We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Zenna Hopson as the new CEO of Dallaglio RugbyWorks.

Zenna has been a huge part of Dallaglio RugbyWorks from the moment she became a trustee, so we are excited to have her on board to lead us on the next stage of our journey. Zenna has completed a Q and A ahead of starting her role to give you an insight into who she is and her plans for the future of Dallaglio RugbyWorks...

 

Tell us a bit about who you are and what career path you have taken so far.

My working life began whilst I was at college when myself and a group of mates set up an unemployment center for young people called Breadline. We converted a building to host a café, band practice room, art studio, photography workshop, and meeting rooms and this center is still operating 35 years later. This was a brilliant thing to do and sparked my entrepreneurial spirit!

I started my paid career working in a therapeutic community for adolescents who were there as an alternative to prison or a psychiatric hospital. This experience ignited my passion for working with young people! I then went on to set up a youth homeless charity, work as a Local Authority crime prevention officer, and set up a youth crime prevention charity (in which we ran the local PRU).

After that, I took on some more strategic roles in the public sector in health, housing, and education, culminating in Chairing Ofsted for 5 years. Then, I went back into executive leadership and listed an education PLC. I have more recently held a portfolio of roles, leading and supporting youth charities, undertaking educational consultancy, and working in the private sector. 

How did you first hear about Dallaglio RugbyWorks and what made you want to get involved?

I was introduced to Lawrence and one of the trustees and became excited by DRW’s mission to work with young people who had been excluded from school or who were at risk of exclusion, which is why I was delighted to become a trustee. The opportunity to change their life trajectory and give them real opportunities was amazing.

The board were great to work with, truly engaged and passionate about the mission. The work being done on the ground was also having a real impact, so when the board asked me to step in and offer more direct support after the new CEO left at rather short notice, I was delighted. Getting to know the team was fun and I could feel my passion growing, so when the board decided to advertise for a substantive CEO, it took me a nano second to decide to apply.

 What experiences will you draw upon to help you during your role as CEO?

Obviously, my professional background will provide helpful experience in my role, however I do feel each organisation, squad, and beneficiaries are unique so it’s incumbent on me to meet the needs of DRW and not to try and shoe horn in strategies that have worked for other organisations.

In terms of my personal life experience, I was expelled from school, as they called it then, and failed most of my O’Levels, so I know the catch up that has to be played if you miss the milestones when you are young. My own children, and those that I fostered found school challenging and I juggled being a working mum with their fixed term exclusions!

The main experience I shall draw on is, that of our young people and the fantastic squad at DRW. Being able to truly drive DRW depends on the knowledge and experiences of young people at risk today and the teams that work with them.

 Where do you see Dallaglio RugbyWorks heading in the future?

 DRW has a really exciting future, we want to grow to be working with 4500 young people in the next five years. Working with them in school, after school, and supporting them through our digital app Player Profiles.

We will always focus on building young people’s skills, raising their aspirations, helping them improve their mental health, and getting and keeping them fit. We will always use rugby as a hook, and we will always strive to ensure the young people we work with are in education, employment, or training from age 18 and beyond.

We will commit to being there for them for life, powered by our People and Technology through Player Profiles. We will use the brand of our Founder Lawrence Dallaglio to continue and enhance our Events, attract our supporters, engage our corporate partners, and motivate our squad and young people, and we will build a bank of new and dynamic ambassadors to continue to raise our profile.

We have always had a diverse range of income to support our work and we will continue to drive this in new ways to commercialise what we do to fund our core activity. We will never lose sight of our roots, we will always exist to give excluded or at risk young people opportunities to change their lives and we will evolve and change to ensure we are always contemporary, interesting, fun and impactful.

 What exciting things are coming up in the world of RugbyWorks?

 The future is bright for Dallaglio RugbyWorks! This year, we are looking forward to working with hundreds of young people in our seven regions, with an eye open for funded expansion. We are also looking forward to raising money and having fun at; 8 Rocks, a Golf day, Cycle SLAM and many more events including the launch of our Women’s Club.

We are looking forward to seeing the life changing impact Player Profiles will have and are also looking forward to welcoming new people to or Squad, as well as Partners to support us.

I am looking forward to being the CEO and working with the team to make it all happen!