Sea of Unseeable by Jamshid Maylanchi © Stephen Daly
20 October 2023

Changes Ahead at People United

Janice McGuinness reflects on her time as CEO as she steps back.
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“This November, I will have been CEO of People United for five years, and what an incredible journey of creativity, curiosity, joy, tears, and triumph it has been.

Over those five years the charity has changed and been changed by all that has happened globally and locally. And over that time people have come and gone from us – challenging us, holding us, exploring with us – all leaving their indelible marks and changing us for the better. One of the many things I love about People United is our openness to change, as a work in progress, always evolving. And as that evolution continues, I’ll be watching from a distance, as I’ve decided to step down from my role as CEO of this wonderful organisation.

It is a decision that took a long time to make. I changed my mind a lot, I was in two minds a lot – I realised why my star sign is two fish, connected to each other, but swimming in opposite directions at the same time. Then, after sitting with the idea for a while, it became clear that not only was it the right time for me to create space in my life for all the things I want to do next, and this was also the perfect time for a change of leadership at the charity.

People United is thriving. We have recently completed the pilot phase of our long-term programme, Futures of Care, focused on exploring care-centred collaborative practice . The organisation is moving into the next phase of the programme with confidence, a solid financial base including multi-year funding from ACE (NPO) and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and a family of partners and collaborators who are committed to care-centred co-design as route to shifting power and bringing about change.  Winning the Calouste Gulbenkian Award for Civic Arts Organisations earlier this year as one of only three recipients nationally, was a particularly proud moment. The award acknowledged the impact of our collaborations with local communities, particularly with people who are often marginalised in terms of access to the arts and engagement in civil society and gave important recognition to the achievements of our partner, Kent Refugee Action Network, and the young refugees and asylum seekers they support.

There is now a strong, sustainable impetus driving People United forward into the next stage of Futures of Care, supported by a brilliant team, an engaged board and advisor panel, committed partners and a growing pool extraordinary artists. There is a rising wave to be ridden, and that is the most exciting time for new leadership to come in take the reins.

I’ll still be around until the end of March to help ensure a smooth transition, and in the meantime, the post of Director/s will be advertised very soon, with the Board keen to attract applications from co-leaders as well as individuals.

There will be plenty of time to say goodbye next year, but I do want say now what a privilege this job has been, and what a joy it is to have worked with such a great team of people, all of whom are here because they genuinely care about each other and the communities we collaborate with.  I’m lucky to have had a long and happy career in the cultural sector and there is much that I’m proud of, but the work that People United does, the change it strives to make, has touched something very deep. I have seen that when folk leave People United, People United does not leave them. It will be the same for me. I’ll always be an advocate and a friend, and I know I’ll leave a piece of my heart right here.”

About Janice McGuinness

Janice joined People United in December 2018 having worked in the cultural sector for over 30 years. Meet Janice