CEO at OneStoneGrove
Who are you?
I am Gus and I am the CEO at Stonegrove Community Trust. I have worked my whole life around communities and in charities and also volunteer within the sector. I’m a serial trustee and I am currently in my 8th trustee role. I like to get involved in all the different levels of communities and charities, which is why I volunteer for a diverse range of organisations and causes previously including running a kitchen for a meal at Christmas in Highgate for those who would otherwise be alone, photography for the MND marathon, theatre projects my wife is involved in and volunteering at educational children’s camps. I also do voluntary work through Facebook groups including one linked to the Eden Project in Cornwall, where I advise others on the projects they work on. I help them to understand certain aspects of their projects around structure and volunteer management, DBS or fundraising and occasionally their strategy or the narrative of the organisation.
‘I believe the vast majority of people are inherently good, and I am fascinated in how to facilitate social action through bringing people together, creating connection and meaningful relationships of all different kinds’
I was diagnosed with ADHD last year and I have found it interesting to learn how to use different parts of my brain rather than to work around them. It makes me a very creative and fast thinker, but the flip side is that I can miss details and sometimes lack structure in my approach. I am open with my team about my ADHD and other aspects of my life and encourage the same from them all. I believe that an open and honest team is an inclusive team – we encourage our staff to bring their whole selves to work. I have two disabled sisters which I think made me see the world a little different growing up, plus also put me in touch with a lot of charities and introduced me to the sector.
I am interested in environmental action, and I believe we are showing strong leadership in this as an organisation, but I am aware that there is more to be done, not just at the centre but also in my home life. I am also very interested in social justice and equality. I want to readdress some of the issues and causes within our society and talk about them in a more inclusive and open way. I think if we were honest with ourselves, we could all pinpoint things that we have said that were not helpful or constructive in terms of equality and equity, and I want us as an organisation to do better. I tend to throw myself into things full tilt, so if we are working on a project like this as an organisation, it is also important for me to reflect on this at home because this is as much part of my home life as it is part of my work life. Running a small charity like SCT is not just a job – it’s very much a vocation – something you can’t simply walk away from for the evening/weekend, or ever really.
What do you do at OneStonegrove?
This is my second CEO role, and I came to know about the role through a contact who runs another development trust. I didn’t know the area and didn’t live locally, though I have now moved closer. The exciting part of this role for me was joining a young charity that was still growing its vision and work, based in a newly regenerated community that was developing its new identity. Having met the trustees and upon learning of our similar visions and interests, I was sure that we could create a team that could create a real impact locally. We are doing that, but it’s early days/years still for us, so there’s lots more to come. Although we are a small charity, we still need to follow huge amounts of rules and regulations – frankly there seem to be new ones every year. For that reason, more of my time than I would like is spent behind a computer screen running the business side of our operations, but it is a hugely varied and challenging role and a role that I love.
Why do you love what you do?
People essentially. Firstly, I believe that most people are good and want good things for other people, but sometimes there are things that get in the way of that including the way we communicate with each other and our beliefs. Nonetheless, I believe the vast majority of people are inherently good, and I am fascinated by how to facilitate social action through bringing people together, creating connections and meaningful relationships of all different kinds. No one can be truly happy without having good relationships. Everyone needs to feel useful and have a vocation, though that means very different things for different people. I don’t want us to just deliver classes, activities and services, I want to us empower people to create meaningful positive changes in their lives, the lives of others and the local community.
I am also an extrovert and I enjoy life most when surrounded by people. In this role, I am constantly in the middle of the action!