Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Dame Helen Ghosh

Dame Helen Ghosh, Director-General of the National Trust, delivered her distinguished lecture, 'For ever, for everyone. Reinventing the National Trust in the 21st Century' on Thursday 5 February 2015.

Founded in 1895, the National Trust is one of the largest charities in the UK and Europe's largest conservation and membership body. Today the Trust looks after 742 miles of coastline, over 247,000 hectares of land and over 350 historic houses, gardens and parks, ancient monuments and nature reserves. But with so many demands on their time, how do organisations like the National Trust stay relevant? And with sustained pressure on using land for houses and energy, how do we make sure there is space for nature in the countryside?

In this video, the Director-General, Helen Ghosh, discusses the history of the National Trust, the challenges of running a large charity in the 21st century and some of the steps the Trust is taking to modernise. With a responsibility to look after property for ever, sound finances are important; and with income dependent on more than 4 million members, systems that allow slick communications are essential. But perhaps the biggest challenge is how to professionalise to meet the future in a way that keeps the best of the past.

Helen joined the civil service from Oxford University, where she read modern history. During her civil service career, Helen worked in a wide range of Government departments, working on a range of social policy issues, including child poverty, asylum and immigration, and local community regeneration. She also worked on key environmental policies, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the protection of habitat for endangered species.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Helen worked at the heart of Government, in Cabinet Office, advising on efficiency and propriety issues. She spent seven years as a Permanent Secretary (CEO) in two departments, Defra and Home Office. In late 2012, Helen moved to become Director-General of the National Trust, where her interest in history, people and places, and her commitment to the environment come together.

She is a long-term member of the Trust and of her local Wildlife Trust in Oxfordshire. She is married to an academic and has a son and daughter, who are in their early twenties. She lives in Oxford, and includes family life, looking after her allotment, walking and watching ballet among her relaxations.