Friday, 18 October 2013

Trustee Story - Felicity Jones

Felicity Jones is a young trustee of Medsin-UK and Afrinspire, as well as an ambassador of  Young Charity Trustees. 

Why did you decide to become a trustee?
If you want to change the world, you have to change the structures that govern it. Having spent my school and university years volunteering for a succession of charities and community ventures, I had found the experience to be rewarding, but somewhat repetitive and limited in scope. Working on the frontline, I often found myself thinking of ways to improve the way the charity ran; I was drawn to not just the service delivery, but also the management strategies and systems underpinning charity operation. As a volunteer, I didn’t feel I had the opportunity to engage in these aspects of charity work –I began to realise that I would need to take on a leadership role to be able to implement change.

Why did you choose your particular charity?
Medsin is a national network of students passionate about tackling local and global health inequities. Having already worked within the network in several capacities (through attending national voting assemblies, coordinating a local group, and hosting a National Conference alongside my partner-in-crime, Daniel Knights), I’d got to know the charity well. To enjoy trusteeship, I think it’s essential to be passionate about the vision and values of the charity you work for. Medsin’s a great match for me; I love its emphasis on student empowerment, and the way that it integrates education, advocacy and grassroots action in trying to improve global health both within the UK and overseas. Lastly, I really believe in Medsin’s potential to become an effectual and dynamic force in the global health field, and hoped I had something to offer the charity this journey.

What do you think you bring to the role?
Like many other charities, Medsin’s board thrives because of the diversity of skills and experience found within it. As the youngest trustee, I still have a lot to learn, but also have a unique perspective to contribute. My experience within the charity helps the board consider how Medsin’s members perceive many of the key issues facing our charity.
However, I believe I bring more than just ideas of how to engage with other young people. My enthusiasm remains as yet largely untempered by the harsh realities of the world, and this enables me to lighten the atmosphere in board meetings, and dream big. I also bring skills shared by many of my generation in social networking and media; techniques which are becoming increasingly influential in charity marketing, fundraising and communicating with supporters, and which Medsin has engaged with much more successfully over the past year.

 What have you learned from being a trustee?
I would recommend trusteeship to everyone, as it offers a unique opportunity to gain a more thorough understanding of many aspects of organisational management. I’ve learnt a lot from board members with more experience in the global health arena, and have deepened my knowledge of charity law and financial management. Training has helped me to enhance personal skills such as public speaking, diplomacy and strategic planning; skills which I hope to use in my career. In particular, working on Medsin’s long-term development plan taught me a lot about how to help organisations develop sustainably.  It hasn’t all been an easy ride, and facing the difficulties and responsibilities of trusteeship have taught me a lot about myself and how I deal with complex situations. Being challenged in this way can really help define what drives you and what you believe in and, for me as a Christian, these experiences really strengthened my relationship with God. I believe these personal and professional journeys will only help me when I face challenging situations in the future.

How has this helped you in your career?
I’m currently a fifth year medical student at King’s College London, where I transferred from St John’s College, Cambridge.  My experience as a trustee is already helping me with my medical studies; working with Medsin whilst being a full-time student has only enhanced my time-management skills, and the ups and downs of supporting Medsin’s development have helped me deal with stress on the wards –something I still find tricky!

I’m confident the skills I’ve gained through trusteeship will be highly applicable throughout my career, as I hope to engage with the leadership and management aspects of medicine. Additionally, working with experts in global health education to plan the direction of Medsin’s educational programmes stands me in good stead to get involved in designing and developing medical education in the future: an area I’m passionate about.

When I think about how much I’ve gained through my time with Medsin it astonishes me that there aren’t more young trustees. I believe trusteeship offers huge opportunities and benefits at any age, but certainly for younger trustees it can provide a unique set of contacts, training and opportunities to develop skills.

In fact, I’ve loved it so much that I have now accepted a second trustee post, serving on the board of Afrinspire, a charity supporting indigenous development initiatives across East Africa. I would encourage anyone considering trusteeship to give it a go; you’d be amazed by how much you can offer, and gain in return!

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