‘Charities have become too inward looking and anxious,’ warns Sir Stuart Etherington 

17 Sep 2019 News

Charities have become “too inward looking” and need to set their sights higher, Sir Stuart Etherington has said as he stands down as chief executive of NCVO. 

Etherington was speaking to a room of charity sector leaders and NCVO staff at his retirement party last night. 

He said: “I don’t have much to say about the future as I have no idea what is going to happen. 

“But I would say there is one thing that worries me slightly at the moment about the voluntary sector. 

“That is that the voluntary sector has become too inward looking, too introspective and too worried, anxious.” 

He added: “Nevertheless I think we need to set our sights higher and remember what we’re here for, which is to challenge, to provide services for those in need, to be reasonable in the way that we challenge, and to be evidence based in a society which increasingly actually denigrates evidence.

“We have a responsibility as the guardians of civil society it seems to me to not just look inwardly but to look outwards, for the benefit of those that we are there to serve.”

Etherington also thanked staff, trustees and others he had worked with during his tenure. 

Matt Hyde, chief executive of the Scouts and a former trustee of NCVO, and Dame Julia Cleverdon, who has worked with Etherington over the years, led tributes last night. The speeches also included video messages from two former ministers for civil society, Ed Miliband and Nick Hurd. 

Hyde said: “Stuart has led NCVO and the sector superbly for these past 25 years and we have much to be thankful to him for.” 

Karl Wilding, formerly director of public policy and volunteering at NCVO, became chief executive today. Etherington will spend the next three months working on a paper about NCVO’s international role before making recommendations to the board.  

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