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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: Dr Evelyn Gillan on making working for a living worthwhile

This feature is almost 8 years old

Dr Gillan discusses the hard work that goes into reducing harm and staying true to your beliefs

What is your morning routine?
Up at 6am if I am travelling to Glasgow, slightly later if I have meetings in Edinburgh. Shower, quick breakfast and check the weather before heading out.

Why do you work in the third sector?
I made an active choice many years ago to work in the public sector. I reckoned if I was going to have to work for a living I wanted to make it worthwhile. Advocating for public interest policies that benefit the majority not the few is what motivates me.

What are you working on just now?
We want to reduce the high levels of alcohol harm in Scotland so we advocate for those policies that are going to work like minimum unit pricing, reducing the number of places that sell alcohol and protecting children and young people from alcohol marketing. Our work takes us to schools, workplaces and into communities to help people to take action to reduce alcohol harm.

How many hours do you normally work in a day?
It varies from a standard day if I am in the office to one that can stretch to 15 hours or more if I am travelling to conferences or meeting with colleagues from outwith the UK.

How do you relax?
I like a combination of outdoor and indoor relaxation – nature walks or walks along the beach, settling down with a good book or film and meeting friends to put the world to rights.

Is your current job a step on the rung to success or your final destination?
I’ve never been into climbing the ladder of success. That’s not what motivates me.

Small organisations often punch well above their weight whereas larger charities can get caught up in their own hype

Is it better to work for a big charity or a small charity?
It’s about whether or not the organisation has a vision that you can sign up to; has a clear strategic focus and has the resources and personnel to deliver. Small organisations who have all of the above often punch well above their weight whereas larger charities can get caught up in their own hype, behaving more like self-interested corporations than public interest bodies.

Are boards the strength of the third sector or a thorn in its side?
Absolutely a strength. But you need to ensure that you attract people who are motivated for the right reasons and have the necessary skills. Boards should provide the strategic vision and be actively involved in decision-making. A disengaged board who are there simply to rubber stamp decisions is not good governance.

Should organisations working in similar fields merge together?
You have to consider it on a case by case basis. In some fields, there are a number of organisations working in the same area but they are all doing something different. You have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages. But we certainly shouldn’t shy away from such discussions, particularly if a merger would serve a public interest purpose.

What was the last thing you did that scared you?
I prefer hope over fear.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Worry less about what other people think and stay true to yourself. Both of these gifts tend to come with maturity but I am generally happy that I have managed to stay true to my own ethics and beliefs.

Brian Denis Cox or Brian Edward Cox?
Brian Denis Cox - the actor of course. He has the politics.

Dr Evelyn Gillan is chief executive ofAlcohol Focus Scotland



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