‘Water the plants on your way out Jo’

By Anna Snowling on 1 September 2020

As I leave Three Cs after 12 years as CEO, I decided to dry my eyes and carry out an Exit Interview on myself instead.

So Jo, why are you leaving Three Cs after 12 years and 2 months?

I am leaving because Three Cs don’t need me. The organisation is in great shape, has a strong culture and solid values and has increased size and turnover by over 20% in 2020. It is well-led by EMT and the Board and has a fantastic team of staff and volunteers which has just proven itself again during the successful Covid-19 crisis response. Most importantly, it is a learning organisation and will carry on improving and innovating.

What were your favourite moments of the last 12 years?

Changing the constitution so that people we support can be equal members of the Board, introducing social inclusion and the Employment Pool and people getting paid jobs, Sandre and Kevin getting married, surviving without merger in a hostile environment, being able to pay LLW, nearly getting IIP gold, negotiating and designing our beautiful Childers Street office…

Have you finished?

No. Quarterly SpeakEasy and developing a great relationship with people’s families, Carol swimming with dolphins, the glitz and glam of Celebrating Success at the National Maritime Museum, being the first organisation to launch iPlanit, winning tenders and contracts to a value of over £60 million, camping at Be Free festivals with people we support, and becoming pioneers of the Gr8 Support movement, Robert on a zip wire, trashing time-wasting and meaningless processes under Project 17…

That’s enough. Your funniest moment?

Accidentally causing a false safeguarding concern and having my camping knife confiscated at a Be Free festival.

What were your worst moments in the last 12 years?

Nearly losing the business in 2009/10 as we nose-dived under Lewisham re-tendering, losing people, most recently the deaths of Tessa, John and Dawn and staff Mark and Anetor, losing fantastic services like Chinbrook Rd, closing Crossways, not being able to set up the River Peck Café and Inclusion Zone which would have taken its place, being threatened by a Social Services Director for ‘allowing’ people we support to campaign against cuts, the impact of Brexit and Austerity, being sickened by Winterbourne View and Whorlton Hall, sacking someone I really liked and admired, which made me cry.

But what were your absolute best and worst moments?

The absolute worst moment was in March 2020 when I realised that if we got our Covid-19 response wrong I would be responsible for people we support and staff dying of coronavirus. It was so dire that I was on the Today programme on March 24th with Mark from Evelyn Street, highlighting the potentially fatal shortage of PPE in social care. The absolute best moment was when the whole Three Cs team got the Covid-19 response right and my worst fears were not realised.

Did you ever come close to being sacked Jo?

If my EA hadn’t managed to get hold of our Office Manager and stop him from hand delivering a very challenging and unwise letter I had written to a Commissioner… maybe. If I had done what I felt like doing when I was threatened by a Director of Social Services… definitely!

What are you going to do when you leave?

My wife, Imelda, and I will be off for an adventure in our campervan the day after I leave. But the first thing I am going to do is lie down. Being a CEO is exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. Colleagues have been wringing every last drop of work out of me in my last weeks and I am sure they will ask me to water the plants and empty the bins on my way out.

What is the second thing you are going to do Jo?

The second thing I am going to do is to write a children’s book. It starts “The sneak-bellied snake and the growly grizzle-bear, just stared and stared at sweet Logan Wilkins-Clare. “I do solemnly declare, you look good enough to eat” said the growly grizzle-bear as she teetered to her feet”. It has a happy ending.

There will be plenty of hobbies like singing, gardening and learning to play the piano. I will also be getting back to full fitness after knee replacements, with loads of cycling, swimming, kayaking and mountain walking in Wales. Latterly, that is sometimes called ‘ditch diving in the dark’ when I forget my torch.

Will you work again or is it all rest, play, fitness and hobbies?

I will work on things that float my boat. I will do Executive Coaching, anything to do with human rights and Transforming Care, or human value in systems. I am still keen on leadership and management training, and strategizing about innovation and change.

Having raised or retained over £100 million charitable income during my career, I feel I have served my time on tendering and fundraising, so that’s the end of that! I will continue voluntary work as governor at an SEN school in Hackney and as treasurer of a community choir in Walthamstow. The rest can go hang while I tend my tomatoes and harvest potatoes with my grandson, Logan.

What is your favourite colour smartie?

Stop interrupting Margaret. Orange.

Do you eat a jelly baby head first or feet first?

Don’t you start Anna! Feet first.

Seriously, what will you miss most Jo?

The beautiful moments in people’s lives. Admiring the immense effort and creativity of everyone involved. The wisecracks of colleagues and uproarious laughter in the office. The parties. The parties. And oh, I nearly forgot, the parties.

PS Don’t forget to invite me to the parties