Please Click Here to view an article written by Dr Carolyn Wilkins OBE, Chief Executive at Oldham Council – Leave your Lanyards by the door!
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CEO, Third Sector, Health and Social Care, Carers, all round Survivor and now Blogger.
Views are my own, no buzzwords, straight-talking and no towing of the corporate line found here…
So here it is… my start on the blogging journey.
I’m all ready to go now having read ‘The 12 Do’s & Don’ts of Writing a Blog’ by Brian Klems but I think its worth some background to why I’ve started this journey. If truth be known, doing this type of thing is taking me right out of my comfort zone but I’m used to that being a CEO of a charity…. fighting for survival with very little money to scrap for, matched against ever increasing demands, changing times and moving goalposts. For me its worth that uncomfortable personal inner feeling balanced against the possibility that, in my own small way I can try and make a difference and do the right thing.
If by doing this I can open up another channel of communication, generate some different dialogue and reach out to other people well that’s good enough for me.
Let’s start with a quote to warm things up “No one will ever discover new oceans unless they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” (André Gide) just ponder on that one for a minute… I’ll come back to that one later.
I do have a personal story to tell (you can skip this bit if you want – next two paragraphs).
My life actually started after school ended, which I hated. I always had a passion to serve my country from being a child and serve it I did. Almost as soon as I turned 18, proud as punch with a one-way ticket to the Queens Infantry Training Centre in my hand, I joined. Many years later, having experienced different conflicts, lived in different countries, having met new people and new communities – fully aware of my breaking points, weaknesses and strengths, but more importantly, my weaknesses (which is actually what promoted my exit from a world I had always dreamt about into a world I had never really known, ‘Civvy Street’) My weakness, in the eyes of the military was that I was hungry for better things. I wanted something more than a regimented structure would ever have offered me… that next challenge which didn’t have to be physical or in conflict, and most of that hunger boiled down to one thing, re-educating myself and going back to the bit in my life which I had largely ignored.
My entry back into civilian life should have been a breeze…. after all I was a trained survivor and fighter, my energy was high, I was as fit as a fiddle, I had money in the bank (about 6 months’ worth) and I could jump straight into the workplace. No. The reality was that I was unemployable – no civilian skills, no experience, 6 years worth of front line soldiering meant nothing… to anyone, it all felt like a waste of time. Some dark times followed this point but to cut an even longer story short my saving grace was not the chance meeting in the pub or the local veterans charity… it was the local college, in fact let me name them they deserve it, Salford College. Not an easy transition for a lost mature student in a sea of juvenile, overly confident, smug teenagers with ego’s that could take on the world. The belief of two college lecturers, who truly believed in me, encouraged me, inspired me and made a massive difference which still resonates with me to this today. I owe so so much to these two individuals who went above and beyond to make that difference and help me through those dark times. (I know for many people, not just military veterans that those dark times are not easy to escape and the battle continues.)
So, that’s my story.
START READING AGAIN HERE.
Now then let’s get down to the point of all this.
It was a suggestion from a colleague to start this journey, this transition into a different world, but this was never going to be the true start of it. The start of this journey actually happened about 18 months ago on day one of the Greater Manchester (GM) Leaders Programme where I met other people equally passionate about making a difference and doing the right thing. A room full of people who were inquisitive about what this brave new world might look, and how they could build something to try and get there. The energy we have all taken from the GM Leaders Programme from the truly inspirational speakers and facilitators something of which I have never experienced before and I don’t mean this lightly, means we keep going. This is the birth of a new movement and it’s really exciting to be part of it and I would encourage others to join in.
My passion for the voluntary sector, my passion for doing the right thing, my utter dismay of how we treat people, how we think we know what’s best for people without even asking them, how we build systems, processes, pathways and frameworks to push people down them who then get lost, how we assume that one size fits all when no two fingerprints are the same, how services are commissioned that only meet the needs of the commissioner, how we work in isolation but often co-exist in the same location/building… the list goes on and on… These are all things that get right on my wick! But here’s the thing, there is a glimmer of light in all this, and it’s happening on your doorstep. Regardless of how this has been pitched to you before, regardless of what you have heard, there is a movement of ‘doers’ who are beginning to infect the excessive directives and rigid conformity that surrounds us every day and hinders our hunger for making a difference, prevents us from working together and stops us doing the right thing. Here’s the other thing – the ‘doers’ are growing in numbers, they are also growing in confidence, they are chasing out the elephants in the room, they are asking the big awkward ‘ouch’ questions of themselves, their organisations, their leadership and the leadership within their own organisations. That glimmer of light is the Greater Manchester ambition to do something different, and the GM Leaders Programme which is starting to generate much of this light.
That’s really useful for me on a programme full of statutory leaders is my 3rd Sector perspective. Making people really understand a sector which they thought they knew about. Making the case for how we fit in and how we are very much part of the solution. The opportunity to get involved in different groups working through different issues, to learn about the pressures people and organisations are under and working to find that common ground. In my view we are still no where near that ‘promised land’ and there is certainly no road map to help us get there but that’s what makes this programme unique. Being connected with a room full of frustrated people who are willing to find those shared values is something truly amazing to be part of.
My advice to other 3rd sector leaders and statutory leaders across Greater Manchester would be to get involved but, be patient, be willing to try something different and accept the view that something different needs to be done before you even walk in the door, oh and leave your history and your existing ways of doing things back behind the door. You will not find a right or wrong answer here, and not one single entity has all the answers. This is certainly not a top down driven approach, in fact I’m not too sure what it is and that really doesn’t matter to be honest.
Our statutory partners on the GM Leaders programme have a hell of a mountain to climb, a myriad of hierarchical structures to get around, and lots of deep rooted systems to navigate and you have to admire their courage to fight through it BUT it’s not going to be an overnight job!
My call out to you would be why not be a ‘doer’ and switch from being the done to.
“No one will ever discover new oceans unless they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Thanks for listening.