In this episode we hear from Sufina Ahmad, Director of the John Ellerman Foundation, which supports small to medium-sized organisations to make a difference to people, society and the natural world, particularly focussing on the arts, environment and social action.
Prior to joining John Ellerman, Sufina worked in corporate strategy and performance at the City of London Corporation. She has also held roles in policy and learning at the National Lottery Community Fund, including a secondment to the City Bridge Trust. Sufina holds trusteeships with Just for Kids Law and The Charterhouse and is also a fellow of the RSA.
Host Joe Jenkins got to know Sufina through their involvement with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising – during his time as Chair of the Institute’s Annual National Fundraising Convention, Sufina was chairing a new expert panel on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion. Happily, Sufina didn’t hold back in challenging Joe and the conference board on the steps they could be taking to create a more diverse inclusive event – in a manner that was thought-provoking, constructive and always thoughtful. Under Sufina’s leadership, the panel went on to create the excellent Manifesto for Change, setting out a bold vision for a sector where everyone is the right fit.
Topics in this episode include stepping into titled leadership roles, driving change from within existing systems, navigating 2020 and the impact of the global pandemic, the lessons to be learned from trusteeship alongside professional development, and why it’s crucial to empower others and opening the door for others to step in.
Starting out with a degree in genetics and currently pursuing an executive MBA with Warwick Business School, Sufina describes herself as a specialist in generalism – a strength that is serving her well in her role at John Ellerman which works across a wide range of issues and causes.
Sufina is optimistic about the future of the charity sector – hoping we will build on the important collaborations that have been necessitated by Covid-19 and the increasing recognition that unrestricted core funding is essential to strengthen charity impact. Some important steps have been taken forward in 2020 – and we must all make sure they lead to long-lasting positive change.
Date of Conversation – 4th August
The Key Takeaways From This Episode[2.57] Interview Begins
[03.54] First 100-day plans – and how they change when the world changes
[04.55] Stepping into a Director role for the first time
[11.00] What is unlocked in a ’Titled Leadership Role’
[14.52] Being confident to seize new job opportunities when they arise
[19.12] Understanding hierarchical systems while bringing your own values
[21.00] My job as an empowering leader
[23.28] Intentions and through-line – are we reaching a tipping point on equity, diversity, inclusion in the charity sector
[26.28] The personal cost of talking publicly about “labels” and identity
[31.45] The joys of trusteeship
[38.50] Being a specialist in generalism
[41.21] Strengths, passions and loving to learn
[44.12] Work-life balance and finding time for an MBA
[49.00] Responding to and staying open during the pandemic
[52.26] Addressing issues with sector funding
[54.58] Hopes for change and continued questioning within the charity sector
Resources From This Episode
- The John Ellerman Foundation – ellerman.org.uk
- Chartered Institute of Fundraising – institute-of-fundraising.org.uk
- Future Foundations UK – future-foundations.co.uk
- Charity So White – charitysowhite.org
- ACEVO podcast episode featuring Sufina
- ACEVO Report – Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector
- Women and Girls initiative – womenandgirlsinitiative.org
- Resourcing Racial Justice Fund – Resourcingracialjustice.org
- City of London Corporation – cityoflondon.gov.uk
- City Bridge Trust – citybridgetrust.org.uk
- Just for Kids Law – justforkidslaw.org
- The Charterhouse –thecharterhouse.org