The future's yours: Norwood brings in young generation

By Barry Toberman, April 6, 2012

In a pioneering venture, Norwood is looking to a younger generation to help shape its future.

Plans for the Young Norwood Consultative Committee were outlined to 40 people aged from early 20s to mid 30s at an invitation-only, central-London reception attended by the charity's professional and lay leadership.

Half the participants had no prior Norwood involvement but had been recommended for their leadership potential or professional expertise.

The hope is that two dozen will come on board, playing an integral role in a two-year strategic review of Norwood services and going on to form the next generation of leaders for Norwood and the wider Jewish community.

Indicative of Norwood's commitment to youth, the review is being chaired by its youngest trustee, Elliott Goldstein, who is in his early 30s.

The former Limmud chair gave a presentation at the launch event and said the idea had been "incredibly well received.

"There are many young fundraising groups but it is very rare that a communal organisation involves them in leadership and shaping policy. We felt that some of the younger talents were not being utilised.

"We were very specific about who we wanted in the review process - management consultants and experts in public health and communications."

Property specialists were also among the group as the issue is a priority concern. Speaking after the meeting, chief executive Elaine Kerr explained that "Norwood owns a lot of properties, some new, some frankly not fit for purpose." She promised the young committee "complete transparency. We'll open the books to them and discuss spending, staffing and what we need facilities for. The younger generation thinks in a very different way and we wanted a fresh pair of eyes. We had to engage them as their generation will inherit the decisions we take."

Among the participants was property manager Timothy Lovat, who travelled from Glasgow. He was "very encouraged that there are young people who want to give something back as our parents did".

His view was that major charities would need to assume greater responsibility for welfare in declining regional communities over the next 30 years. "Norwood is going to have to stretch itself to look after the whole of Britain - not just Barnet and Radlett but Edinburgh and Glasgow," he argued.

Hannah Goldie, 24, was among those new to Norwood at the meeting. Ms Goldie - who works at the Department for Education and is on the Adam Science leadership programme for young professionals - found the concept "really exciting and quite ground-breaking.

"I wanted to get involved in a children and families charity but I don't want to be a fundraiser."

Norwood's promised openness was "crucial. If you don't know everything about an organisation, you are basing decisions on assumptions," said Ms Goldie.

Mr Goldstein reported that even those familiar with the charity had not appreciated the scope of its activities. "Norwood runs 120 services and three in 100 community members use them in some way - and that demand is increasing. We have finite resources and need to work out how best to use them."

Ms Kerr added that the challenges Norwood faced include the future direction of Ravenswood, its Berkshire residential village for the learning disabled, finding a site in Borehamwood for its fourth family centre and dealing with cuts in statutory funding.

On the financial front, there had been "good discussions" with Jewish Care on collective economies. "We have just put in a joint bid for carer support."

Norwood users, parents, local authorities and donors are also involved in the review process.

Last updated: 8:56am, April 10 2012