Congratulations to RISC who were recently awarded RVA’s Safe + Sound governance mark. We spoke to some of the team – trustee, Colin Date, HR Administrator, Jane Amin, and Sharon Fitton, a Collective member of staff – about the charity’s work and the process of applying for Safe + Sound.
Tell us a little about RISC
Colin: I am one of the original members of the organisation so I have been a trustee at RISC since we attained charitable status in 1986. I became involved through the local World Development Movement (now known as Global Justice Now!). The local group, principally under Anne Yarwood’s direction, began World Education Berkshire (WEB), which is now called Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC). The values and ethos of this young group were very much my own, and RISC has always consisted of an exciting and innovative group of people. Many of the original collective team that started at RISC remained with it for over 20 years. I greatly admire and respect these people for living out their values. I am very pleased to play my part in keeping the organisation moving forward as a trustee and provide a historical view of RISC when needed.
Sharon: WEB is a development education charity, based in Reading, working with schools, groups and people in the community to raise awareness and understanding of how global issues affect the everyday lives of all individuals and communities in an interdependent way, raising questions about roles and responsibilities, and promoting action to combat global inequality. Our unique community building, the Reading International Solidarity Centre, facilitates our second aim: to promote the community and voluntary sector by offering low-cost accommodation, meeting rooms, training and function facilities to hundreds of local groups and organisations. It is also the location of the UK’s largest fair trade and ethical shop and the unique Global Café.
Food4Families is a project of RISC, with a focus on getting residents growing their own food in their neighbourhoods using sustainable, environmentally friendly methods reducing residents’ carbon footprints and promoting community cohesion.
What inspired you to get involved with the charity?
Sharon: I wanted to be involved in a charity that is working locally on issues that are global. I love that RISC has such a diverse, outward-looking agenda around social justice, fair trade and sustainability but is located in the heart of Reading.
What encouraged the RISC team to apply for Safe + Sound?
Colin: The fact that the Safe + Sound review was free was an obvious attraction but we also knew RVA as a successful local charity and have benefited from their services over the years. Another reason was that we had become aware over the past couple of years that some of our policies and procedures needed reviewing, often due to recent legislation changes and so we wanted to be assured by a respected, external body that all would be well with our policies.
What did the process of Safe + Sound involve for the RISC team?
Jane: The process of gathering and review our policies and procedures for the Safe and Sound award involved the whole team, including the Collective and the Trustees. It enabled us to not only ensure that every policy included up-to-date legislation but also that they reflect how we work here at RISC. Following Herjeet’s initial visit, she composed a thorough and easy to read summary of the areas for us to review and was always at the end of the phone/email to answer any questions that we had.
What benefits can you see for RISC from going through Safe + Sound?
Sharon: Having completed Safe + Sound means we can go about our everyday business secure in the knowledge that we have a sound foundation: that our staff, volunteers and trustees are covered by up-to-date governance policies and procedures. Funders have also began to ask for governance awards and having achieved Safe + Sound demonstrates that this is something that we take seriously.
What were the highlights for the RISC team this year and do you have any upcoming news to share?
Sharon: We have a brand new Education Team, who had their launch event this November, and who will be a great asset to us as we move into the future. We are also preparing to install a brand new 24/7 defibrillator at the front of the building, which will be an essential community resource. Each year, RISC is key to the organisation of numerous events, notably Fairtrade Fortnight, the International Festival and Reading Town Meal, the success of which relies on our multiple volunteers.