Emma Scarcliffe has become Bridges Project’s CEO on a permanent basis following the sudden passing of former CEO Jim Boyle last year.
She has spent the last year as the Acting Chief Executive but is delighted to now be appointed long term.
“I’ve had many career highlights, including winning a UK wide award for my innovative work running a project within HMYOI Polmont but becoming the CEO of Bridges Project definitely tops them all! From the moment I started at Bridges Project in 2011, I was completely committed to the organisation. To now be the CEO is really what dreams are made of and I see this as so much more than a career. When I start talking about Bridges Project, the amazing young people we work with and the incredible staff team, I can’t stop talking!” says Emma.
The new CEO started her career with the Department of Work and Pensions before moving on to several voluntary and private sector organisations. Through these posts, she worked with many client groups – from people involved in the criminal justice system to people recovering from substance misuse to people experiencing significant mental health problems.
“As my career progressed, I kept thinking that if I could only work for an organisation that supported younger people, I would be able to provide that early intervention that would hopefully stop this younger generation becoming involved in situations that were so incredibly difficult to come back from,” says Emma.
That is when she found Bridges Project. Emma started her career in the Musselburgh based charity by piloting a Transitions Service for young people in their senior phase of high school in East Lothian who were at risk of leaving education without a positive destination in place. The Service was highly successful and Emma was soon promoted to Transitions Coordinator, before she became Bridges Project’s Manager.
In August 2019, a sudden and dramatic event led to Emma having to step into a new role once again. Bridges Project’s CEO Jim Boyle, who had committed his life to the charity since its inception in 1984, suddenly became very ill and was subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer. Three months later, he passed away in St Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh.
“Everything just happened so quickly and it was such an emotional time for us all at Bridges Project. One day he was siting opposite me and the next he never returned. Jim was such an inspirational man,” says Emma.
The new CEO decided to honour Jim’s memory by nominating him for YouthLink Scotland’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which he won.
“Jim’s wife, Jim’s daughter and myself attended the ceremony. It was a brilliant night and a fantastic way to celebrate Jim. It was so emotional when Jim’s wife went up on stage to collect it and there was a standing ovation,” says Emma.
Following Jim’s death, Emma was appointed Acting Chief Executive. As well as the emotional impact of the loss of her friend and mentor, this also meant an increased workload for her.
“It was such a busy time as I was effectively undertaking the Manager’s job and the Chief Executive’s job in three days per week as I had returned from maternity leave, initially part-time. On top of that, we found out that we had been unsuccessful in some funding bids which meant two services and five staff were at risk and – would you believe – when we were just getting through everything, Covid-19 happened and I had to adapt all service provision while working from home and looking after my daughter,” says Emma.
Despite all this pressure, the new CEO has enjoyed her role so far.
“What I have enjoyed the most is seeing first-hand what unbelievably amazing things young people can achieve”, she says.
Emma also believes that the challenges of the past year has prepared her for any difficulties ahead and she is confident that Bridges Project will be able to continue to inspire young people to build a confident future and expand and develop their services in East Lothian and Midlothian.
“Honestly, this past year has been so challenging that I don’t see any major challenges ahead! I am just so incredibly excited to be leading the wonderful staff team into the coming years and I have no doubt in my mind that Jim’s legacy will live on and Bridges Project will continue to be the fantastic organisation it is for the next 30 years,” says the charity’s new CEO.