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Leadership Worth Sharing: special miniseries about privilege, with Polly Neate and Tessy Ojo – episode 6

We handed over our podcast reins one more time to Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, and Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award, for a miniseries that will discuss what privilege and anti-racism mean for the charity sector and the role of charity leaders in facilitating a shift of power both in our sector and more widely.

If you missed the previous episodes, catch up here

In this episode, Polly and Tessy talk to Javed Khan, CEO of Barnardo’s, about setting milestones, listening to your people and letting them decide the destination rather than imposing one.

Scroll down for full transcript.

(…) sometimes we think our individual actions are insignificant, is not going to change anything, right? Because the problem is so vast. But what we don’t know is there are other good people out there who are thinking the same thing at the same time and will make the difference

Javed Khan


Tessy Ojo  00:01

Hi, I’m Tessy Ojo. I’m the chief executive of The Diana Award.

Polly Neate  00:05

Hello, I’m Polly Neate and I’m the chief executive of Shelter.

Tessy Ojo  00:08

And together, we are hosting a mini series on the word privilege.

Tessy Ojo  00:20

So thank you so much, Javed, for joining us. It’s me, again, Tessy, and I’ve got my lovely colleague, Polly. And today we’ve got a special guest, Javed. Javed, can you just introduce yourself and tell everyone who you are?

Javed Khan  00:35

So I’m Javed Kahn, and I’m the chief executive of Barnardo’s, which is the UK largest children’s charity.

Tessy Ojo  00:42

Amzing, it’s such a pleasure to have you, thank you for braving it to come speak, you know, we obviously here we’ve been looking at the subject of privilege and how we as sector leaders, what’s our responsibility towards about using our privilege to create change in the sector? And that’s kind of the consistent questions we’ve been asking everyone. So I’m gonna ask you that question. How do we use our privilege as leaders, and using the privilege that we have as organisations to create to make change happen in the sector?

Javed Khan  01:18

So you know, privilege is a word I use quite often, but in a very different context. And I say how privileged I am, to be the chief executive of Barnardo’s . And all leaders have that privilege, you know, because we have enormous influence in the way we think, where we speak, and what we try and do in our organisations, and how we affect broader society. So that’s a huge responsibility we carry on our shoulders, and leading organisations in the charity sector, you got to remember, most of our organisations began as social movements. You know, where somebody spotted and a big issue of the day and then wanted to do something about it and got together… philanthropists and supporters of different sorts, to try and put some money and make something happen. That’s certainly the journey of Barnardo’s of the last 155 years. So with that comes enormous responsibility. But now, I think in the modern day, I think that, you know, the world around us is changing, and it’s changing fast. And it’s our duty as leaders to change with it. In order to best support and represent the vulnerable people that we, as charities, you know, stand up for, support, speak for, and help facilitate their voice. Within that we’ve got to be brave. And we’ve got to be bold. And that’s easier said than done, of course, in a very kind of a extremely charged context, that we now operate in the environment around us. But if we’re too risk averse, nothing will change, we can be sure of that, internally or externally. I think we’ve got to treat that change as a process with milestones that we can celebrate. And we as leaders have got to think through that really carefully. what it is we want to see happen, that we have the ability to influence, break it down into milestones that can be measured and celebrated. And not just have a simple, you know, long term goal in sight. Some colleagues, of course, and some, you know, ourselves, you might tell us, will be really cautious. Let’s wait until everything is all wrapped up and concluded before we speak out on any particular issue of any importance. But that would be a mistake. You know, if we wait for that, we will be waiting for a very long time and probably never speak up. So I think we have to be bold and brave, we’ve got to use our intel as best as we’ve got it, gotta dig deep into our own resilience and be prepared for disagreements, you know, people being shaken by some of the stuff that we’re prepared to speak about. But we must speak about it, because that comes back to the privileged position that we’re in, you know, we’ve got it for a reason. And then we need to within that when we do speak up, we’ve got to accept that whatever change we want to see in society, it’s a process, there’s a journey of continual improvement that we’ve got to be focused on, and accept with these milestones and kind of staging posts I was talking about. If we wait for everything to be fixed before we speak, then we never will speak and I think that’s, that’s a trap that we’ve got to got to watch out for. The goal I think has got to be to encourage and inspire our people internally, those who we are most closely connected to, but just as importantly, encourage, inspire, inspire people outside our own organisations, across a sector and beyond sectors so that they also understand what kind of change we’re trying to drive.

