Spotlight on Jane - an interview with Jane Hartley

Author: Amy Coates

On 17th June, we’re excited to welcome Martin Brookes as our new CEO, but this also means we’re saying farewell to Jane Hartley who has been a fabulous interim Chief Exec for the last few months. 

Jane re-joined VONNE having previously been Chief Executive and Health and Wellbeing Associate within the organisation. During her time as interim she’s guided us through an office relocation, successful recruitment of our new CEO and much more. 

Communications and Marketing Manager, Amy Coates took some time to talk to Jane about her time at VONNE, and working across the VCSE sector. Here's what she had to say. 

A large part of your career has been working in the North East VCSE sector. What attracted you to working in the sector and VONNE as an organisation?

I’ve always been interested in the social economy and the need to tackle the high levels of poverty and particularly health inequality in the North East.

Following a successful career co-running an Illustrator’s Agency in London, I moved back to my home town of Darlington in the early 90’s to raise my young family. 

Looking for work, I realised there wasn’t much call for illustrators agents so I took a short-term position at Darlington CVS. I knew nothing about the voluntary sector or the role of a VCSE infrastructure organisation but I quickly learnt to love it and worked out it wasn’t that different from being an illustrators agent, in that previously I had been supporting illustrator’s to survive and thrive in what was often a cut throat world and now I was supporting charities and community groups to survive and thrive in another type of cut throat world!

My career in the sector continued when I secured a post with Sedgefield Borough Council as their Health Alliance Manager. There, I project managed the development of The Pioneering Care Centre and was responsible for establishing a charitable trust to manage it. I went on to become CEO of what is now known as PCP, an award winning healthy living centre. I’m really proud of what we achieved in the 15 years I was there and that we went on to develop health and wellbeing projects across Tees Valley, Sunderland and Co. Durham. 

PCP were members of VONNE, so I became aware of VONNE’s work and became a trustee to support it. I wanted to try to have more of a positive influence as a charity leader at a regional level, so I was honoured to be appointed as Chair of the Board, before I took the decision to apply for the position of CEO. 


What’s changed at VONNE since you were last CEO and what are the new challenges for the organisation?

Since I stood down as CEO in late 2018, VONNE has grown exponentially from a small core team of 5 to a current staff of 24. Membership is now over 1400 and we have significant reach across the region through our networks and partnerships. We have expanded our work in line with the shifting issues and priorities regionally and nationally, developing strong projects and partnerships in health and wellbeing, environment and digital. 

In terms of challenges, one of them has been that Carol Botten, our former CEO has been a hard act to follow. The impact of her departure has been felt across not only the staff team but the many external stakeholders that Carol built a strong collaborative relationship with over the years. The announcement of her decision to stand down for health reasons produced an outpouring of messages clearly demonstrating she was an incredibly well respected and valued leader. Having also worked closely with Carol when I was CEO and she was DCEO, on a personal level I missed her support hugely when I came back. However, I found that there were many familiar faces still around, so I wasn’t starting from scratch, and I got a warm welcome from the staff team which made things so much easier. I am pleased to say that Carol is now recovered and has been supporting me where she can too.


Photo of Jane standing outside the door of number 10 Downing Street


What do you hope to see from VONNE in the future?

In terms of future opportunities, it is interesting that VONNE was born out of an identified need for a regional voice when we last had regional government, with bodies such as OneNorthEast. With the recent devolution agenda and the devolving of power to the regions, VONNE has a clear role in ensuring the voice of the sector is heard within our regional government structures: Tees Valley Combined Authority and the newly established North East Combined Authority. 


Do you have any high points from being CEO of VONNE? 

One of the high points in my time as CEO was being invited as a representative of the VCSE in the North East to attend a roundtable at No.10 during Theresa’s May’s time in government and finding when I got there I was the only representative from the north of England. Though I don’t know if that roundtable necessarily resulted in any influence on policy, it was gratifying to be recognised as a credible voice for the sector in the North East. I am confident that under the stewardship of the new CEO, Martin Brookes, VONNE will continue to be recognised as the strong and credible voice of the sector.