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Meet Burphy Zumu – Switchback Trustee | Switchback are recruiting Trustees – Join us?

By September 27, 2023October 5th, 2023No Comments

Switchback’s model works. We’ve supported over 500 young men to complete our programme but know 1000s more need this intensive support. In the past three years, Switchback has not only supported more young adults than ever to navigate release from prison during the toughest of circumstances, but we have also significantly expanded our work with Trainees to drive change in government policy and practice. This is why we are growing – and why we’re recruiting four new Trustees to join our Board!

We are looking for a diverse range of people who want to use their passion, commitment and skills to support inspiring, meaningful change.  To do this, it was important for us to shine a light on what being a part of our Trustee board looked and felt like, so we interviewed one of our Trustees, Burphy, who has been a part of Switchback for nearly three years.

Burphy brings a wealth of experience working with young men like Switchback Trainees. In his role as Research Manager and Director of ClearView Research (CVR), Burphy has worked on projects to include the voices of underrepresented groups in high-level decision-making. Outside of CVR, he is part of a project called My Brother’s Keeper, which mentors men who are serving long or life sentences to inspire hope and change.

Whilst Burphy clearly has the professional skills to be an asset to our Board, it was his passion and commitment to the cause that made him stand out from the crowd. Burphy also supports our Experts by Experience Board Advisor and is an advocate for lived-experience as a vital component in governance and organisational design.

Read below what Burphy has to say about being a Switchback Trustee.

How would you describe the experience of being a Trustee at Switchback?

Being a Trustee of Switchback for the past two years, soon to be three, has been an incredibly fulfilling and transformative experience. It has been a journey marked by growth, both for Switchback and for me personally.

The parallel challenges and opportunities faced by Switchback and ClearView Research, where I work day-to-day, have offered me a unique vantage point, enriching my professional development in ways I could not have anticipated.

Since becoming a Trustee at Switchback I have been supported by my fellow Trustees and the organisation to feel self-assured in the value I provided as I was a first-time trustee. During my current term, we navigated the turbulent waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, a challenge that tested our resilience and adaptability. As a trustee, it was lovely to be part of a dedicated team that worked tirelessly to ensure Switchback’s sustainability and its ability to continue its important mission.

Also, overseeing the introduction of a new CEO added an exciting dimension to my role. It was a learning experience that helped me appreciate the intricacies of leadership transitions, a skill set that I can apply elsewhere. Our journey towards achieving ambitious three-year strategic goals has been invigorating. It has been an honour to contribute to Switchback’s success, and I look forward to the continued journey of progress and development.

Why did you want to be a Switchback Trustee and is the role living up to your hopes?

I wanted to become a Switchback Trustee because of how I first interacted with the charity, which was roughly a year prior to applying to join the Board. I was receiving training from Switchback Mentors for a different project and they gave such an authentic impression that people at Switchback honestly believe in helping their Trainees. They conveyed a message that, with a little grace and support, Trainees can make the right changes and be supported to build the best possible future. For this reason, I felt the vision, purpose and values of Switchback align with my own – considering that before Switchback I had long committed myself to visiting people in the justice system or secure estate to inspire them to strive to want, seek and implement change in their lives. When the opportunity arose to join the Board, I really wanted to help Switchback continue to shift the narrative with their work. Is it living up to what I hope? Absolutely, the growth of the EbE, the podcast, the number of people reached within the secure estate and within the Switchback programmes, as well as collective wins in policy have been exactly what I wanted to help Switchback to achieve.

Why should someone join our Board now?

Well, right now is an exciting time to join Switchback’s Board because you will be joining a group of Trustees who are dedicated to supporting a talented and committed Leadership Team to deliver on our current 3-Year Plan, which is the right balance of audacious and ambitious. Switchback has existed for over a decade and, although it is respected by those who know of Switchback, we need to get it into the spaces where it is not so well known. Awareness is one thing, strategic position is another. Switchback is aiming for the latter. Switchback wants to be able to leverage the years of experience and insights to influence at a much greater scale the outcomes of people who enter the justice system and address the racial and social inequalities. This is because, ultimately, the majority of people who enter the justice system, for whatever reason, will come back into society and return to communities. So, why not be part of the organisation that helps to ensure that those released are as best equipped to manage their own rehabilitation and reintegration as they step into what is hopefully the best chapter of their lives?

What are your hopes for Switchback’s future impact and growth over the next 3-6 years?

Well, this is easy, achieve what is our 3-Year Plan.

It was really exciting to see this strategy come together in the wake of COVID-19. Our challenge to ourselves and our invitation to our partners and supporters was to amplify Switchback’s role as a platform for change.

Our plan has two clear goals:

  • For even more young Londoners to build lives they can be proud of, and
  • For transformation across the justice system.

Recently, and with the highest respect for our supporters and funders, we held ourselves to account and reviewed our strategic aims, benchmarking where we thought we were in achieving them and planning out the final year of the strategy. It was important for us to establish, as a team, how well we are fulfilling our promises in practice and how will will do that even better in the future.

It was a process that involved everybody at Switchback, including our Trainees and Trustees. Switchback is a great organisation to be a part of if you really want to be hands-on!

What are the key challenges that we need to overcome to get there?

Well, as mentioned before, our 3-Year Plan is audacious and ambitious and therefore taking us to places we have never been before in terms of fundraising, developing partnerships and influencing policy. However, that is why we are looking for new Trustees who can help us in this regard. We want to move carefully towards our goals with the Trainees still at the heart of what we do. We want to navigate gaps in our own knowledge as we move towards our goals that have not yet been achieved in the history of Switchback. We know that the public appetite and political position towards the criminal justice system is a tough thing to address but we believe our programmes and the human stories of Trainees are transformative and will assist us on our journey, so long as it is balanced alongside the other activities we plan to do.

Anything else you want to add about being a trustee or Switchback?

Just to say that not all board dynamics are the same. A lot of boards are well-organised, a lot of boards are well-intentioned, but not a lot of boards are both – Switchback is one of the rare ones that are both. How can I say this as a new Trustee? Well, by leaning on the experiences of my fellow Trustees and my mentors I have learnt a lot about the service that is governance. Switchback is a great place; helping us achieve our aims will not be an easy ride, but it will be an enriching and impactful experience for sure. So apply, or at least share with a friend that you believe fits the bill. Your belief in them might actually be the final thing that pushes them to apply after already seeing the opportunity for themselves.

We couldn’t agree more. Thank you to Burphy for giving his time to our cause and agreeing to be interviewed.

If you are keen to join Switchback and make a difference to the lives of young men in touch with the criminal justice system, please read our Trustee advertisement linked here: Trustee vacancy

If you’d like an informal and private chat about being a Switchback Trustee, and what it might involve, please contact us and we can arrange a call with Sian Williams, our Chief Executive, Olivia Gillan Bower, our Deputy Chair, or Burphy Zumu, a Trustee who joined in our 2020 recruitment round. If you would like to arrange an informal chat, please contact Lisa on or 020 7650 8989.

If you would like to find out more on the role of a charity Trustee and their importance within the charity sector please read advice available on the NCVO’s page here: NCVO support for Trustees



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