of the hierarchy, HILS was also attractive for another reason: “I went on a drive dropping off meals on wheels and these are all streets I grew up on so it was particularly meaningful to be giving back in that context. It was a connection to my past and giving back to those who needed it the most.”
A version of this interview first appeared in Pioneers Post