DSC Associate Profile: Mike Phillips

How long have you been a DSC Associate and how long have you worked in the voluntary/charity sector?

I’ve been a DSC Associate for 9 years, since going freelance. Before that I was part of the Senior Management Team. I’ve been in the charity sector for over 25 years (that’s why I’ve gone grey and lost so much hair!). I trained as an actor in Wales and had the inevitable ‘resting’ times which got me into volunteering.

I then co-founded a charity and (except for some brief forays into local government) have mainly worked in charities ever since. I’ve worked in mental health, HIV, community development and dementia.

One of the things I enjoy about being freelance is I can combine my two passions: helping charities (e.g. via DSC) and dementia care training. An odd mix! Nevertheless, I love it. I work across several sectors and yet the issues and challenges are so similar. The one constant is meeting inspirational people to create change in the world.

What makes you get up in the morning as a DSC Associate?

As I said earlier, it’s about the inspirational people I get to meet. I’m constantly bowled over by the breadth of organisations I meet on an individual course – and the diversity of delegates: all working so hard to improve the life of people and/or the environment.

Also, as a learning and development professional it’s what we call those ‘lightbulb moments’ that happen during a course. I believe every delegate I meet is full of potential and it’s my job to help them realise and release that.

I also feel I want to pay something back to DSC. In my final year of drama school I was diagnosed HIV+ Back in those days (early 1990s) there wasn’t much support in Wales, which is why I co-founded a charity. We bought DSC books and I attended some DSC courses: I’ve never forgotten how much help that gave us. So, when I joined the DSC family, it felt so appropriate – almost like coming home.

Cheesy, maybe – although true nevertheless!

If you had one wish for DSC (e.g. something it did differently and/or something you’d change in the future if you had a magic wand) what would it be?

I guess I’m in a privileged position in that, as well as being a DSC Associate, I also see things from ‘the inside.’ Especially whilst providing maternity cover for Heather.

As I know from my own business and my many trainer friends, the L&D world is having an incredibly tough time. The first thing that gets cut is a training budget which I always think is short-sighted. So, my one wish? That individuals, charities, funders and policy-makers realise that investing in learning and development is crucial. Not just for skills, staff retention etc. it’s fundamental to improving the experience of beneficiaries.

What was one of the most challenging experience for you as a DSC Associate recently?

I can’t think of a recent one. One 2 day in-house course a few years ago was a nightmare though. Despite a group agreement, participants obviously didn’t want to be there and their behaviour was rather unacceptable. At one point, one chap took a phone call in the middle of an activity and continued to have a conversation (in the room!), whilst I was trying to facilitate a discussion. I was very glad to see the end of that course, I can tell you.

What was one of the most positive experiences for you as a DSC Associate recently?

There are too many to think of! I think it was having a visually impaired delegate who the DSC team went above and beyond the call of duty to support. At the end of the course, the person said she’d not just loved the course; it was one of the best learning experiences she’d ever had. Not all days are like that, however, a comment like that is worth its weight in gold.

What do you think are some of the challenges facing the charity/voluntary sector today? What one piece of advice would you give to our beneficiaries?

Gosh! There are so many, sadly. There are general challenges:  funding, of course! Then there are challenges faced by charities tackling specific issues (e.g. health and social care, homelessness or knife crime).

As an L&D professional I don’t see my role as being an expert or to advise; just facilitate learning. However, I have to say two words: mission and beneficiaries. If you keep focused on those two things, despite all the change and upheaval around us, they will hopefully see everyone through.

What do you do when you’re not working as a trainer/L&D professional?

Well obviously, as a former actor, I have to say the theatre. TV (for escapism) and film (although I’m more into the classics). Like most Welsh person, I’m addicted to rugby. My partner and I also have two cocker spaniels (the youngest, Oscar, is a 4-month old) so that keeps me busy too. Usually running after him around the house and garden trying to retrieve socks, shoes or anything else he can manage to steal from me.