Polly Neate  04:40

I love your point about if we wait till the conditions are right, and it’s risk free to speak out we’ll never do it. And I really so much agree with you on that. I guess one of the things I just want to ask you a bit more about that you said there is about breaking down the journey into milestones. Because I think that’s a real challenge of this. And it’s certainly something that I’m finding… So at Shelter, we say that what we want to be is an actively anti racist organisation, it’s going to take us a long time to be able to say that’s where we are. So it is really important to have these kind of like staging posts on the way. And I just wondered if you could talk a bit more about what that looks like at the Barnardo’s, or what that looks like in your mind. Because that’s something that I think as leaders, we just want to get everything done. With this, we can’t just get everything done, we have to be brave and make a start when the end isn’t always in sight. And we have to have these kinds of like, milestones, I’m really interested in your more thoughts from you on.

Javed Khan  05:53

It’s a brilliant point you make as well, I think, and something I’ve, in terms of what I say to you now developed over a number of years, you know, by getting it wrong more times than getting it right. Being honest about that, as well. And knowing that there’s still more to learn, there is no one kind of, you know, fix to this. But I think what I’ve learned over those years is that we get appointed to our jobs, because we’ve got visions, and we’ve got strategies and so on, you know, and we love doing that kind of stuff, don’t we, but we’ve got to always remind ourselves to think about the breadth and the scope of the people that we lead, because leaders without followers don’t last very long anyway. So when you’ve got hundreds or 1000s of people who have got to be inspired and motivated on this journey that you want to take them on, and it can be any kind of journey for your organisation, you’ve got to break it down so that the lowest common denominator of follower that you’ve got, can grab hold of something and say, Yeah, I see what this means for me. And the big grand kind of strategy that you might get away with talking about at your board level, because everybody’s focused on the big picture there, may not be the way you need to present it or kind of shout about it at a different level in your organisation. So hence, the staging posts, you can only drive people as fast as they can tolerate. So we try and do whatever you want to do, which is the right thing to do and do it too fast. It may fail only for that reason, not because there’s anything wrong with what you’re trying to do. But just because of the pace. There is stuff we’re doing now in Barnardo’s, which I’m very proud of like, so we’ve got our own Corporate University, for example, the BU the Barnardo’s University, and… let you into a secret: that was a kind of a little sparkle in my eyes seven years ago, when I arrived at Barnardo’s, and did my usual, like everybody does, go out and see the scene and try and understand the challenges and so on. And I’ve thought about this, but it’s only come to fruition in the last year. So I haven’t been very good at it, you could argue, it’s taken me that long. But I’ve worked out in my mind that to get enough people enough oomph behind this learning organisation agenda and give it some focus and structure and resource, that I had to do a lot of work at every level of the organisation to convince people that this was something we’re doing that it had real connection with what we were trying to do in terms of transforming the lives of vulnerable children. So we’re doing a number of things right now. But it’s taken time. Now I’ve learned that over the years, as I say got it wrong more times than got it right, trying to do stuff too fast. You made the point about the challenge around anti racism, you know, I’m glad you use the phrase actively anti racist, I think it’s so important. And it’s so easy to forget that, you know, I think we’re in a world if I may say so, post George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, voices that are spoken up in a way that as leaders, we possibly have never been attuned to before, we may have heard them, but our radar was not sharp enough. And if there’s any chief executive out there, who still hasn’t woken up to the need to listen to black staff, or black and Asian, BAME staff, whatever phraseology people want to use to listen to them in ways that we haven’t listened before, then they are mistaken. They need to wake up really fast, I would argue. You know, we published last year five, very public commitment to what being actively anti racist meant for us. And that was on the back of what we were seeing going on in the country in the middle of COVID of course, you know, when we were fighting for our survival, like every other charity, and what we still felt was a key moment in time for our journey as an established big brand charity that we wanted to make a statement, but simply making a statement wasn’t going to be enough. So for us what that meant in practice is from that day onwards, those five commitments, I’m the champion for one of them. I’ve got four Corporate Directors, and each of them champions a commitment each. In our monthly management team meeting we have a standing agenda item where each of us reports back to the rest of the team on what progress we’re making against those five commitments. Twice a year we are taking reports to our Board of Trustees to make sure that it stays on their radar and taking their feedback as well. We have a corporate equality, diversity and inclusion board that meets quarterly and receives a report on those five commitments. I personally chair that board, it’s the only other management setup that I chair apart from the management team, everything else is delegated. That gives us the impetus that, you know, the chief executive is personally aligning himself to this. And fourthly, we are having frequent all staff webinars, where we are giving a report to our people, and saying, as champions, this is what we’re doing. How does this sound? Are we doing enough? What’s your feedback? Tell us if you think we’re getting it wrong. So that’s our approach to trying to bring all of that to life and you know, make you make more than just fine words on a piece of paper.

