The Foundation’s intern Dani interviewed our Trustee John Townsend…
When the Rio Ferdinand Foundation wanted to form a new leadership team two years ago, current trustee John Townsend was excited to join the reconstructed board of trustees.
Townsend, who is the Foundation’s only trustee based in Manchester, has a long history in working in both private and public sectors. He is a Chartered accountant who acts as a right-hand man for high net worth individuals. Within the public sector, he has worked on a number of projects, including the Manchester Commonwealth Games Legacy Board for the 2002. He also worked on the Olympic Legacy Board in 2012, which is where he met the Foundation’s current CEO, Gary Stannett.
Townsend said his friendship with Stannett helped him get involved with the Foundation.
“I wanted to get involved in a charity or foundation which Gary had been involved in for awhile,” Townsend said. “I knew it was in an area that both of us were extremely interested in terms of wanting to assist young people, in particular, those who are disadvantaged or those who are at risk of falling off the ladder.”
Townsend has now been a part of the Foundation’s board for over two years and said that he is excited about the new vision of the board. Since he has been a part of the organisation, Townsend has tried to use his network within both the business and sports sectors to assist the foundation however possible. Specifically, he said he has an interest in supporting young people with technology.
“One of the things we’ve started to develop is looking to see if we can equip some of these people that are disadvantaged and at risk in technology skills since they do not always have access to those devices,” Townsend said. “It equips them with the skills they need in order to partake in the economy, it’s a fast-moving environment and growth is driven by technology, so they need to be equipped with those skills.”
Townsend not only wants to help young people learn technological skills, he also wants to combine the work that the Foundation has done with other small charities and organisations. He said he also wants to work with BT, who is Rio Ferdinand’s main sponsor, to try and help as many young people as possible.
“[I want to] work with some of the organisations that I’m bringing to the table along with Gary and the team and some young people gain employment and apprenticeships,” Townsend said. “I want to see some concrete examples of them fulfilling their potential, whether that means starting their own business, gaining employment, either of those two goals would be great.”
Since working at the Foundation, Townsend said that he is most proud of the work he has helped accomplish and that he cannot wait to get more work done in the future. He said what he likes most about working at the Foundation is seeing the results of each project, along with the fact that the Foundation runs itself in a different way compared to other organisations.
“We are very much led by young people,” Townsend said. “Instead of the old, traditional way, I think what we tend to do is we get better results because we allow our young people to lead a lot of the training programs and partake in them once they’ve come through the process. It’s something that is relevant to them and appeals to them as opposed to a trustee or older person telling them how their things must be done, so that’s been one of the things that’s drawn me to it.”
Interview written by RFF’s Intern Dani.