The Most Important Decision of Our Lives

Recruitment of a Chief Executive isn’t something many people will have done in their twenties, yet over the past few months this has been the decision facing me and the chair of Who Cares? Scotland, Ryan McCuaig.  

I’ve been a member of Who Cares? Scotland since I was 15, when I reached out for help from an advocate in being heard in decisions about my life. In the seven years since, I’ve been empowered and experienced many firsts.  

As a member of Who Cares? Scotland I felt heard for the first time. I travelled to Harvard and studied abroad for the first time. I experienced camping for the first time. I felt like I belonged somewhere at Christmas for the first time and I’ve even helped influence national policy for the first time when I asked the First Minister of Scotland to commission a review of the care system. 

So I’ve grown up alongside Who Cares? Scotland and within the movement it helped grow. I’ve always been able to depend on the organisation and its people. This made the decision that Ryan and I had to make, even more difficult. Now, Who Cares? Scotland was depending on me. 

When I was in care, I didn’t always understand how decisions around me were made. It’s why I’m writing this blog. It’s important to me that I’m able to explain the process Ryan and I created, alongside our board, in hiring our new Chief Executive, Louise Hunter.

When we learned that we would be recruiting for a new CEO, we worked with our board of thirteen non-executive directors, who have a diverse range of skills and knowledge, to establish a gender-balanced action group of six, led by Ryan and I.  

This group evaluated proposals from six recruitment agencies and chose to appoint leading third sector consultant Douglas Adam from Livingston James as our recruitment partner.  

Who Cares? Scotland feels like my family and so welcoming someone new in, even for a short time, was scary. We wanted the wisdom and insight that comes with an external perspective. But first, the board had to make sure that Douglas understood Who Cares? Scotland, our culture, our members and our driving force.  

To do this, we designed two surveys. The first survey was sent to almost 3,000 members and the second to our staff. The questions we asked helped us to understand what sort of person we would like in the role. This meant understanding the personality people wanted, the profile and skills that they needed and what their priorities would be if recruited.  

Once we had done this, and the responses to our surveys were analysed, we had a clear message from our members, staff and board. This information became the fundamentals of the job description, role profile and job advertisement. Ryan and I briefed Douglas who helped us with the process and built a website to host the role.  For the next month while Douglas was gathering applications from over a hundred potential candidates, we began to design the interview stages.  

Selecting a Chief Executive to deliver a lifetime of equality, respect and love for Care Experienced people was always going to be difficult. It was made even more so, by the fact we were doing this during a pandemic when we were unable to come together in person with the candidates and each other. 

Who Cares? Scotland exists for and alongside the Care Experienced community. A job at Who Cares? Scotland can look very different at times of the year when we take 140 Care Experienced people away to our legendary summer camp or when we are marching with the Care Experienced community down Buchanan Street in our annual Love Rally. No matter what part of our organisation someone works in, they will also meet, work with, camp with, and advocate for Care Experienced people of all ages. And if they’re not able to do that, they’re not right for the job. That is why every staff member goes through a two-stage interview – one with a panel of staff, and one with a panel of members. Our CEO would be no different.  

At Who Cares? Scotland, there are a number of ways we consult with our members. We do so at our Annual General Meeting, during our annual survey of members and through our National Representative Body, also known as The Collective.  

The Collective exists to act as leaders, spokespeople, and representatives for our broader membership base.  We put out an invite for members of The Collective to form our panel for the second stage interviews and quickly established a gender balanced group. This was made up of Care Experienced people from across the country with a range of experiences.  

Empowerment is vital in what we do at Who Cares? Scotland. In fact, it’s a key part of why I was able to be one of two Care Experienced people leading the decision making process around who our next CEO would be at the age of 22.  

To be well prepared for acting as a representative and an interviewer, the members went through four hours of training. Session one focused on acting as representatives on behalf of the wider membership, as well as unconscious bias and the importance of confidentiality.  

Session two focused on designing the questions for the candidates based on the data from the membership survey. 

While this was going on, Douglas, Ryan and I long-listed sixteen candidates to be interviewed by Douglas for an hour. Everyone who disclosed they were a Care Experienced candidate received a first stage interview. Douglas then worked with us to put together a final shortlist of five people.  

Over eleven hours, Ryan and I, alongside Douglas and three board members formed a first stage interview before handing off to The Collective for a second stage interview. 

At the end of the day, we decided that there were two candidates that we just had to meet in person 

Who Cares? Scotland is just as much about heart as it is about head and it would not have felt right to have given leadership of something so important to so many people to someone we have never met in person. Growing up in care, it’s clear that sometimes the feeling you get from meeting someone is different to how they look on paper.  

With this in mind, Ryan and I arranged to meet the final two in coffee shops in different cities one Saturday, and then had to make one of the most important decisions of our lives.  

We feel like we’ve got it right.  

Louise joins us December 1st and despite having never recruited an employee before, with great support from our Board and Livingston James and a comprehensive process in place, Ryan and I are confident we have found the right person for the next chapter in our organisation’s story.  

Besides the wealth of experience and skills that Louise has to equip her for the role of Chief Executive, she is also an incredibly approachable, calm, emotionally intelligent and inspiring leader with a real drive to create a lifetime of equality, respect and love for Care Experienced people. It became obvious through the process that Louise lives by these values every day, especially as an adoptive mum to her young son.  

The world isn’t returning to normal, so we’re introducing herto you digitally. One day, hopefully soon, we hope to introduce Louise in person to our members. Perhaps in a tent, in fancy dress at a festival or at a Christmas dinner table.  

Megan Sutherland 

Vice-Chair of the Who Cares? Scotland Board
SCVO Terrific Trustee Winner 2019 

 

With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities, funding partners and donors who make our work possible.