Tessy Ojo  10:47

I think, I’m hoping and I know, I’m sure, that there’ll be lots of people who are listening to this, and will take so much away from that. I think that’s incredible. And like I said, it’s not simply about putting out a statement, is how do you leave those statements? How do you track? You know, someone was said to me many years ago, if you, if it’s important to you track it. There was something you said that really struck a chord with me, you talked about if you, you can’t be a leader without followers, or something around that. And one of the trends that you, that I, one of the trends that I have noticed over the last 12 months or 11 months is how there’s a national denial around privilege. People just refuse to believe that we have, people have a degree of privilege. I mean, it was so obvious when, with the murder of Sarah Everard, you saw that happen, when the minute we said, it was clear that she was murdered by a man, suddenly the not all men hashtag began to trend… How do we get people alongside? How do we move people away from this phase of denial? And just understanding what it means that listen, the fact that you have privilege does not mean you haven’t worked really hard for that privilege. But is the understanding that your privilege, with your privilege comes responsibilities.

Javed Khan  12:16

Yeah. I think it’s a great subject. And on the Sarah Everard tragedy. Such a long way to go. The fact that women can’t walk the streets of this great country of ours, and feel safe. I you know, we’ve lived a long time in London, and I understand very acutely from their experiences, and how unsafe they feel that there’s a, there’s a challenge, a significant challenge, I’ve got a responsibility in that as a man who has privilege, even though I’m a black man, but I have privilege as a male person. And I think what we need to move to is developing active citizenship. I think that’s what’s called for here, whether it’s to do with a gender, and people feeling unsafe, because they’re women on our streets, whether it’s because you’re black, and you’re walking down the street and you feel unsafe, or whether it’s because of your disability or your sexuality, whether it’s in the workplace, or somewhere else, we all have a responsibility to keep our radar switched on. And not think that it’s somebody else’s job to fix, we all have a role to play. You know, I’m a mathematician by training. One of the things we were taught in mathematics was chaos theory. You know, you can read kind of theses on it. But there’s a very simple way of explaining chaos theory. If there were enough butterflies in Brazil, fluttering the kind of wings at the same time, it will change the weather in Belfast. But each butterfly will not know that other butterflies are fluttering their wings at the same time. The moral of that story is that each individual I think sometimes we think our individual actions are insignificant, is not going to change anything, right? Because the problem is so vast. But what we don’t know is there are other good people out there who are thinking the same thing at the same time and will make their difference. So when I’m walking down the street, and I see a woman who’s in distress, I have a responsibility to do something about it to help her not to walk on by and say well, it’s nothing to do with me. And the same happens when somebody’s being abused because of their colour, colour of their skin or young or old, you know, somebody, they’re not being given a space because of their disability on a bus or something. We all have a duty to speak up, is that kind of active citizenship that’s required I think. That for me that moves on, moves the debate on to a whole different level of simply relying on those people in power, privilege by another name, we’d like to do something about it, I think we all have a responsibility to act.

Polly Neate  15:05

And that’s about a different level of accountability, isn’t it, it’s about our accountability as human beings, and as individuals to do a bit of a serious reflection on ourselves. And I think part of what we have to do as leaders is give the space in our organisations, for colleagues to be able to do that as well. So that we, when we’re having these conversations about privilege, which I don’t think we should be avoiding, but I think we need to give space to those conversations, so that people don’t just feel accused, but feel that they’re being invited to really think about themselves and go on a journey and learn. And I was interested in what you said about providing, you know, sounded like you’re providing a lot of opportunities for that in Barnardo’s, of learning opportunities as a whole organisation.

