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A Thank You to a family, or what Christianity means to me

When I was 9 I decided I wanted to be a Christian.

My parents were definitely not Christians and I’m not entirely sure what led me there. I think a craving for values and loving a good hymn. I was young and can’t really remember the details but what I do know is that aged 9 I started going to church on Sundays alone.

And what I do know is that from the first Sunday I went, I was not alone, because one family took me in. Every week they were there to sit with and to answer questions. They were great fun, but also took me and my (I’m sure) precocious need to ‘do religion’ seriously and helped me grow with it.

They took me and their wonderful daughter on so many holidays where I got to help her learn to swim, and stand with her as her grandpa got ill, and hear the very first Harry Potter read to us for the very first time.

My mum asked me recently which couple I admire most and somewhat bizarrely without a second thought I said them.

It was a lifetime ago but to this day they are what I understand Christianity to be.

Tomorrow I get to watch that beautiful daughter Hannah walk down the aisle in that perfect little church where her parents watched as we grew up. I’m so proud to have been a weird little part of your family for a while, so glad to see that family grow. And if you and Jon manage to bring even a tenth of the good into the world that your parents have, then your union will be one of the most blessed I know.

(And apologies for the cheesy essay but we don’t say thank you enough and this seemed a good opportunity to show my appreciation for a family who truly made a huge dint on my life :) Happy Wedding Day!)

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5 things I learned from the Culturevist ‘Org Culture in Charities’ meet-up

Thanks to a chance meeting at Emma Sexton‘s 2nd A Heard to Run With meet-up (also about organisational culture and new ways of working), I found out about a great network called Culturevist and having mentioned my trustee role, their founder suggested I come along to their event the following week on organisational culture specifically in charities.  It was an evening event hosted by Macmillan and I was really impressed by the range of charities represented there.  There were some really smart ideas shared and challenges discussed. Here were my main 5 takeaways:

  1. A lot of orgs experienced (and summarized better than I’d managed to before) the challenge where people have organic passion for a cause or charity, often because of personal links (i.e. someone volunteers for Macmillan because a relative suffered from cancer), but then it’s difficult to channel that passion to make most efficient use of it without risking a challenge to or compromise of that initial motivation.  No one had a straight solution for this unfortunately (though rough consensus was that it’s about constantly keeping a balance and tweaking that) but it was more just interesting that a lot of other orgs saw this challenge too.
  2. A common problem is that while there are fairly straight forward ways to foster a great culture in an immediate team in a single location, it becomes a lot harder to do when your team is more disparate. This is something charities have had to deal with for years with individual volunteers across the country and they have made great strides though still don’t have all the answers. I think we may see more businesses looking to charities for their learnings here, as more people start to work remotely.
  3. There are always smart people, you sometimes have to work a bit to find them. Every person in that room was so super smart, and more importantly they were motivated to come out of work hours to discuss ways of making businesses better.  I sometimes find it hard to find people on my level who are driven to do that, and it is more than a relief to find that there are people who care. I could completely relate to Culurevist founder Matthew Partovi when he said he started the network when he realised his friends were getting bored of him going on about business culture and he wanted to find people who did want to talk.
  4. Most of the attendees from what I could tell were paid staff of charities. I was one of the few people there in a board trustee capacity. And I realised (I think) that a lot of work needs to be done to improve the relationships between charity boards and staff members. I heard quite a few grumbles, eye rolls and knowing laughs about demanding boards. And while I know there will sometimes be disagreements, I think it’s such a shame that it can’t be a more symbiotic relationship. I just think this is something I will bear in mind as being an area that could be improved, as I delve more into organisational culture.
  5. The Macmillan offices, located in Vauxhall, have the most killer views I have seen in London. They have an incredible team to develop organisational culture who’ve done an impressive job, but I’m pretty sure the view out of the window helps… 😉
24

24

This week saw the 25th anniversary of my birth and the 1st anniversary of moving to London and starting my dream job. Because I’m super crap and haven’t written in forever, you’re now going to get a summary post of all the things I’ve wanted to write about while being 24 and living in London, but.. well.. haven’t.

