Louise Ansari, director of communications at charitable foundation Centre for Ageing Better, talks about the opportunities for charity sector communications and building trust in a relatively new organisation.
What attracted you to Centre for Ageing Better?
The very clear vision of the organisation – that everyone should enjoy a good later life. The fact that it was a start-up really excited me as well, and the potential to genuinely make change in an area that’s so fundamental to the way we think and how society develops is a great challenge.
What is the charity’s core mission?
As mentioned above! It’s hugely ambitious, but also very straightforward. The way we’ll do this is different to other organisations in the ageing sector – we’ll focus on change, always based on the best evidence of what works, and look at people as they age – not just when they have reached later life.
Our current areas of work include getting more older people into fulfilling work, ensuring homes and neighbourhoods are fit for our ageing population, trying to improve activity levels, particularly focusing on better strength and balance, and helping people contribute to their communities by volunteering formally and informally.
What are the challenges in communicating this?
We are a totally new organisation, so building our brand as a credible source of information and fresh thinking will take some time, though we’ve made a great start. Careful placement and choice of channels to make sure we really reach the right stakeholders with our messages is really important, and emphasising that we’re here to partner and help rather than blame or campaign in the traditional sense are two of a number of areas we’re building.
What do you like about comms in the non-profit sector?
It’s a very fulfilling area to work in – if your values are about trying to create fairness, positivity and generally a better life for people, working in this type of comms and being able to see the impact of your work on real peoples’ lives is a real privilege.
How has the Centre for Ageing Better changed or developed in recent years?
We’ve only just come out of start-up phase and are developing our work programmes, so we are just at the beginning of our journey as an organisation.
How do those changes affect the ways in which the charity communicates with its stakeholders or audiences?
There’s both opportunity and risk in that. Opportunity because you’re building a brand from scratch effectively, and there’s no need to deal with or turnaround existing reputational problems or issues that have become sticky. We’re starting off clearly and positively and already have some great partnerships (with GMCA, Business in the Community and the Gulbenkian Foundation, for example) under our belts.
We also have high intellectual capital in our great staff team, and the incredible reputation of our chief executive Anna Dixon and chair Lord Geoff Filkin – this means that we already have significant trust, and senior stakeholders including ministers will value our expertise. The potential risk comes from being in the spotlight as a new organisation, so we need to manage our reputation carefully.
What are your professional goals, either personally or for the organisation?
I’m learning a lot from colleagues already – about innovation and evidence building among other areas – and learning is always a professional goal for me. My main aim is to work with the team to help this organisation succeed – so it genuinely makes change happen and helps improve lives for everyone in later life. That will make me happy!
- Louise Ansari joined Centre for Ageing Better in June, 2016. Prior to that she worked as director of communications at Diabetes UK and held senior positions within the British Embassy in Madrid and the Council of Europe.