Javed Khan  15:57

Yeah. And for us, that’s a mixture of stuff of very public, everyone invited opportunity to speak, alongside safe spaces for those who, you know, out of nervousness or worry, or concern of any sort, you know, want to do it in a in an environment where they feel safer. And then the job I have, of course, is, you know, as your leaders, you know, is how do you capture the learning, and the messages from that, and doing it in a way that people still feel safe, and yet they’ve been heard. And then you’ve got to do something about it. You know, there’s one point just listening, when this when the active bit comes back doesn’t it, you’ve got to listen, and then do stuff about it, when you’ve heard, you know, you’ve got to then respond. And I think we’re all on a journey on that, you know, I wouldn’t cite Barnardo’s as being brilliant at it. I think we’re on a journey. We’re all learning. It’s an iterative process, we’ll get some stuff not so right. But other things, you know, hopefully, we’ll have a better impression. So I’m taking soundings all the time, as chief exec of Barnardo’s, you know, from a whole range of people, and asking them out, right and say, you know, if we’re getting it wrong, tell us if we could get it more right. Help. If you’ve got ideas, and I say so ever it again, bless a soul. Now I put out a message like most chief execs will have done to all staff at that time and said, you know, we have a responsibility as an organisation, to keep our colleagues safe, I have a responsibility as a man. And I encourage other men to think about their actions as well. But if you’ve got ideas out there, about more we can do. Please speak. And on our intranet, actually, we have some fantastic ideas coming forward from our colleagues, from our female colleagues and saying, Yeah, as as an employer, you could do X, Y, Zed, a whole range of stuff, which we’re now incorporating into an action plan.

Polly Neate  17:44

What’s the bit of all this that you’ve found the most challenging? What’s the bit that you’ve struggled with yourself most as a leader, just over the last year, and in terms of privilege, and sort of the acknowledgement of that, as a leader and the accountability that that requires?

Javed Khan  18:06

You won’t be surprised to hear me say, it’s been a tough journey, and a lot of learning along the way, and you learn a lot about yourself, as well as those around you, you know, in those, those tough moments, you know, kind of when you’re thrown in hot water, actually, and the last 12 months, of course, you know, if nothing had happened around racism, or anti racism and our stance on that, just COVID itself. So some of some of my takeaways from that are, I think, the last year for me has, has redefined what it means to be resilient. So we’ve all had to dig deep, you know, and reach depths that we didn’t know we had, I think, and part of that has been self reflection and self questioning. There have been times you know, and I’m very bold to say, happy to say t times I’ve thought, you know, am I good enough really to do this job in this climate at the moment? You know, is it time to pack my bags and give it to somebody who’s cleverer, brighter, sharper, you know, more experienced, maybe more, you know, more, have better ideas, that might be able to do a better job? Because, you know, when we join these charges, because of the cause, it’s not a job, it’s a cause that we believe in, values driven, it’s passion and commitment in bucket loads. If I feel I’m not doing the best for vulnerable children across the UK, then it’s time for me to pack my bags off. And there’s been those dark moments in the last year where I’ve thought Hang on a sec, can I do this in the way I want? And you take soundings from others, you know, your Board of Trustees and your colleagues and you know, you keep your eyes and ears open about what people are saying. Some of us have survived very well. And some of us have just about survived, I think. And unfortunately, some have fallen by the wayside. You know, it’s been really tough. And I think that those experiences taught me something about myself as well and reaffirmed for me why I do what I do, and there’s been glimmers of hope that actually, some of the stuff I’ve done has had a positive impact. And that’s kept me going. But some of the negative stuff you face, you know, it’s like two step forward and three steps back, that has happened too. One of my great kind of recollections is the, for me and Barnardo’s, you know, the stuff we went through last year, and our stance, was the outpouring of support from across the voluntary sector. In my experience, unprecedented to have 230 chief executives…

Polly Neate  20:31

It was amazing. Yeah.

