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Driving Change: insights from EASPD President James Crowe

For the next article in our EASPD Elections series, we are interviewing EASPD President, James Crowe.

For the next article in our EASPD Elections series, we are interviewing EASPD President, James Crowe. James was initially drawn to EASPD by the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who face similar challenges in support service delivery. Since then, he has served as EASPD President for eight years, having previously been a Vice-President and Board Member while representing a UK-based umbrella organisation. We spoke with James about the role of EASPD in driving positive change and the qualities essential for being a good President.

Thank you for joining us today. To start, could you share what motivated you to pursue the specific position of President on the EASPD Executive Committee?

James: Thank you for having me. My journey with EASPD began with a desire to explore international cooperation within the umbrella body I was leading as Chief Executive for 22 years. I saw the potential of EASPD to benefit our member organisations, enhance the careers of our staff, and broaden their vision and outlook. I was looking for a network that aligned with our needs, and EASPD stood out. Initially, I was a delegate for a few years, then became Vice-President, and eventually President. The closer I worked with the organisation the more I believed that it was going in the right direction and wanted to do my bit to lead it forward.

I strongly believe in the positive force EASPD can be, especially in supporting members who face challenges in providing services in line with the UN CRPD. EASPD is now a key partner organisation in the EU and has an impact beyond Europe. Personally, I've gained a lot from the community of the Board and it has brought many personal benefits as well as professional.

Can you share a specific accomplishment or initiative during your tenure that you are particularly proud of and that you believe has made a positive impact on EASPD and its mission?

James: One of the initiatives I'm particularly proud of is our work on deinstitutionalisation (DI). This process is crucial in our sector. If people are born or grow up in institutions, it is a poor reflection on our societies that they enable this. I've always thought that it is extremely important to partner with Disabled Persons' Organisations (DPOs) to pursue this agenda. The EU now has many tools like expertise, funding, and staff training to support DI. It's been a challenging journey, but the process is moving forward and EASPD has helped to drive this change.

Reflecting on your term, are there any lessons or insights you gained that you would like to share with potential candidates to better prepare them for the responsibilities of being an EASPD Board member?

James: One key lesson is that the President is a President for all members, including those on the Board. Establishing a rapport with everyone is crucial, and it's not always easy given the limited time we spend together. Promoting a team atmosphere within the Board is essential. The new statutes and internal rules have helped create a governance framework and member-led approach, but there's still work to be done to fully implement this. Reconnecting after COVID is also important. Additionally, having a good relationship with the Secretary-General is crucial. It's essential to respect the boundaries between the roles and responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the President.

What skills or expertise do you believe are desirable in potential candidates for EASPD Board positions?

James: The ability to be a unifying force is essential. Candidates need to foster an inclusive environment and be diplomatic, understanding that what works well in one country might not work in another. Being aware of cultural, social, and civil society issues is crucial. The President should have a mature outlook and not be overly ideological. Approachability and the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds is important.

 Candidates should be comfortable meeting a wide range of people, from those with disabilities to European Commission officials and local authorities. Every President faces challenges and successes, and it's important to approach the role as a two-way relationship. If you do, you'll get a lot of personal satisfaction out of it, as I have. For the right candidate, this role offers immense personal fulfilment.

The position of President, along with 17 other governance roles, will be open for election on 19 October 2024. Eligible candidates have until August 31 to submit their applications for a Board position. For more information about the application process, please visit the EASPD website here.