Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust
Date/Time: 13th February 2014
The National Trust is one of the largest charities in the UK and Europe’s largest conservation and membership body. Helen Ghosh, the charity's Director-General, discusses the issues facing the historical and natural environments today.
With so many demands on their time, how do organisations like the National Trust stay relevant? And with sustained pressure on using land for houses and energy, how do we make sure there is space for nature in the countryside?
Dame Helen also addresses the challenges of running a large charity in the 21st century and some of the steps the National Trust is taking to modernise. With a responsibility to look after over £8bn of property, sound finances are important. With income dependent on more than four million members, systems that allow slick communications are essential. But perhaps the biggest challenge is how to professionalise to meet the future in a way that keeps the best of the past.
Helen joined the Civil Service from Oxford University, where she read modern history. During her Civil Service career, Helen worked in a wide range of government departments, on a range of social policy issues, including child poverty, asylum and immigration, and local community regeneration. She also worked on key environmental policies, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the protection of habitat for endangered species.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Helen worked at the heart of government, in the Cabinet Office, advising on efficiency and propriety issues. She spent seven years as a Permanent Secretary (CEO) in two departments, Defra and the Home Office.
In late 2012, Helen moved to become Director General of the National Trust, where her interest in history, people and places, and her commitment to the environment come together.