Javed Khan  20:35

You know, and that I will never forget, and I’m hugely humbled by that. And it’s a great reminder of why I love being in the voluntary sector as much as I do.

Tessy Ojo  20:44

I mean, I think that was one of those moments, I felt proud to be in the sector. It was, it was wonderful to see. I want to pick up on something you said earlier, you refer to the journey quite a bit. And this is something that Polly and I have actually discussed in other series of this, where, you know, as a sector, we do like to be done, we do like to tick those boxes to say we’ve completed a task, moving on, you know, on to the next. Yeah, this is a journey that really, it’s never done done. Because like you just said, the more you reflect, the more you find bits that you need to fix. How do we sustain this? How do we ensure that people do not lose? You know, there’s always a storm, there’s always something topical, there’s always something that’s in the news that you want to be seen to be on, to be trendy? How do we sustain this? How do we ensure that we’re constantly challenging ourselves to keep… to stay on this marathon?

Javed Khan  21:52

Well, you know, that word marathon, that analogy is a really good one, I think. I think that’s really fundamental that we remind ourselves, it is a marathon, and not 100 metre dash. So you know, all of the stuff that we’re talking about, leaders are responsible for, is a long term kind of journey. My own personal approach to this, right. And I let you into some secrets about how I think what I do. You know, when setting off on a complex kind of change programme of some sort, I’ve developed in myself an absolute firm belief. And when you set out a journey like that, the one thing you should never do is determine the destination, you should have your kind of direction, clear milestones, and so on. And let somebody else worry about the business plan, and the Gantt chart and all of the stuff that I hate, but we’ve got to have, right? Good programme management skills. But why I don’t like determining the destination is for a very good reason, because I believe that part of where I’m going to get my sustenance from, and others around me who are part of this journey, is that you set them off on a direction, you give them the tools and the resources and all of that stuff. But let them help you determine where you’re going to end up. Because if you determine it too early, you can be sure that’s as far as you’re going to get. Keep that flexible, and others will actually take you way beyond anything that you could have predicted or imagined. And that’s where the excitement comes from for me. That’s what keeps me fresh, and really excites other people because they can shape it.

Polly Neate  23:24

That is gonna be so challenging for a lot of leaders listening to this , Javed. That the leader, the role of the leader isn’t to define the destination. I think that is… I’m going to take that away. I think that’s really interesting. And so applicable to this situation, sorry, I’ve cut across you, carry on, but it’s just so, it’s really a magic idea.

Javed Khan  23:46

And built right at the core of that is this deep commitment to learning as you go along. Now we talk about learning organisations and we’re individually we’re learners and well… Yeah, we are. But that begins to institutionalise the learning in how you follow through a plan. And sometimes it’s not going to work, right? Sometimes the journey you set up on the destination, you might discover halfway through that actually you need to change because you set off too specific and too rigid, a journey and a destination, and then you find yourself, environment change but now you’ve got a rigid destination so you got to achieve it. You realise without a time in place is no longer relevant.

Tessy Ojo  24:26

I suppose the good, the great thing about that is that when you invite others onto that vision, everyone takes ownership and we, there’s some more ownership and we all want to get to this destiny, everyone’s excited about, what does this end look like? We just done… which to me like you said, makes it really exciting to know that we’re just on this… We don’t know where this will end and the outcome glues everyone because it’s not defined by one person.

Javed Khan  24:56

I think we’ve got… A word of caution. This is not everyone’s cup of tea. We know lots of people who can’t cope with that. They like the ABCD, you know, exactly where it’s going to start, the stage you’re going to go through and where you’re going to end up. And that’s how they run their lives. And that’s where they know what their job is about, and their contribution to it. And yet, we’ve got to engage those people as well. We’ve got to inspire and motivate them as much as the other kind of more kind of liberated people, shall we say, who can go with the flow and say, Yeah, I get this, I’ve got a direction, and now I’m going to be part of this. And I don’t need to worry about the endpoint. But so it’s going to take all sorts, but as the, as the leader who’s driving this, you’ve got to think it through yourself and be quite resilient. You’re gonna face opposition, because some will say, Oh, you just don’t know what you’re doing. Right. That’s why you’re not stating a destination. And you’ve got to be prepared to face that kind of challenge and criticism, there, I say, and show your resolve.

