Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and a veteran of countless voluntary and public sector roles, was honoured with the outstanding leadership award at the 2010 Charity Awards last night.
In an emotional acceptance speech to an audience of nearly 800 of her peers, Unwin said she was “overwhelmed” to be joining the small, exclusive band of people who had won the outstanding leadership award.
However, she went on to issue a warning that the sector she had devoted her career to would need all of its strength and power in the difficult months and years ahead.
“We are about to face a real crisis in this country,” she said. “But the ability of this sector to speak truth to power seems to me to be its enduring strength.”
Among her many roles since landing her first paid job as a field worker at Liverpool CVS in the late 70s, Unwin has been director of Homeless Network, chair of the Refugee Council, a Charity Commissioner, a Housing Corporation board member, deputy chair of the Food Standards Agency, chair of the Kings Fund Commission of Inquiry into the Care Market, and a independent member of the Cabinet Office Peer Reviews of Government Departments. She took up the top job at Joseph Rowntree in 2007, finding its combination of research and service provision compelling.
Unwin was presented with the award by Channel 4 newsreader and journalist Jon Snow, by coincidence a good friend of hers, and Paul Winter, chief executive of joint overall sponsor the Leadership Trust Foundation. The outstanding leadership award was the penultimate award to be presented at the end of an evening that had seen ten charities recognised for excellence in charity management and leadership. The final award was the overall winner – Community Service Volunteers, for its Volunteers in Child Protection project.
Unwin had been chosen to receive the leadership honour by a distinguished panel of judges drawn from the sector.
- For Tania Mason’s profile of Julia Unwin, click here.