ERIC’s outgoing interim CEO, David Derbyshire, reflects on his time leading the organisation.

David Derbyshire Big SquatDavid taking part in the Big Squat for World Toilet Day 2014

I’ve been at the helm of ERIC for six months as the interim Chief Executive. But it’s now time for ERIC to recruit a permanent replacement. Ahead of my departure, I’ve written down my thoughts on the role.

I joined ERIC in April 2014 as Head of Services - my first foray into the voluntary sector. I’d been thinking of doing this for a while. Having spent my entire career working in the private sector, or as a self-employed contractor, and a part of me felt unfulfilled.

Then, suddenly, in July 2013 my Mum died. Losing Mum convinced me that I should make a change now, because life’s too short and all that…

I started looking around for a role and successfully applied for the job with ERIC. Arriving for my first day, I was raring to go, and quickly immersed myself in the current projects, getting to know the challenges of working in a charity. In particular, the specific struggles that every small charity deals with when it comes to making its voice heard, and keeping the money coming in.

Hard work

There is a perception that working for a charity is an easy option – people throw money at you and you spend it trying to help others. That perception could not be further from the truth! The people I’ve met since joining ERIC, on the team and working for other charities, work extremely hard. They are more passionate and dedicated than many I’ve worked with elsewhere.

In July, the then CEO Jenny Perez announced she was leaving. After six years in charge, a new challenge awaited her, and the Board of Trustees asked if I would ‘act up’ on an interim basis. With a degree of trepidation, I accepted the challenge.

Here we are six months on. ERIC has faced a challenging and busy year with much change, and all the while it’s been important to continue doing what we do best: providing high quality information and support to families and children affected by bladder and bowel problems that can cause huge disruption to their lives and which can make them feel miserable and alone.

Satisfaction

Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than reading an email from a parent thanking our helpline team for their support. Every day ERIC helps people find the right clinical advice, provides them with the information they need to take on an unsympathetic school, or recommends and supplies specialist products to help them manage or overcome continence difficulties. That is exactly the kind of fulfilment that attracted me to the voluntary sector!

One highlight was in November when we held our biennial conference, together with the charity PromoCon (part of Disabled Living, now called Bladder and Bowel UK). It was a great success, with 300 professionals working in the continence field attending to hear presentations and take part in workshops to bring them up to speed on advances and best practice in continence care. I gave a couple of speeches, and, being the resident IT expert, also worked on audio-visual support – such is life working in a small charity – all hands on deck at times!

Looking ahead

During this year, we’ve come through a tough financial situation, turning it around so that we now anticipate finishing the year with a surplus. We have a number of enthusiastic and committed new team members, and we’re planning an exciting year ahead developing our training programme for continence, health and childcare professionals, re-launching our digital strategy with a new website, continuing to raise awareness about bowel and bladder conditions, and developing new relationships with corporate partners.

We’ve got our ‘Young ERIC’ children’s panel established, and are inviting parents to join a parallel Parents’ Panel, which will help us keep the information we provide relevant to our service users. The new website will provide valuable information for young people and families, professionals and supporters. It will also become a destination for these groups to engage with and support one another.

A new CEO

Although I’ve enjoyed the CEO role on an interim basis, I’ve decided to hand over the reins to someone else. We are now in the process of finding ERIC’s next Chief Executive. I am pleased and proud to have been the custodian of such a fantastic small charity for a short time, and I am determined to hand it over to our new CEO in good shape.

Applications for the CEO vacancy have now closed (Juliette Randall was appointed in May 2015).