Polly Neate  25:54

And one thing we do get a lot as leaders, not so much, hopefully, within our organisations, but certainly from people externally, is that we’re being quite performative about this. And where we started, as you were saying, you know, if we wait for the perfect moment to speak, we won’t speak and it’s really important to, to nail our colours to the mast, if you like on this, which I 100% agree with, but then that does lay us open to people saying that, particularly I think, if we are saying we’re on the journey, rather than setting a kind of line in the sand about it, it does open to accusations of being performative, of it all being words, how do you deal with that?

Javed Khan  26:45

The challenge is that, you know, you talk about that one can predict, are very predictable. So my approach to that is, I expect them to come, you know, often said to colleagues, you know, they come in in the morning, or when you switch on your computer in the morning, at the moment, expect turbulence. Because when you expect it, yeah, you prepared for it, you can ride those waves, if you come in and think it’s gonna be all smooth, and then turbulence hits you, it knocks you off track. So my approach is I expect those kinds of challenges, I expect that kind of debate. But I have this kind of belief that over time, you will win more people over who are sceptics along the way, then you will lose, as long as you hold your line, and you do your level best to inspire them to join the journey. But those questions are going to come. So there’s no way of stopping those guys. And then sometimes they’re good questions anyway.

Polly Neate  27:36

I don’t think I’ve had a single challenge on this, that hasn’t been useful in some way. I think they’ve all been useful in some way.

Javed Khan  27:44

Completely agree. You know, we all fail sometimes. And we should not be embarrassed by that, it’s not, it’s not a moment of shame. It’s actually you can learn a lot from the failures.

Tessy Ojo  27:55

Interestingly, we are talking about becoming organisations that are anti racist. The truth is that nobody knows completely, 100% what that is. That’s why we want to change, because we’re not there. And so there’s no point, there’s no point defining that this is, this is what the end would look like, because it’s an ideology, people will change, human behaviour will change, people will come in and you will find new things. And it’s about how do we constantly stay on this journey, rather than take the approach of when we get… this is what… we will have all the… will have 10 policies and we’re done. That’s certainly not what we want, right? We’re one thing to adopt that learning and review in an environment where we will constantly check ourselves in, we will constantly check to see, until we come to a point where we’ve tackled every form of whatever it is, if we will ever ever get there. But it’s the commitment to stay on the journey is what we are wanting, isn’t it?

Javed Khan  29:05

I agree. And sometimes we can, you know, we mustn’t lose sight of what we need to learn from the past as well and not repeat those mistakes on our journey, which remind that we got to do something different. I mean, I won’t cast aspersions on your age, but I’m old enough to remember equal opportunities training from the 1980s. You know, there was a, lock everyone in a room, you know, and cry your eyes out. I’m a racist, and nothing changes. It didn’t work then. And it doesn’t work now. We got to learn from that, but we’ve got to do something different. Is different going to be perfect? We don’t know, we’re gonna have to recalibrate, five years time, 10 years time.

Tessy Ojo  29:43


Javed Khan  29:45

And the way you’re doing that is to listen to our people like we never listened to before.

Tessy Ojo  29:49

I think this is to me, I find this really liberating and maybe part of, I wonder if part of the resilience for the resistance is there is an assumption that you need to have a picture of what an anti racist organisation looks like. And because we can’t really see it, we’re so scared of it. We don’t even want to come on the journey. Because what we’re really looking at is create, have milestones, have commitments, make a commitment to, to monitor, to track, but most importantly, keep the conversation going. Because it’s the only way we will know how we’re performing, we would know what’s crept up, what’s the new thing. And what do we need to… what ideology do we need to pull down? And what are the structures we need to rebuild on?

Polly Neate  30:38

Definitely. And I think that… sorry! I just think that continual conversation is going to give our people the reassurance that they need to keep on that journey as well. Because if they’re not seeing us giving them this absolutely clear picture of the destination, what they do need is that continual conversation.

