Today, Jo Youle is the CEO of Missing People, having started at the organization 10 years ago as Head of Helplines. Under her leadership, the charity was ranked as the 18th best not for profit to work for in the annual Sunday Times list. Before joining Missing People, Jo enjoyed a successful career as an artist and songwriter for Warner Music and Chrysalis. She talks to TEDxWandsworth about running, podcasts and the unusual synergy between TEDx and writing songs.
How are you preparing for your TEDxWandsworth talk?
It’s rumbling around my mind every day, when I’m out for run, and even occasionally in my dreams. It feels like writing a song, and perfecting it so the chorus soars and is memorable and moving.
How did you come up with the idea for your talk?
It’s a personal story about me daring to open doors. It’s something I’ve carried around in my head these last few years in my role as the CEO of Missing People, though this is bringing it into much sharper focus.
You swapped a career as a musician to work in the charity sector. What inspired you to make the change?
At the height of my songwriting career, I was also a Samaritan in central London. It felt like another, secret world and I loved it; as my music life waned, my passion for being in the heart of a charity took off. By chance I saw an advert in The Big Issue for Missing People and I got the job. I still buy The Big Issue to this day and I played piano with the Missing People Choir. It’s funny how worlds collide.
Missing people is an issue we often find difficult to approach head on. Why do you think that is?
Missing People has done lots to raise awareness over the 24 years since we were founded, but there’s a lot more to do.
It’s hard to imagine someone you love being missing, simply not knowing if they are alive or dead. 250,000 people go missing every year in the UK. It’s a shocking number though thankfully most people are found fairly quickly.
Missing is about so many things: mental health problems, family breakdown and arguments, child sexual exploitation and in the case of some people, we just don’t know why.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by thinkers and writers, and I do a love a podcast. I’ve just listened to ‘Our Man In the Middle East’ by the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen and it’s a marvel. Serial and S-Town will always stay with me, too.
Would you describe yourself as an extrovert, or an introvert?
I feel like an introvert but behave like an extrovert. I think my career choices have pushed me. I never expected that writing songs would end up with me performing on stage, and I never expected that being part of a charity would put me back on the same stages!
How do you spend your down time?
I do like a run in Richmond Park, time with my lovely family and a nice pint.
What one thing would you like to know before you die?
That my kids are happy, grown up people.
What is your favourite TED or TEDx talk?
I love Candy Chang’s talk ‘Before I Die’.
A walk up Cat Bells in the Lake District with my lot, sun out, looking over Derwent Water, a cheese cob and a packet of crisps.
Interview by Rosy Edwards