Refuge appoints Comic Relief's Ruth Davison as CEO

24 Feb 2021 News

Ruth Davison, chief executive of Refuge

Ruth Davison, who is interim chief executive at Comic Relief, will join Refuge as its permanent chief executive later in the year.

Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services and supports more than more than 7,000 women and children every day.

With the Domestic Abuse Bill currently going through its final stages in Parliament and commitments from the government to transform the response to domestic abuse across the country, Davison will take the reins at a pivotal time.

Davison said: “It is an honour to be joining Refuge as chief executive during such a critical time.

“I am a firm believer that no one should live in fear of violence, intimidation or control, and it has been deeply alarming to see the rise in domestic abuse during the pandemic. The outstanding services and support of Refuge will play a crucial role in helping some of the most vulnerable women and families throughout the Covid-19 recovery.

“I look forward to working closely with colleagues, supporters and survivors. The organisation is guided by those we seek to support and together we will ensure that Refuge grows from strength to strength as an inclusive, innovative and impactful organisation that strives to build a world where domestic abuse and violence against women and girls is no longer tolerated.” 

Last year Sandra Horley retired, having been chief executive of Refuge for more than three decades. Carole Easton has been acting as interim chief executive while they recruited a permanent replacement. 

Funding to organisations informed by lived experience 

As interim chief executive at Comic Relief, Davison led the organisation through the pandemic. She helped deliver two live telethons which raising a combined total of more than £100m. 

Davison also led Comic Relief’s social change strategy, global philanthropic portfolio as well as its policy and advocacy work. 

Before becoming interim chief executive of Comic Relief, Davison was its executive director of impact and investment. Here she established gender justice as one of the four pillars of Comic Relief’s funding strategy and focused on shifting power in grant-making.

At Comic Relief she prioritised funding to organisations whose strategies and approach were informed by lived experience and introduced an overt focus on addressing inequality in all funding. This led to Comic Relief delivering its first racial inequality funding programme to address the disproportionate impact Covid-19 had on BAME communities. 

Davison has also held roles at Princes Trust International, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth and Crisis. She is a lifelong activist and a board member of Greenpeace UK.

'Her proven commitment to diversity and inclusivity will drive and build Refuge'

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, chair of Refuge, said: “I am delighted to announce Ruth Davison as Refuge’s new chief executive. Ruth brings to Refuge a wealth of experience, expertise and insights and a deep commitment to addressing domestic abuse and inequality. 

“This year Refuge celebrates its 50th birthday. I have no doubt that Ruth’s inspirational leadership skills and her proven commitment to diversity and inclusivity will drive and build Refuge, and the broader violence against women and girls sector, to a sustainable future which achieves yet more for the women and children who experience domestic abuse in this country today.”

Samir Patel will be the next chief executive of Comic Relief when Davison leaves later this year.

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