Meet Paul Southworth OBE, Chair of Northamptonshire Community Foundation for seven years, who stepped down from the role in December 2021.
Paul Southworth OBE, Chair of Northamptonshire Community Foundation for seven years, stepped down from the role in December 2021. Here he looks back, shares memories and highlights and talks about the impact of covid …
Joining the Foundation
I had been very fortunate in my career and life and felt I wanted to give back personally to society, particularly in Northamptonshire. So, when I was approached about joining the Foundation the timing was perfect. What I think convinced me to take on the role was an appreciation for the enormous scope of the work done by Northamptonshire Community Foundation and the number of people who benefit.
I knew very little about the Foundation when I was first approached to become Chair. That was back in 2015 and David Laing, who was Chair at the time, and Victoria Miles, the CEO, asked to meet. David was about to become the next Lord Lieutenant, which meant he was standing down as Chair. They asked me to apply. I met with a couple of the trustees who supported my nomination and assured me that I wouldn’t regret it. They were right.
I, like many, had thought of Northamptonshire as fairly affluent. To learn there were so many areas of deprivation came as quite a shock, so I knew I wanted to be a hands-on Chair and really make a difference.
I joined all the sub committees – grants, finance and fundraising. I was thirsty for knowledge. Over time I came off these committees although I continued chairing the small grants panel until I stood down.
I describe the Foundation as ‘the greatest story seldom told’ – not enough people know about the Foundation’s work which can feel frustrating.
If the Foundation didn’t exist you would have to invent it – the need is that great.
We did a powerful piece of work in partnership with the University of Northampton, producing the Hidden Needs report which confirmed that Northamptonshire struggles with significant social inequalities, mostly in health and well-being, and education.
The Foundation tackles a diverse range of issues in Northamptonshire including child poverty, unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence and social isolation. By assessing the county’s hidden needs this report helped identify the social problems that need urgent attention. We also used the findings to encourage donors to contribute to these specific areas.
If anyone had been sceptical about the importance of building endowment then that surely changed during covid. Between March 2020 and January 2021, Northamptonshire Community Foundation awarded nearly £1.1 million to over 100,000 local people, which was in addition to the £1.5 million in regular grant giving made during this period. £2.6 million was a record-breaking year in terms of distributing much needed funds to people during the pandemic.
Our Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund, set up in partnership with the National Emergencies Trust, supported over 300 projects across the county, including those providing food aid and medical supplies, counselling services and mental health support, community transport services, educational activities and general health and wellbeing support.
I stepped down as Chair in December and am delighted Rachel Mallows (See Rachel's blog by clicking here) has stepped into the role. It’s important to rotate the board and bring in fresh blood and ideas and the same goes for a chief executive. Victoria Miles will be sorely missed and has been incredible and an inspiring leader and I want to thank her for everything she has done. The Foundation is still in safe hands though. The team is not going anywhere and a change in leadership should not be feared. The Foundation is not going anywhere and will be here to support the generations to come.