The Hinge Centre at the Conservative Party Conference

By Jo Sanders-Potts, Chief Executive of The Hinge Centre.

Proud, honoured, valued, anxious, worried, imposter syndrome, curious are all the words I would use to describe my feelings about being asked to sit on a panel at the Conservative Party Conference.

As the Chief Executive of a small charitable organisation, based in the seaside town of Bridlington, I honestly couldn’t believe that people would be interested in listening to my views. My initial thoughts were what will I need to do? Who will I be sat with? What do I write in my 5-minute opening? What do I wear? But once the initial shock had worn off and I had time to reflect I realised that it should be people like me and organisations like ours that sit on panels like this. As people want to hear the reality of how people are living, and the impact deprivation has on families.

I felt it was important that I got the views of other organisations in my local area when writing my 5 minutes because we are all supporting vulnerable communities and I wanted to bring different perspectives and provide a full picture. I started with the challenges children and young people are facing and moved up to adults outlining reasons why it’s not as simple as ‘just go and get a job’. We need to support people to meet basic needs and build soft skills before we can support them into employment.

The nerves I felt when reading my 5 minutes were overwhelming, the MPs on the panel just spent 5 minutes (and longer) speaking off cuff, again something that was very intimidating. But let’s put that into perspective…. they are used to speaking on panels, speaking to the media, and have probably had to make their points a hundred times over, I, however, have had no previous experience of speaking in this environment, my comfortable environment is speaking in front of the neighbourhood watch or coffee morning groups and providing them with information on our charity. But following my 5 minutes I began to relax, members of the audience were asking me questions and I felt comfortable answering, the answers came easily because I may not be an MP or the CEO of a national charity, but I know my community, I understand their challenges and what support works for them, I am rooted in the town.

Were people interested in my views? Yes, I think so. Did people listen? I hope so. Will my views make a difference? Who knows! But it is important that people like me and small charities are given a voice in arenas like this because we are the ones providing support on the ground, we are trusted in our communities and are building lasting relationships that make positive differences.

The conference itself was much less daunting than I had expected. It was great to see charities, trusts and funders included in the stall section and there was a huge variety of panels, with a broad range of topics available for people to listen too (also lots of freebies! Who doesn’t like a free pen! Or if you went into the ‘posh’ area a free power bank!). I even ran into Robert Peston (may have got a cheeky selfie).

On a serious note, though if you are from an organisation like mine and ever asked to speak at event or sit on a panel like this, DO IT! Step out of your comfort zone, speak from the heart, and tell your stories. You are the expert in your area, and you should be heard. And by the way no one cares what you are wearing!

Watch the full panel event here.

Back to Blog
The Hinge Centre at the Conservative Party Conference 1 The Hinge Centre at the Conservative Party Conference 3 The Hinge Centre at the Conservative Party Conference 4 The Hinge Centre at the Conservative Party Conference 1 The Hinge Centre at the Conservative Party Conference


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.