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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: Liz Watson from Befriending Networks

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​Befriending Networks chief tells TFN what makes up her "Geordie DNA".

What time do you get up and what’s your morning routine?

I’m up shortly after 6am whether it’s a work day or a weekend. If it’s daylight I’ll wander round my garden like a vagrant in my dressing gown with a cup of coffee (we’re not overlooked!) and see how my seven hens are doing. Otherwise it’s the usual - coffee, quick check of the diary and routinely forgetting to pick my lunch up from the fridge before I leave.

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at the office?

Usually empty the bins. I’m too mean to pay for a cleaner!

What turns you into the office Victor Meldrew?

I have a long commute, combining car and train, so glitches with parking or train delays/overcrowding has me hot under the collar before I start. Once in the office, though, I’m sweetness and light. Really.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Don’t be afraid to try and don’t be afraid to fail. And, if I may say so, no one looks good in cheesecloth smocks.

Liz Watson
Liz Watson

When was the last time you socialised with colleagues?

We rarely do this, but we did go out for tapas a few months ago. Children, other work, commuting and things like evening classes usually prevent us from doing this - I hope we all like each other, but life gets in the way.

What do you procrastinate over?

Activities and tasks related to Befriending Networks’ member services take priority, so anything else that doesn’t absolutely need doing that day tends to get moved down the list. We’re all over-busy in the third sector and in an organisation this size you can’t always delegate, so very mundane stuff sits at the bottom of the pile. As does anything that necessitates making an exploded pie chart out of a spreadsheet.

How important is embracing new technology?

Crucial! I’m always banging on to our member services about its importance. If you don’t know how it works, find a 23 year old to explain it to you. Having said that, I’m still hanging on to our office fax machine, just in case…

Who do you prefer working with, volunteers or paid staff?

Tough call. We don’t currently have volunteers in the tiny Befriending Networks office, but of course our board members are volunteers. I’d better say they’re all adorable.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Seaside or lochside walk with family, followed by supper at home with friends. I’m lucky enough to live in glorious Perthshire which makes it easy to unwind.

If you were your boss would you like you?

I hope so, but I think I’d find me messy - if I could find me at all from under the clutter on my desk. I also have a tendency to be quite blunt but I can’t help that-it’s in my Geordie DNA.

Is this a rung on the ladder to success or your final destination?

I’ve never looked at my career in terms of rungs and ladders. I always just wanted to do something stimulating and meaningful alongside nice people, and I’m so fortunate that I’ve had a variety of opportunities to do that over the years.

Which do you prefer and why – Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin?

Facebook’s easier for engaging with befriending services, and of course family and friends in a personal capacity. LinkedIn can be useful, but I never remember to update my profile.

Would we all be better off if charities did more in our society?

That would depend what they did more of! We’d be better off if those of us who could do more, did more on an individual level - but it doesn’t always have to be massively high profile stuff. Spending time with a lonely neighbour, or asking if they need a hand with anything, can make a difference between someone having a miserable life and feeling like a member of the human race.

Brian Denis Cox or Brian Edward Cox?

As someone who got 28% in my grammar school physics exam, I would say that if I’d had a teacher like Brian Edward Cox, I might have understood more. Physics left me when it got more complicated than the vacuum flask.