My name is Fraser Ashman. I had the pleasure of being a Board member then Chairman of the Renewal Programme, for six years, from 2000 to 2006.
During that time, I worked within different sectors, most of which had a strong charitable ethos.
I was introduced to the Renewal Programme by the East London Business Alliance. Ann Easter was looking to recruit a Board member with business experience who held some feeling for the values and work of the organisation. After a meeting and an introductory tour, Ann decided that I might just about fit the bill and I joined the Board.
It was a time of change in Board personnel; the then Chair wanted to move on to other things and I was honoured to be elected.
I found that the number and diversity of the organisation’s projects most stimulating. Looking at the Renewal Programme’s website now, it is interesting to see the same level of diversity today, although still the same issues in raising sufficient income to match the organisation’s ambitions and capabilities, in relation to the needs of Newham.
I soon came to understand the roles and values of the projects. I did not attempt to become deeply involved in them – that was the role of the CEO. My main value, I felt, was being a dependable (and maybe sometimes even wise?) counsel to Ann Easter. It is often, if not always, valuable to run over ideas with someone you can trust who has a different set of experiences.
Our stakeholders were entitled to expect the highest standards of stewardship of their money and the delivery of a high standard of service. My mantra, as Chair, was the not particularly imaginative “we are not a business, but we must be business-like”.
I hope that the organisation gained some benefit from my involvement. For my part, even in my 50s, it was a formative experience. I was able to meet and work with a much more diverse range of people than was the case in my business and social life up to that point.
The experience opened my eyes to the grievous circumstances in which so many people live but at the same time showed their resilience, optimism and potential; more than just that was the dedication and energy of the Renewal Programme’s Board members, staff and volunteers and their evident desire to make the world a better place for the people of Newham. Since working for the charity, I have never been without a voluntary role.
Looking at the most recent Annual Report I see the same sort of ethos, the same problems in maintaining and replacing funding streams and a similar diversity of projects. The digital inclusion initiative looks both well-directed and essential.
Being a part of the Renewal Programme enriched my life and led to an enduring friendship with Ann Easter.