21st Mar 2019

As Dr Liz Charles, our Project Manager for Food prepares for (semi!) retirement, we would like to pay tribute to her time at Durham Community Action - we will miss you Liz!

Liz Charles: The Next Big Step in Keeping Small a Beautiful Thing

"What to say about Liz? Anyone who knows or has worked with Liz will know that she’s pretty fathomless in her drive, her thinking and her output.

 Liz is certainly a force, frequently hilarious, often thoughtful, considered, always well read and lethally prepped, always determined and totally focussed on the issues in hand.

 I have no doubt that she would hold an Olympian Gold, if there was such a thing, for making clear, evidenced and balanced cases for her work, demonstrating needs to be done and why. She gets results by careful and thorough tackling of the cases in hand with analysis, reflection and lots of patience.

 She has held a lot in her hands over the years, so it’s difficult to know how to sum it all up in a couple of paragraphs...but I’ll try.

Liz joined us in 2009. She was already a highly experienced community development practitioner with a strong ethical drive for social justice and inclusion, although she had and always has had a seasoned radar for pragmatism and an instinctive empathetic understanding about what motivates people living complicated and difficult lives.

She’s achieved a remarkable body of positive change and difference in County Durham during the time I have known her, establishing trust, collaboration and enduring partnership working between some incredibly diverse sectors and interests, particularly through the development of the Food Partnership.  Throughout most of this, Liz was also working her way through her PhD, applying all her experience at work into her thesis and never giving up, despite all the competing pressures she had to work with.

To list all of Liz’s developmental legacy would take too long, but most will be familiar with Citizens’ Juries, Community Supported Agriculture, advice and help for those in Fuel Poverty and establishing a scheme for people to get better value buying oil for heating their homes in off grid areas.

The undisputed jewel in her crown is however the County Durham Food Partnership, which embraces local food producers, procurement specialists, businesses and public sector, including environmental health and Public Health.

The Partnership is mature and strong and has the confidence and drive to make Durham’s food economy thrive. Liz was behind it all the way...persuading, convincing, enabling, and pulling together all the resources and guidance the partnership needed to be strong.

She’s never been afraid of challenge and is capable of fearsome directness, which in itself has won respect and commitment from our colleagues across the County. 

Personally? I have argued and laughed and put the world to rights with Liz to the point we find ourselves having grown old together, as colleagues, and, I hope, as friends. I can’t say she hasn’t driven me nuts on occasion, and I have done likewise to her. The very best thing about Liz is...we can have any amount of arguments, debates, wrangles about the details, and still be able to laugh and stay firm. Her deep knowledge and insight has always been stimulating, and it keeps me, for one, from becoming lazy about why we do the work we do, and why it is so important for us.

Fundamentally, Liz is driven by principles and hope and optimism...always has been and no doubt always will be. What’s not to love and celebrate about that.   Well done Liz, for sticking out all the rough times, low points and disappointments and always achieving, and getting to the place where big differences were made for people with whom we share our communities. We respect and salute you!"

Jo Laverick, Executive Director, Durham Community Action

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