Javed Khan  30:58

Yeah. And there will be tests along our journey, of course, about how honest and brave and bold we will be, because we will discover stuff about our organisation, and what are we going to do when we find that? Are we going to (inaudible) about it? Or are we going to brush it under the carpet? Really good examples recently, you know, we found ourselves wanting in one of our departments, and we chose to speak publicly about it. Polly, you for different reasons, you’ve just come out publicly talking about what you’re doing in your organisation. Fantastic. Mike Adamson has done it in the British Red Cross. And this is fantastic. There’s such big brand, charity chief execs are boldly speaking about what they are finding and what they’re committing to, we need to see more of that. Still a pressure, an organisational pressure, cultural pressure, not to talk about what people see. And I think the future is going to be about listen to our people frequently, reflect and share. Don’t try and hide it.

Polly Neate  31:54

So what gives you hope on this, Javed, for the future then.

Javed Khan  32:00

Hope is a word very close to my heart. For many reasons, personally, but also in our organisation we have five values that we live by, and hope is one of them. This is about bringing hope to children’s, into children’s lives. You know, we think about our vulnerable children who have had hope wrenched out of their lives, you know, they haven’t been loved for whatever reason. And we’re trying to put that back into their life. So it means it means a lot to us. And for me, those children, young people, give us hope, as well. Because when we listen to them, when they talk about their experiences of life, what they’ve gone through, and then the difference that Barnardo’s makes to their lives, their life chances. It is quite profound, you know, sometimes the smallest interventions have the most fantastic impact. And you’ll see that in your charities, as well, of course, and all charity leaders will talk about this. But I think it also does a crucial job in keeping us honest about who we are, what we do, why we do it, and the amount of effort and energy that we want to continue to put into making it happen. Because when we don’t do well, they also speak up and tell us, you know, that keeps us honest, and it’s really, really good. I think for me, you know, young people, part of the hope journey is that they often get poorly represented in the media. And you know, in other guises they get characterised, as, you know, apart from being difficult, I’m talking about vulnerable kids now or, you know, being a problem in society. But they also get categorised as being uninterested in social issues or in politics. You know, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Because all of the work that we do with young people, they are very, very interested. They may not always have the Queen’s English, to be able to articulate it. But they really care. And if you approach them in the right way, they speak up and they talk about hope for the future. They talk about their aspirations, why they want to see their lives change. And that kind of influences me, you know, you just have to look at some of the work around climate change, for example, you know, Greta Thunberg, girl, you know, look at the impact that she’s had. Malala Yousafzai. I mean, these are young people who just came from nowhere, and profound impact. And that smaller level, there are young people that we work with, day in, day out, who convinced me that there is a lot of hope, but there’s a big but, right, we’ve got a big responsibility in helping them fulfil their potential. Because when we are past our sell by date, we’re going to be relying on today’s young people, for their contribution to society. They come in, they’re the society and it’s compassion, that they’re going to be part of, their sustainability, their contribution to taxes that are going to pay for our welfare, all of that. So I take hope from that, but we’ve got responsibility to do our level best whilst we’re here to prepare that ground for them.

Tessy Ojo  34:54

For me the fact that young people are, I don’t want to say young people at the future because they are here now, we need to make things better. And the other thing is for me, actually, I don’t think that young people are not going to sit by and wait for us to get our houses in order. They want… And that’s what you saw throughout the George Floyd protests. It was young people of various races. Saying enough.

Polly Neate  35:22

Absolutely. And I think this whole conversation that we’re having with CEOs about privilege, and sort of how we, as people need to recognise it and need to take responsibility. So many young people are just there, they get this stuff, a lot of the time, like, way better than we do. And you know, so I think that whole listening piece that you talked about Javed is really important that, you know, we need to have the humility that does come from acknowledging your privilege, have the humility to listen and be guided by what others are saying and what people who aren’t necessarily in leadership roles are saying,

Tessy Ojo  36:07

What a treat, I can quickly go on this conversation for much longer. But I know we’ve run out of time. Javed it’s been incredible having you. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and for just sharing the journey that you guys are on. It’s been incredible. And yeah, Polly, do you want to add anyhting.

Polly Neate  36:27

Just thank you, Javed, has been brilliant and I knew it was going to be really insightful talking to you and there has been so thanks a lot for your time

Javed Khan  36:38

Thank you very much.

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