24 has been the longest year of my life. Which is entirely a blessing when life since about age 13 has gone distressingly fast. Here’s what happened…

 

I went to Qatar in the Middle East.  I’ve never been anywhere too exciting in my life (aside from a week in New York which was just the best) so venturing to Qatar was super satisfying as one of the most random places on earth I could possible go.  I went to visit my friend Katy who edits an English magazine out there called FACT.  I spent a week just exploring and eating and breathing the super sweet air of this Aladdin country. It was fascinating to see it from Katy’s expat point of view rather than just as a tourist because it made me realise I really could live anywhere and feel comfortable anywhere if I wanted.  Which is a relief for the future!

 

I got back involved with Girlguiding.  From aged 7, I was a Brownie, and then a Young Leader helping at said Brownies unit until I went to uni.  I think after that I was literally brainwashed of the whole thing because it was only around October 2012 amid a desperate search to find something London based to replace the work I was doing with Girls Out Loud, did I see some press coverage of Girlguiding, and have the brainwave of ‘Oh yeah, I used to utterly love doing that?!’ No clue how I hadn’t thought of it sooner.

So now I’m helping at a guide unit (ages 10-13 so more of a challenge then Brownies, but a good challenge), helping now and then at Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Guide & Scout unit, I’m the Marketing & Communications Adviser for London North West County and have been trained as a 4 peer educator (to give sessions on the standard bullying / health etc but also skills like self-confidence, communcation). It feels good to be doing it in London for a while, because I feel closer to where the bigger policies and plans are happening, and that seems a good place to be right now as the organisation is changing a lot and trying to freshen up its image away from all the tradition.  I do miss nature walks though and just generally being able to take the girls outside…

Ooo and also I’m taking my Queen’s Guide Award! I have to complete it before I’m 26 (argh!) but most of it was stuff I was doing already.  It’s the highest award you can get in Guiding and includes things like service to guiding, improving a skill, research into an issue affecting the community, and taking your Guiding holiday license to be able to take the girls on holidays and camps.

 

The job is great.  I’m enjoying it and learning a lot.  I’ve realised that one of the reasons it’s hard for our generation to share stories on the workplace that could mutually help us all, is because we’re so used to sharing online as much as face to face.. and I just can’t publish most of what I would want to say about my work.. not because its bad, but just because it’s sensitive and wouldn’t be appropriate. Which pisses me off. So do ask me about it in person. But I’ve learnt a lot about the media industry, about negotiating or at least being clear about what you want, about work being a two way street where both employer and employee have to give and take, and that you have to be smart and play to your circumstances. Anyone who thinks they will be handed things on a plate once and because they ‘deserve ‘ it, is unfortunately not someone likely to get far, and not someone I would chose to employ anyway. (Generalising, obvs, but it’s an important thing to at least be aware of).

 

Keeping up the singing. I was really lucky to have found a singing teacher in London before I even moved (through people at Preston Opera). We really started having regular lessons in the past few months and focusing on my Grade 8. God I love it.  My teacher has suggested I learn quite a few options for the Grade, and then do a little recital of them all (which naturally terrifies me, but a good challenge!).  I’ve also been involved with an office choir we have at work where we rehearse every Wednesday evening. It’s been a great way to keep singing and we have a really great teacher while the music is a bit more poppy and laid back which is fun. Oh and also I’m going on a music camp at the end of June?! No idea what to expect but apparently we just spend a whole weekend learning a big piece of opera.. why not?!

 

Women of the World Festival.  I went to my first of these festivals just for a day in 2012, but this year I went the whole hog of 3 days and it was just a dream from beginning to end.  I couldn’t have spent a happier weekend.. just learning and having my mind blown by amazing women, and just feeling all this potential in the world.  And I took my live tweeting skills to a whole new level 😉 They videoed a lot more of it this year so you can still see lots even if you weren’t there. A woman at the end of the weekend made a comment like ‘I feel we come to WOW each year, say we’re going to keep it going and change things and then nothing ever happens’.. and I so disagree, because if any of the people in that room leave feeling the way I do, they’re going to spend the next year making changes in their own little patches and collectively things will get better.

