Inspirational Women – Joanne Cholerton


Joanne Cholerton, CEO, 3SC

Joanne Cholerton, CEO, 3SC

Joanne Cholerton is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 3SC. She has been named as one of the Natwest Top 100 Women In Social Enterprise in two consecutive years, 2018 and 2019 which recognises 100 of the most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise, impact investment and social innovation across the UK.


Joanne has over 21 years’ experience effectively delivering over 60 contracts, projects, programmes and improving performance across the public and third sectors. She has a proven ability in leading organisations of diverse stakeholders to review their strategy, operations and implement robust infrastructures that enable them to deliver on performance and outcomes.


What’s your current role or situation?


I am currently the CEO of 3SC.


Tell us a bit about your background and how you got to where you are?


I have a varied background working for and with a variety of organisations in the public and third sector both as a hand on practitioner and consultant. Most of my career has focused on managing the partnerships, commissioning and delivery of projects and programmes that improve quality of life for individuals and local communities, implementing transformational change and improving performance in public services.


I started at 3SC as the Programme Director in 2015 responsible for overseeing the delivery of all the various contracts and grants that 3SC were delivering through their supply chains. Processes and structure were needed along with a performance management framework. Just the kind of work I like to get my teeth stuck into. I’ve been CEO since late 2016.


The Theme of this year’s IWD is ‘Choose to challenge’ – what challenges you and how do you deal with any challenges?


Anyone who knows me will know I love a challenge both at work and in my personal life! So, for me it is bring it on. At work the messier the challenge the better! I love taking a group of people, partners, operations, finances, contracts, projects and turning them into an effective, efficient working organisation with a clear strategy, systems and processes that deliver the outcomes required. When there is nothing left to do, and it becomes business as usual, I usually move on as the challenge has gone. At home I am always challenging myself to learn or do something new or do something better. There is so much to do in life that I always have such a big list!


Taking over as CEO of 3SC has been a big challenge. It’s fair to say it’s been a rocky ride with it looking like 3SC might not survive at one point, but with the support of the 3SC Board, the commitment of the team alongside making strategic and significant operational changes and savings we came through! 3SC is now well-regarded by both commissioners and delivery partners and a healthy social enterprise on the NatWest Top 100 social enterprises in the UK list with a great team. In December 2020, we were all delighted to be accredited Excellent in the Merlin Standard recognising the sustainable excellence of our structured approach to supply chain management and positive partnership working with our delivery partners. We are currently looking for a large organisation to partner with who will benefit from our expertise, experienced team and fantastic supply chain management systems and processes. That is the latest challenge for me at 3SC.


Talking about challenges, what are some of the key lessons you have taken from the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown?


My life has always been managed on the basis that there is no point stressing about what you can’t change or control and focus on the things you can. I have taken that approach to managing COVID-19 and the lockdown. I don’t like the rules, I don’t like not being able to see my parents and friends or go travelling which is my passion. I’m fed up with it but that’s the way it is and the way it is for good reasons and I can’t change it, so I just follow the rules and don’t let them get me down. I can control how I feel about it and the positives are that I’ve found new things where I live that I didn’t know existed from my local exercise and now use some great local shops I didn’t before and now wouldn’t shop anywhere else. Appreciate what you have is another. As my mum used to tell me there is always someone worse off than you. I feel lucky compared to the awful impact COVID-19 has had on many other people.


You’ve been nominated as inspirational. What are your top tips for work and life in general?


Be brave, always be open to new things and believe in yourself.


Joanne Cholerton, CEO, 3SC