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Volunteer Spotlight - November 2021

The great thing about being a trustee is that you can see you’re making a difference and you can contribute to that difference. You have to put the work in, and you don’t get paid of course, but in the right charity, with the right people, you get an enormous buzz in being part of something that really makes a difference.

Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for November 2021, Sir Peter Dixon

To celebrate Trustees’ Week, we sat down with Sir Peter Dixon, the Chair of our Board of Trustees to ask him some questions about the important role of trustees within the organisation and his reflections on his time as Chair of the Board.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’ve been the Chair of the Board for Diabetes UK for nine years now and I step down at the end of this year as I’ve reached the maximum amount of time that I can do.

I’ve got a background in health and have been involved in NHS and other charitable organisations for a long time. I’ve had a long-standing interest in health, health inequalities and housing and the things that are behind them. That’s why I was invited to join the Board of Trustees at Diabetes UK and to chair it.

My working background is in running businesses or working in finance in the city, but I’ve always had a strong connection to the voluntary sector, and I’ve been involved in social housing since the early 1970s and I’ve been involved in the health service chairing hospital groups and health bodies since the late 1990s.

What inspired you to become Chair of the board of trustees for Diabetes UK?

I don’t have diabetes, although I do know people that have the condition. What appealed to me is that we could make a significant difference to individual people’s lives. We can also work to ultimately find a cure for diabetes. It struck me that it was a charity that could make a huge difference and therefore a charity that was worthwhile being involved with.

What’s the role of the board of trustees?

Our job is to keep the charity on the straight and narrow. We make sure we have the right people doing the right things, that we have a great Executive Team, and we stick to the rules about how charities should and shouldn’t behave. We provide a guidance role for the Executive Team, but we also provide a monitoring role to make sure we’re doing the right things in the right way.

We’re one step away from the frontline, but we need to know enough about what goes on day-to-day to provide that oversight function and give encouragement and support to the Executive Team.

What’s been your role as Chair?

My job is to provide leadership to a board of fourteen trustees. We set out to have a variety of skills and experience within our trustees. We also set out to have people that have direct experience of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. We also have trustees that represent all four nations in the UK.

I’ve recently been involved in the recruitment of our new trustees, who are going to be wonderful for us. They come from a variety of backgrounds and from different places around the UK. Together we try to make Diabetes UK a more effective organisation.

What’s been the standout moment for you?

It’s difficult to pick just one because there have been many achievements through the years. I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with Diabetes UK. I’ve been involved with lots of organisations, but this is the one that I’ll remember most fondly and miss the most when I step down.

We’ve had the fantastic partnership with Tesco, which has not only raised lots of money but also brought us to the attention of many more people.

We’ve recruited some very good Executive Directors over the time I’ve been here and seeing the work they do and the way we’ve expanded our reach has been terrific.

On the research front, there have been so many breakthroughs and we’re much stronger than we were a few years back. The DiRECT Programme into type 2 remission wouldn’t have happened without our funding and it is now being rolled out on a wide scale. We’ve demonstrated that having type 2 diabetes isn’t necessarily something that’s irreversible. It’s now much more of a treatable condition. Everything we’ve done towards that has been tremendously exciting and worthwhile.

So, it’s not possible to pick out a lightbulb moment, but there are many things that I hope have made life better for people with diabetes, prevented people from getting diabetes and brought the knowledge of diabetes to a much wider audience. I’m immensely proud of the things we’ve achieved together.

What’s the greatest challenge?

The immediate challenge post-pandemic is the fact that so many people have missed their routine checks and support over the last 18 months. I think there’s a real risk that things could stall or slip backwards for a while. Preventing that from happening is going to be a challenge for us and must be our priority.

The positive though is that there’s now a greater appreciation of the importance of diabetes. Our recent brand campaign and TV advert has done amazing things and I’ve spoken to people who say that it’s made them understand diabetes more. We’re getting there. People are starting to understand the complexity and seriousness of diabetes.

What’s the best thing about being a trustee?

The great thing about being a trustee is that you can see you’re making a difference and you can contribute to that difference. You have to put the work in, and you don’t get paid of course, but in the right charity, with the right people, you get an enormous buzz in being part of something that really makes a difference.

When I meet people throughout Diabetes UK, I’m immensely impressed by the enthusiasm, professionalism, and the warmth I encounter. If anyone has the inclination to try being a trustee, they absolutely should.

Any final reflections?

I’ve really enjoyed it. Diabetes UK is a great organisation and I just want to see it keep on prospering and doing what it does so well.

 

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