 

I graduated from my MA! Crikey this feels ages ago now. But I managed the craziness of doing a masters project for 3 months while working. I was so proud of the final result. My magazine is a work in progress but it is everything I wanted it to be. And however stressful it was for that year, it was very much worth it.. I learnt so much and I know it’s propelled me more in my career.

 

I’m slowly getting back into running.  I still haven’t quite found my rhythm. I desperately want to run lots but can’t quite work out if I prefer it alone or with someone, morning or evening, whether I need extra exercise to compliment it.  But I’m just going to keep trying until something clicks 😉

 

Counting down to London.  I spent a long, long time waiting to get to London. I think I had a 24 month countdown at one point.  To be fair, things got better at home and I forgot about that countdown for a while, but for whatever reason, I have always wanted to be here.  Be it childhood visits, or too many movies, I never wanted to miss out on this cosmopolitan glittery magic.  And it is wonderful .  I’m so lucky to live so central. I cannot believe that now for the rest of my life I will always get to say I lived in Fitzrovia for a year (or more!). I prefer it to Paris, but I think that’s more the luck of a great job and just being more used to a culture I love.  I’m not going to live here forever. Who knows if I will even work here forever. I miss the countryside desperately and all the time, but right now my pulls country / city are still 50/50.  We’ll see. But I know how much I wanted this, and I’m so so grateful I got it.

 

Who knows what 25 will bring. I’m moving in with a boy so that’s a biggie. My career could go anywhere and good God I miss writing. I’m also just desperate to keep learning and discovering. But more generally, I feel like the last few years have been the super hard work, then 24 was the setting up, and now at 25, I’d really like time to just, well ENJOY it all for a bit. I’m not sure I’m capable of sitting back and just taking it all in.. but I know how content it makes me, so I’m really going to try :)

‘What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.’

 

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Role Models

There seems to be a lot of talk at the moment about how to ensure a moral upbringing for the current generation of children, and a growing number of commentators are starting to notice how parents seem to be left out of this discussion.

Among all the discussion over internet censorship, Charles Arthur was one of the first to pen an utterly compelling argument as to why giving ISPs the power to switch off ‘adult’ content would be both pointless and would be placing the responsibility on the wrong person, essentially making the point that it is parents who should be responsible for what their children see online.

Granted, it is not always that simple but it is surprising that so many initiatives for children seem to assume parents have no and can have no responsibility. Maybe it’s chicken and egg.  Did parents get lazy so the government had to step in, or did the government step in which led parents to get lazy. (I shall not expand that to its wider political implications!).

A recent study from Girl Guiding UK called Girls Attitudes Explored… Role Models found that 55 per cent of girls felt there aren’t enough female role models.  What I found sad however was that they said this despite also saying that mums were their top role model. I just wonder at what point we stopped finding our mothers (and aunties, and sisters etc) adequate role models.

Some girls just don’t have those people in the first place. Rachel Ward Lilley who runs Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise for raising the aspirations of teenage girls, says “All girls need role models. Some of us are lucky enough to get these informally with support from family and friends but many don’t.”

But even for those who do, sometimes it is just a case of wanting to know what else is out there, says Rachel.

“We often find when we are with the girls that they have very little knowledge about careers and certainly not in detail – sterotypes are frequently the norm – for example lawyers are all like the ones on TV, predominantly male, old and wear gowns.  When we had some young cool and trendy lawyers involved in a Discovery Day programme in Leeds last year the girls initially found it difficult to believe they were what they said, but once they did they all decided they wanted to be like them – we had a room full of would be lawyers.”

There are certain types of role models such as actors, journalists and writers who are more naturally in the spotlight for girls to look up to.  But there seems to be a desperate need to expose these girls to a far wider range of life and career choices that aren’t so obviously visible.  As Rachel points out “I believe in the saying that ‘it is difficult to be what you can’t see’.”

 

Thumbnail image: Nandadevieast on Flickr