Simon Vincent OBE is the Chairman of the Trustees of the DM Thomas Foundation for Young People. We asked Simon to share with us his experiences of working with the Foundation and his hopes for the future.
What prompted you to first get involved with the Foundation?
I passionately believe that all young people, regardless of their personal circumstances, should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. When I joined Hilton Worldwide in 2008, I had heard about the good work of the Foundation and its work helping youth causes and I was delighted to become Chairman of the Foundation shortly thereafter.
What have been your favourite moments of working with the Foundation over the past few years?
Some of the best memories are from the charity visits that I have been able to attend over the years. I have met some truly amazing young people whose lives have been transformed thanks to the support of local charities and the Foundation support that has enabled their work to continue.
In terms of events, walking over the main suspension bridge across the Bosphorus in Istanbul (only U2 had been given permission to do this before Hilton Worldwide) and boxing against Clinton McKenzie, the ex World Champion, in aid of the Foundation’s Galvin’s Chance, was equally memorable!
Please can you describe what your role as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation entails?
Certainly. The Board is made up of talented, experienced individuals who volunteer their time in their personal capacity and share their skills to guide and promote the work of the Foundation. We meet a minimum of four times a year to review financial progress, discuss key events and campaigns, oversee grant distribution and plan for the medium and long term. Additionally, through email and phone calls we keep up to date with each other and with the news of the charity sector, or take group decisions that may not wait until the next quarterly meeting.
Why do you believe that the work of the Foundation is important?
Simply, I believe it is everyone’s duty to help those less fortunate than ourselves. The busy pace of life and focus on our own families is such that sometimes it is easy to forget about the needs of others. Working with the Foundation enables me to support – effectively and with impact – young people who need and deserve compassion and help.
Has the Foundation any achievements that you are particularly proud of?
I am incredibly proud of the record of the Foundation, donating significant sums to a wide range of youth causes and I think this is a unique achievement, especially in the face of a global recession and challenging economic circumstances. I am also particularly proud of the into-work programme, Galvin’s Chance, which sees the Foundation work in collaboration with other delivery agents (The Springboard Charity and London Community Rehabilitation Company) to train and place young people into work in the hospitality sector. These young people may have criminal convictions, or face other barriers to employment. The success rate – 80% of young people finding sustained employment – is fantastic. The roll call of Galvin’s Chance employers, which includes Galvin at Windows, Harrods, The Royal Automobile Club, Intercontinental, The Landsdowne Club, the Bonham, Hotel du Vin and many more, is testament to the level and ambition of the programme.
How would you like to see the Foundation’s work develop over the next 5 years?
Following the rebrand of the Foundation at the beginning of the year, we have an exciting opportunity to review our work and the impact we hope to achieve. Our ABLE framework provides us with a fresh platform from which to explain our mission and reach out to new corporate partners and individuals. With the help of the Foundation’s supporters I would like to see the variety of partnerships grow and deepen and the calendar of events become even broader and compelling.
Why should the Foundation focus on helping young people in the UK and Europe particularly?
I believe the Foundation has a duty to identify and support the best projects reaching young people to help transform their lives. There is, of course, need everywhere and a growing youth population globally. I think the Foundation has an opportunity to support young people who are falling behind or by the wayside in our own local communities. With growing inequality and new issues presenting themselves all the time, including: the need to use foodbanks, gun and knife crime, cyber-bullying, eating disorders – to name but a few.
There is also a continued need for new or improved equipment and resources, refurbishment work, funding for activities, extra support for sick and life-limited young people. The list goes on.
Do you think the business world has a lot to teach charities? What about vice versa?
Like businesses, all charities have their own challenges to face and overcome. I always find it interesting to meet and share thoughts with charity leaders, who face many issues that are familiar to me from my day job – budgeting, resourcing, brand recognition, people management, quality of product or service, time pressures to name but a few. In addition, a charity is responsible for managing public funds and ploughing resources back in to improve the lives of their beneficiaries, a noble endeavour. I think in business we can learn a lot from charities – for example, cutting wasteful practices, working in partnership or collaboration as well as in competition, being creative often with minimal resources. I believe that the Foundation, perhaps because its original roots and founder members were in the business world, has focused on being lean, doing more for less and showing a fantastic return on investment.
As a business leader, how do you think companies can help provide opportunities to young people? What role can the Foundation play in this approach?
Supporting young people is not only a personal commitment; it is also a business requirement. Companies have the key to transforming lives by providing relevant skills training, work experience and ultimately employment. It is a business imperative for all companies to ensure that they build their talent pipelines and remain relevant to the newer generation of customers.
The Foundation can play a crucial role in helping companies identify relevant local youth organisations to engage with, be it for volunteering or training opportunities. Through Galvin’s Chance, the Foundation takes it a step further by facilitating hands on the reintegration of young ex-offenders into the world of work.