In keeping with a 500-year old tradition, the Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) has announced the name of the individual who is to lead the organisation for the year ahead. Gillian Camm DL has been a member of SMV since 2003 and she was elected today as ‘Master’ following a vote by the Society’s membership. For a number of years she has been on the Standing Committee (effectively the board of directors for SMV) and she has served for the last two years as a senior officer of the Society.
Gillian is actively involved in SMV’s work, particularly education. Until last year she was chair of governors for Colston’s Girls’ School, now Montpelier High School, and she is a current trustee of Venturers Trust. “We are actively addressing attainment gaps across all the schools we are responsible for,” she said. “We are also reviewing the curriculum to ensure that all children can see themselves represented in positive role models and we are keen to increase our engagement with the Bristol Curriculum.” In higher education, Gillian is a former chair of governors of the University of the West of England and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.
Moving to Bristol in the 1980s to work for Hay Management Consultants, Gillian was the partner responsible for the Bristol office. She went on to be an executive director on the board of Clerical Medical Investment Group and from there she developed a portfolio of executive and non-executive roles on both private and public sector boards. She has recently retired from the board of Wessex Water Services where she was the senior independent director.
Gillian was a lay member of the General Medical Council (GMC) and she was the first lay council member to chair the Fitness to Practise Committee. She also led a review of governance of the GMC following the Shipman Inquiry.
Alongside her voluntary work for SMV, Gillian is also involved in a range of other charitable organisations, including Quartet Community Foundation.
“Bristol is a wonderful place to live and work, but it is also a city that has been described as divided,” said Gillian. “SMV is a social purpose organisation and our members volunteer in a wide variety of ways, ranging from acting as school governors through to becoming trustees of various charities.
“Much has happened this year and the result is a welcome acceleration in the pace of change. We are resolved to listen, learn, understand and to work with others to make a difference. Going forward, there is much to do.”
Already SMV works with a wide variety of businesses, community groups and charities, as well as Bristol City Council. The organisation is committed to playing its part in helping to make the vision of Bristol’s One City Plan a reality, creating a fairer, heathier, more sustainable city by 2050. Gillian believes that effective collaboration is the key to achieving ambitious goals and creating a city where everyone has a stake.
“The One City Plan and the Bristol Curriculum are both positive initiatives that will improve social inclusion and they have our full support,” she said.
Gillian also believes that SMV can play a role in helping young people to access employment, apprenticeships and relevant work experience. “Many local businesses are eager to play their part. They recognise that being profitable is not enough and they want to make a wider contribution to society as a whole. We can help facilitate opportunities for young people within the business sector by utilising our networks across schools, charities, social enterprises and the business community.”
SMV is also deeply involved in the charity sector, which has faced increasing challenges as a result of the pandemic. “It is so important that, as a city, we continue to support charities both large and small that provide lifelines to so many communities,” Gillian said. “SMV describes itself as ‘helping communities across Greater Bristol to thrive’ and we will be held to account on delivering this promise across the full range of our activities.”
Gillian’s term of office will last for 12 months from 10th November. Known as Charter Day, the new Master of SMV is traditionally sworn in at Merchants’ Hall after a service in Bristol Cathedral, although this year the service was virtual. The day commemorates the granting of the Royal Charter to the Society of Merchant Venturers by Edward VI in 1552, endorsed by Charles I in 1639.