Sophie Livingstone receives an MBE.

We sit down with Sophie to discuss her newly awarded MBE for her services to the charity sector.

What do you think is your greatest professional achievement?

Being awarded an MBE is a pretty cool achievement and recognition for 20 years in different roles (I’d love to thank whoever nominated me as I still don’t know who’s behind it)! The most rewarding elements have always been supporting people to flourish, be that staff, volunteers or people on programmes I’ve been involved in running.  It’s a real privilege to see people can grow in confidence and in their careers.   

What made you want to go into the charity sector?

Growing up in South Wales and moving to the home counties as a teenager, I developed an acute awareness of the difference in life chances based on the circumstances of your family and surroundings.  That grew into a lifelong motivation to fight for social justice and to try and make a positive difference in the world.

Who are your inspirational sector role models?

I have worked for two really great female leaders, the late Jane Slowey, and Shaks Ghosh.  Both of them, in different ways, helped me to learn, grow and put me forward for opportunities.  So much so, that when I became a charity CEO myself, I was blasé about it, as female leadership was the norm for me. I was set straight by Kiran Kaur and Amna Akhtar, who as volunteers with the charity I ran, reminded me just how important representation and female role models are.  They have gone on to found the brilliant social enterprise Girl Dreamer, which I’m proud to now be working with at Trustees Unlimited.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the charity sector?

Volunteer, build a network, use social media for inspiration, intel and connections, make use of all the free webinars that have sprung up in the last six months to build your knowledge and experience.  And never assume that the ‘charity’ label means it’s easier an easier gig than business – it’s arguably more complex and challenging, on less money. But so rewarding.  

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