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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: John Eden believes in the power of the third sector’s people

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John Eden, chief executive of Scottish Huntington's Association, from student nurse to chief executive and want to be author

What is your morning routine?
I usually rise at 7am, walk the dog (who needs an alarm clock when you have a wet snout!), breakfast and shower. I live just 15 minutes from the office and like to start at 8am. That first hour of the morning is crucial for keeping myself organised and on top of emails.

What makes a good day at work?
The days when you know that what you are doing is making a difference, so when you meet someone living with Huntington’s disease who tells you how the support they have received helped them cope as a carer, or alleviated someone’s symptoms or helped a young person cope with their own genetic risk. Then all the hard work is worthwhile.

Is lunch a 5 minute sandwich at your desk or do you find time for yourself?
I can’t recall the last time I had a proper lunch it’s usually just a quick sandwich from Tesco!

Why do you work in the third sector?
I believe in the power of people to change things for the better and I think there is nowhere better demonstrated than in our sector.

Chief encounters: John Eden believes in the power of the third sector’s people

I believe you can do anything you set your mind to do and I think that shows in my whole approach to the job

What are you working on just now?
We had a parliamentary event on Thursday, 11 June that is tied to a campaign calling for a national action plan for Huntington’s disease. We have seen a 55% increase in referral to the charity and we need to ensure that help is available to everyone that needs it regardless of where they live in Scotland.

How do you inspire your colleagues?
I believe you can do anything you set your mind to do and I think that shows in my whole approach to the job.

What is your worst habit?
Eating too many sweets!

Are boards the strength of the third sector or a thorn in its side?
Our board are fantastic! They are immensely committed to the charity, made up of a diverse group with varied skills. I couldn’t do my job without the support I receive. I am also a trustee on the board of another charity and although relatively new can see the board play an important strategic role.

Have you got thoughts on what you will do when you retire?
I am 50 this year and have found myself looking to the horizon a little for the first time. I will always be involved in the third sector in some capacity, but I would really love the time to develop my writing skills and produce a novel.

Do you prefer working with volunteers or paid employees?
I love working with people and feel very strongly that volunteers and employees have equal value so for me it’s about that person, their commitment and attitude and how we can help the reach their potential.

What scares you most in life?
Being alone.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
When I was very young I worked in a stock broker’s call centre – it was like having my soul sucked out through my ears.

How often do you socialise with colleagues outside the Christmas party?
Never, I think as chief executive, you have to keep a degree of separation between your personal and professional life. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to, I really enjoy the company of my colleagues!

Would your 18-year-old self be impressed with where you are now?
When I was 18, I was a student nurse in Paisley and my biggest ambition was getting to the end of the course! I didn’t imagine being the chief executive of a charity, so yes I imagine he would be surprised and impressed. This job has given me so much though and I am a very different person to the shy teenager I was.

Brian Denis Cox or Brian Edward Cox?
Easy, Brian Edward Cox, I am a keen astronomer and a big fan of Brian’s passion for the cosmos.



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