Hearn exits Social Tech Trust

Written by Julian Blake, Editor, DigitalAgenda

Social Tech Trust chief executive Vicki Hearn is to leave the organisation after nearly four years at the helm. The news, confirmed on Wednesday, comes at the end of a challenging year that has seen the trust separate from its founder and lead funder Nominet.

Social Tech Trust, formerly Nominet Trust, has a new chief executive, after Vicki Hearn (pictured) confirmed today that she is leaving next month after almost four years at the helm. Deputy chief executive and investment director Ed Evans takes over in January.

Hearn joined Nominet Trust in 2011, becoming chief executive in 2015 following the departure of a previous management team led by Annika Small and Dan Sutch. They went on to form CAST, the centre for acceleration of social technology.

Following its formation by Nominet in 2008, Nominet Trust established itself as the UK’s leading tech-for-good backer, investing more than £44m in over 750 ventures across the country. It says its work has had a positive impact on 10m people.

As well as running its own funding programmes, and an NT100 initiative celebrating the best social tech worldwide, the trust has funded others, including tech-for-good investor and accelerator Bethnal Green Ventures. Last November the trust announced £1m of support for a new fair by design venture fund created to tackle the poverty premium.

But, in news that took many by surprise in January, the trust confirmed that it was to separate from Nominet. The move effectively cut the trust’s lead funding source and has forced it to restructure and seek out new sources of funding.

Following the separation, in May the trust formed a new strategic partnership with Social Investment Business.

In a characteristically positive blog post on Wednesday, Hearn insisted that there were “many reasons to be cheerful”, including “clarity of vision, a strategic pathway to 2021, a healthy financial runway, a fresh cohort of funded ventures who rallied to our call of ‘tech to unite us’, new collaborative initiatives already blossoming, and bold plans for future sustainability.”

She said that “with the trust in a strong position, this seems the ideal moment to pass the baton to Ed so that he can lead the trust on the next leg of its journey. For me, a new quest awaits.” She said Evans was “ideally positioned to lead the organisation forward”, adding that “I have no doubt that the trust will continue to go from strength to strength”.

Evans joined the trust in 2016 after three years as a senior social investment advisor at the Cabinet Office and a career that has included social housing and local government. He has led on the trust’s social investments including its £1m iAMDigital fund with Creative England, as well as the new fair by design fund.

In a statement, trustee chair Bill Liao thanked Hearn for “the dedication she has shown to the trust over the last eight years. Her passion for social tech, expertise and determination have been critical to establishing the Trust’s excellent delivery track record.

“Her leadership of Social Tech Trust leaves an enduring legacy as we continue our purposeful work under Ed’s strong leadership. We wish Vicki every success in her future endeavours and look forward to continuing our work with Ed and the Social Tech Trust team.”

At an NT100 anniversary event last November, UK government digital chief Matthew Gould described the work of the trust as “incredibly important in bringing together industry, government, civil society and the private sector to help society overcome its problems”.

Nominet Trust was the founding headline sponsor of DigitalAgenda’s tech-for-good Impact Awards from 2017.

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