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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Chief encounters: Graham Harper says big isn’t always better and that includes Sydney Harbour Bridge

This feature is almost 9 years old

​From visiting Australia to doing a job he loves Graham Harper, chief executive of Care and Repair Edinburgh is ticking off his bucket list

What time do you wake up?
My alarm is set for 7am, but invariably I’m awake before it goes off.

What is your morning routine?
I wake my daughter, make breakfast for my wife, daughter and the dog. I’m lucky that I can get to the office by bike, bus, car, tram or train and that determines what time I have to leave.

What are you working on just now?
We’re working with NHS Lothian and the City of Edinburgh Council to explore ways in which we can extend the services we provide.

How many hours do you normally work in a day?
It varies – I try to work effectively so that means prioritising what’s important and recognising work/life balance. I try to lead by example so the rest of the team do the same. Although I’m often first in I’m rarely last out.

How did you end up in your job?
I was brought in by the board last February to lead the organisation. I was struck by how much potential there is in care and repair across the country to meet the government’s health and social care agenda. Most importantly we improve the quality of life for Scotland’s older and disabled people. I wanted to stay and fortunately the board wanted me so here I am!

I sometime wish we had the resources of a larger organisation to allow us to do more, but it suits us in many ways to be small and to provide that personal level of service.

Is this a step on the rung to success or your final destination?
I think there’s so much to do at Care and Repair Edinburgh. That said – who knows what the future holds?

Is it better to work for a big charity or a small charity?
Being a small charity means we are nimble and can respond quickly when required. In particular, this is a huge strength in our work for vulnerable people. I sometime wish we had the resources of a larger organisation to allow us to do more, but it suits us in many ways to be small and to provide that personal level of service.

Do you have a high turnover of staff?
No. Since I joined 18 months ago we have only lost two members of staff, however one has just successfully applied for a new post with us and will be returning shortly!

What is your perfect weekend?
It would have to involve playing golf at some point, watching Dunfermline Athletic win, cooking for my wife and a few friends, doing something nice with my family and if I had any energy left going for a run in the Pentland Hills with the dog.

How often do you socialise with colleagues?
Coincidently I’m writing this the morning after an office night out. I think the last one was around Easter, so I guess the answer is three or four times a year. It’s good that we can all go out occasionally.

What was the last thing you did that scared you?
Earlier this year we took the trip of a lifetime to Australia. I’m not completely comfortable with heights, but I did climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Although it was in their summer, it was a horrible wet and windy day – very Scottish weather – which didn’t help. It was wet and slippery underfoot, and the worst bit was when we reached the top. The tour guide explained we were 142m (or 6 seconds) above the surface of the water.

What’s your favourite book?
The best book I read recently was Steve Hilton’s More Human which deals with how all parts of our society are becoming more distant from people and are not at a human scale. It applies to governments, big business, how to educate our children, the food we eat and the way we interact with nature. A must read for anyone involved in delivering a service, and anyone familiar with the “localism” agenda will recognise large chunks of this.

Would we all be better off if charities did more in our society?
Yes – there is no doubt about that but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a charity. As long as an organisation, be it a public organisation or a private enterprise, has the correct, human values and acts on them, then we would certainly be better off. Organisations need to be closer to the people they serve and I’m not convinced big business or big government has got that right.

Would your 16-year-old self be impressed with where you are now?
My 16-year-old self had just completed his O grades and was on his way to Kirkcaldy College of Technology to study for an HND in building. I think he’d be pretty bemused at how I managed to go from there to where I am now – a circuitous route involving social housing and self-employed consultancy. However, I think he’d be impressed with what care and repair does – and can do – for older and disabled people.

Brian Denis Cox or Brian Edward Cox?
Although the “Denis” version is our patron, I’ll go out on a limb and plump for the “Edward” persuasion, simply because I’m more interested in physics than films.

Want to be our next chief encounter?

​Email Paul Cardwell at [email protected] or call 0131 524 7285.