Chris Stannard

I didn’t know Chris personally, but I came to know him as a person through our years of working together as trustee and clerk of The Campden Charities.  In fact, I came to be a trustee via an initiative of Chris’s own.  He was attempting to diversify the membership of the Board.  Susan Cohen, then a Grants Officer and a neighbour, told me of the Charities and asked if I’d like to come along to a reception being held for prospective trustees.  She thought I might be interested in the new approach to giving that was being developed.

 

I was really attracted to the audacity of the plan:  Long-term support, impersonal criteria for qualification, focus on the future via a reasonable financial plan, respect for beneficiaries’ own agency, avoidance of the notion of deservingness.  In this model of giving, a beneficiary would be little different from the principal investigator on a research project:  the focus was on the plan. 

 

I was excited by the idea that this would be a learning process and that over time, the seemingly simple commitment to help the long-term unemployed into work would allow us to learn more of people’s life circumstances, and so to develop better ways of supporting them.  From the beginning, Chris had taken the view that the rate of “success” would be limited, and the rate of “failure” might seem high.

 

Indeed, over the years, there were a number of pilot projects that were comparatively short-lived, as well as a number of efforts to reach disaffected young people that were less productive than had been hoped.  As with all experiments, even the disappointments were informative.  It was by this means that we came to have the robust, mature range of schemes that comprise today’s charitable support. 

 

Throughout the project, we were able to work together as allies most of the time.  Our disagreements could be sharp.  They derived from somewhat differing views about or attitudes toward the alleviation of poverty.  I would say that Chris heavily favoured the encouragement and support of aspiration over the mitigation of need, an area in which he was far less interested.  For me, the former could not be allowed to overshadow the latter; mitigation of need is the foundation from which support of aspiration rises.  Our strategic differences of perspective were mediated by both an experimental attitude and the contributions of Grants Officers, who brought to our discussions their own perspectives derived from the lived experiences of beneficiaries.  The Charities’ modes of giving benefitted from and were enriched by this balanced tension among views. 

 

There were also points at which Chris was challenged by the changing priorities of the Board, and was obliged to take into consideration elements of overall management style that did not reflect his administrative strengths.  We come to know people by their choices, and I was impressed by the way Chris responded to what must have seemed to him to be a very sudden alteration in employer expectations. 

 

I was looking forward to having numerous conversations with Chris during this coming year.  I’d hoped we could talk more about the values underpinning grants, about diversifying trustees, and about adding varieties of community advisor to our process.  I’d hoped this would be part of a transition for at least one if not both of us, marking the moment when a unique and now mature charitable project was/is being given into the care of a changing Board.  I am grateful that we at least had the chance to skim the surface in our discussion of the personal reflections Chris presented at what turned out to be his final meeting with us. 

Christopher Davis

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