Eleanor Southwood’s new role as Director of Social Impact; a watershed moment for the visually impaired community – Vision Foundation

Eleanor Southwood’s new role as Director of Social Impact; a watershed moment for the visually impaired community

Text: Director of Social Impact, Eleanor Southwood MBE. ID: Headshot of Eleanor, against a blue background. Eleanor is a white woman with dark brown hair which falls past her shoulders. She is wearing a teal green jumper with a colourful chunky beaded necklace.

With the appointment of Eleanor (Ellie) Southwood MBE as Director of Social Impact, Fight for Sight / Vision Foundation becomes the only organisation in the sight loss sector with an Executive Leadership Team that is made up of 50% of people who have lived experience of sight loss.


As well as being a councillor for Queens Park in Brent, Ellie has previously held Cabinet-level responsibility for large services and policy issues, including housing and welfare reform. Ellie, who was born blind, is a former chair of the RNIB.

She has just completed the Blenheim Palace Triathlon.

Tipping the balance

“It’s great to be joining an organisation that truly embraces inclusivity in the workplace,” commented Ellie, “but there’s still so much to be done, and I look forward to influencing change in our sector and beyond.”

“I have an incredible passion for our sector,” Ellie shared in a recent Q&A interview with CEO Keith Valentine, “and a real admiration for the people who work to provide services across the UK, day in day out. But in some parts of our country, the support that is available if you are losing your site is absolutely pitiful.”


Long-term funding to create a sea-change

A common complaint in the sector, Ellie and Keith discussed, is that projects that support blind and partially sighted people are hampered by short-term funding that doesn’t really touch the sides. The new Director of Social Impact role will involve bringing together a lot of thinking on where funding is making a difference.

Ellie is galvanised, “I think we’re in a position to create a sea change in the way life is lived across the UK if you’re blind or partially sighted.”


Challenging expectations in the workplace.

The fact that Ellie’s appointment means the ELT of this sight loss charity is made up of 50% blind or visually impaired people reflects her own ambitions for society. “Where we could really have an impact is on the perceptions that blind and partially sighted people have of themselves and what is possible.” While some projects focus very much on getting employers to employ people, Ellie is keen to work alongside blind and partially sighted people on a large scale.

“One of the things that’s super exciting about this role”, Ellie enthuses “is we can use our role as a funder to incubate ideas. Let’s try things, and if they work, we have a great evidence base for seeking additional funding and scaling up. I think the key is working with people to encourage higher expectations of what the world can – and should – deliver for them in terms of opportunity.”