Coffee with Kerry: Trustee at Wellspring Settlement

Our Board of Trustees play a really important role in steering the organisation in the right direction. But what does the role actually involve? We grabbed a coffee with Kerry Rowe, one of the members to find out more.

Hi Kerry, thanks for meeting up today. Can you tell us what your role is at Wellspring Settlement?

Hi there, my role is the Joint Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees.

And what do you do as a day job?

I have come from 16 years community development experience in the Lawrence Weston area, focusing on community and educational activities.

When did you become a trustee at Wellspring Settlement?

I started on the Wellspring Healthy Living Centre Board in 2017. Then following the recent merger with Barton Hill Settlement, which brought together two incredible community assets, creating a really solid community foundation for the area, I stepped across to the new Wellspring Settlement Board.

What made you want to become a member of the Board?

I was going to Wellspring Healthy Living centre where my GP is. I was using the building quite a lot and, was always very interested in the mix of activities that went on there.

It was clearly more than just a GP in that building, but it’s not always obvious what the different things are. So, I looked into it a bit more, and realised it was a really great organisation, doing great things. Then a friend of mine sent me a message saying, ‘Oh, they’re looking for trustees. You know, you’ve been talking about them a lot, maybe you should go and have a look’. So I did.

There will be some people reading this who have no idea what a trustee does. Just give a kind of a basic outline of how it looks and works.

Well there is a monthly meeting, ideally in person, but we met on Zoom through the pandemic. We get together, and we have an agenda that we work through during the meetings.

We look at any updates on any major pieces of work, plans for new projects, and community priorities. We look at the budget to make sure it’s on track, we look at any monitored risks and issues that could occur. We shape the strategy for the organisation by looking at what is important to the local communities. Then we hear different points of views because there are so many different people on the Board, it’s an opportunity to hear diverse opinions. Then we reach a decision.

Could you give us a little flavour of the range of people on the Board?

There are people like myself who are local residents; people who are part of the local organisations that work in partnership with Wellspring Settlement such as the Somali Resource Centre; people who have come through attending the family centre; some people who are retired, but who are interested in contributing their time.

If there was somebody reading this who thought ‘I’m interested in becoming a trustee’, how would you encourage them? What are the sorts of things that are enjoyable about it?

It’s really important that there’s a reflection of the local community. On all boards you need a diverse range of people and backgrounds and experiences which reflect the community you are part of. I would encourage anyone interested to have an informal chat with a trustee, and come along to a Board Meeting to see first-hand how interesting it is.

For me being on the Board means I get to meet other people, learn about other people’s lives and different approaches. I can’t speak for all boards, but this one is very friendly, and very supportive. Many of the members either live or work in, or are dedicated to, this community

What skills do you need?

We offer training, so don’t worry if you feel you haven’t got the skills. The main thing is having enthusiasm and the willingness to give it a go. If somebody came along, they wouldn’t have to commit to anything straight away. We talk them through what’s going to happen, then when we look at the papers we explain what the different procedures are and it kind of demystifies it a bit,

Do you think that it can be a bit of a barrier for some people thinking that it’s not for them and not having the confidence to step forward?

You’re spot on. It is providing ways to recognise the skills and the experience that they’ve got. Even if they don’t have experience as a trustee, life experience is just as valuable. Simply, have you got something to say about the local area that is positive and constructive, and do you have good ideas?

So, they don’t need to be put off if they haven’t done it before. We are there to provide support and they’ll also have fun, we often end up laughing in meetings!

What for you is unique about Barton Hill?

It’s a great area, a combination of so many things. It feels rich in diversity with many different communities and there’s a wealth of community energy here, individuals, organisations, businesses, and they all work in varied ways to connect and empower.

I was in Netham Park this morning, and there are lots of different people that use that park in all kinds of different ways. Every time you are there, you’ve got people playing cricket, kids on the adventure playground, people enjoying the woods. You’ve got Somali families having a picnic. It’s just really great, and that’s why I love it.

With the huge development at Temple Quarter coming how can that affect the local area?

Well, we are a stone’s throw away from some really affluent areas here. And with Temple Quarter coming that’s going to obviously increase. Wellspring Settlement will play a key role in being an advocate and bridge to ensure that local people can benefit from the opportunities that the developments at Temple Quarter will bring.

We need to work as a Board to ensure that any investment, any development in the local area, benefits all the local community. That includes things like jobs, training, transport, education, funding, investment – all of those things need to benefit local people. Our role is crucial in helping to ensure that happens.