Succour little children: Tara Camm, Save the Children Alliance
20 April 2009 | By Tom Phillips
As general counsel of the International Save the Children Alliance, Tara Camm is committed to keeping all of the charity’s global members pulling in the same direction.
Celebrating its 90th birthday this May, Save the Children has much to be proud of, all spurred on by a founder who has entered the history books as
The organisation that now spans 120 countries and helps millions of children every year was born in the Royal Albert Hall in 1919. From a small stand, Eglantyne Jebb began the unpopular task of trying to raise money for children in Germany, Austria and Hungary who were suffering in their thousands due to the allied blockade put in place after World War I.
Much of the UK public was furious that anyone would campaign on behalf of the ‘enemy’ and Jebb was arrested in Trafalgar Square in 1919 on indecency charges for distributing photos of starving children.
However, she also gained many supporters - even persuading her prosecutor to donate £5 to the cause - and the Save the Children Fund raised today’s equivalent of £8m in its first year.
Jebb went on to write the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the godparent to today’s UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, enshrining child protection and safeguarding children from the actions of adults.
With a structure akin to a global corporation, only with more stakeholders, Save the Children would be unrecognisable to Jebb today. Such is its scope, it requires an alliance to oversee and coordinate its fundraising and projects throughout the world.
Tara Camm is the alliance’s secretariat director and general counsel and, after nearly 15 years in the third sector, she finds the work as challenging as ever.
“It’s fantastically interesting and motivating and you also get some of the nuttiest legal issues that you would never see in private practice,” says Camm. “You’re combining a job that interests you intellectually and emotionally, solving real problems. In each of the roles I’ve had I’ve come across new things and I think once you’ve experienced all of that it’s quite difficult to give up.”
The role of the Save the Children Alliance is to help the charity’s worldwide members collaborate, joining their resources to become more efficient and drive Save the Children’s global projects. The next project concerns what Camm terms “newborn child survival”, which focuses on the nine million children who die of preventable diseases before they reach the age of five.
To raise the most money and help the greatest proportion of children, the members must work together.
Camm is supported by a full-time solicitor, who spends much of his time protecting the charity’s brand. “It holds us all together, but we have a surprising number of issues from people misusing it,” Camm explains.
Other tasks for the legal side of the umbrella organisation include contracts between suppliers, member nations and the members’ activities.
“We’re in the challenging but rewarding position of trying to get the best out of an alliance that’s culturally diverse and each with its own unique pressures,” says Camm.
Some countries cannot be entered at all, as the charity has found with China. Despite carrying out emergency and long-term development work there for many years, the alliance has been unable to set up its own fundraising office in the country. “We remain optimistic,” says Camm resolutely.
Judd’s original fund was never intended to become a permanent charity, but over nine decades the task has grown enormously, and the charity aims to save the 50 million children who are likely to suffer from malnutrition this year alone.
The recession is undoubtedly cause for concern, with some of the charity’s national members insulated against the effects of the downturn, while others are staring at falling incomes.
“We’re at the mercy of people’s ability to give. The economic constraints are making it harder, but the need is even greater in this climate,” Camm says passionately. “That makes it really tough, but forces us to be a more efficient alliance. There’s a sense that it’s survival of the fittest in this sector - the ones that are efficient will survive.”
Organisation: International Save the Children Alliance
General counsel: Tara Camm Reporting to: Secretary general Charlotte Petri Gornitzka
Company turnover: $1bn (£670m)
Total number of employees: 14,000
Total legal capability: Two
Main external law firms: Baker & McKenzie, Perréard de Boccard Kohler Ador & Partners
Total legal spend: £65,000 plus pro bono support
Tara Camm’s CV
1987-90: LLB, University College London
1990-91: Law Society final exam
1993: Qualified as a solicitor
1994-95: LLM, London University
1991-93: Trainee, Middleton Potts
1995-96: Legal intern, Amnesty International
1996-2000: Solicitor, RSPCA
2000-07: Principal solicitor, Wellcome Trust
2007-present: Secretariat director and general counsel, International Save the Children Alliance