Open for business

In Roman times*, vacations were times that men (almost invariably) took time out of their busy daily life and work in the city and went off to Lake Como or somewhere to sit and read and reflect and catch up on all the thinking that they hadn’t had a chance to do while they had been working.

I’ve just got three weeks to go of our family sabbatical/extended vacation in France. I’ve been mainly spending my time finishing up my Clore Social Leadership research into pedagogy and leadership in the social sector. And trying to get the baby to sleep. But I’ve also taken on a few small projects to keep my brain in gear. They’ve included:

  • outlining a theory of change and early-stage growth strategy for an international charity;
  • project managing a website launch (with a heavy focus on copy, content and messaging for a UK-based refugee organisation);
  • developing a corporate social responsibility partnership strategy for a third sector organisation; and
  • writing a report and recommendations for an innovative professional training programme.

I’m coming back to the UK in January and have the space to take on some additional projects.  Get in touch if I could help…

*I never thought I’d see the day when I’d start with that godawful phrase…

The Mother Lode

Since stepping down as CEO of Spark+Mettle and starting down a new line, I’ve received a number of encouraging and congratulatory responses. It’s been lovely. Some say that I seem to manage well the balance between work and family and purpose; others that I have achieved good things and will achieve more. Lovely, as I say, but I can’t quite imbibe the compliments: I feel like a total fake.

Why? Because any success or achievements to date are just a thin vein in a large rock of all my many actions (some abject failures, some that are neither here or there, others that are perfectly alright but end up not being pressed into anything worth noticing). I am no geologist, and I am far too keen on, er, mining analogies till they are barren, so you may well not want to read on..,

Mineral veins in rocks—like quartz or copper—come about from a couple of different processes (open-space filling and crack-sealed growth, if you’re interested) and there needs to have been some sort of tectonic action to get it going too. In other words, anything to make a little vein of gold you need some serious pressure, heat and some shifting to appear, and there’s a whole lot more that’s down to luck and circumstance that would result in anything like a mother lode. If there is any little vein in my big ole rock, it’s tin if anything

That sounds about right, in terms of success in life. It’s thin, a tiny fraction of everything, formed out of pressure and changes that are often outside of our control. And if wasn’t for everything else, that hunk of unshiny rock comprising all that we do, that gold vein of success wouldn’t exist and it wouldn’t be worth a dime.

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Step down

laroqueI’m currently in a tiny village in the south of France, not far from the Spanish border. I’m here on maternity leave, which has morphed into a whole family sabbatical. My husband is here to write before he cracks on with training to teach, our four year-old is here to spend a term at the local school, and our baby and dogs are just here to soak it all in and stay warm for a while longer than they would back in Brighton.

While out here I am finishing up some research as part of my Clore Social Leadership Fellowship (http://toteachtolead.wordpress.com). I am also in the process of determining what my next steps will be.  I am stepping down as CEO of Spark+Mettle, and moving to become its Chair. It’s a really good time to be going, and we couldn’t have a stronger team in place to take it through its next phase.

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Spark+Mettle has been on a roll since I’ve been on maternity leave. Thanks to Kazvare Knox and her whipsmart team, it has been developing and running a series of programmes to develop character strengths and soft skills awareness to other youth groups. It’s moved into wonderful offices in north London. And, as recently announced, it’s set up an extraordinary partnership with the British Council and HSBC to deliver skills training to schools in nine countries across the Middle East and North Africa. That’s right, it is going global.

I’ve chosen to step down as CEO for a number of reasons. First, I’ve always been aware of the dreaded “founders’ syndrome” and so had only planned to stay at the helm for just 3–5 years. Second, my delight and my strengths lie in getting things off the ground; Spark+Mettle is now moving into a phase where it needs to level off and with that comes a different leadership style. Finally, my work over the last five years has taken me to London a lot. But Brighton is home and it is where I want to be based.  I love a full working day but I have a young family; time with them is precious, not to be truncated by trains. At the same time, Spark+Mettle needs someone at the helm who is a lot more present than I can be.

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I am thrilled that I will be able to take on the role of Chair and support the strategic direction and growth of Spark+Mettle moving forward, while giving space for Kazvare—someone extraordinarily dedicated, talented and focused—to be in charge. It’s been wonderful over the last few months to watch the organisation flourish and demonstrate its independence. It fills me with huge pride and pleasure to see others achieve so much and evolve what was once a teeny tiny kernel of an idea that I had into something that is so much bigger and better than I could have achieved myself.

This is not the end. Far from it. It really is only just the beginning.

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elcamping

Out of office

elcampingI’m currently on maternity leave, hence the silence round these parts. Asides from spending weeks (literally) trying to remember if it’s better to feed the baby before the bath or after [final decision: both], this autumn I’m dedicating the remaining, small functioning portion of my brain on some research for Clore Social, and continuing apace(-ish) with a writing project that’s currently spawning its own tadpole of a blog. We’re also relocating, en famille, to France for four months. Oooh la la.

The research is going to be posted here: toteachtolead.wordpress.com

And when the new (non-eponymous) blog is up, I’ll let you know.

Weather vane

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here other than about the research I’m putting together as part of the Clore Social Leadership Programme. I was going to write a list as a shorthand way of explaining, but really there’s only one thing on it: I was trying to do what I normally do while also growing a baby who needed a bunch of extra tests to check that it was okay.

Hence the hyggethe reams of knitting, the hours of listening to books on tape—stemming from the overwhelming sense of unfocusedness and occasional hopelessness. But then December struck and the tests were clear and we headed off to America for a glorious family Christmas. I could relax, I could read books to myself, I could run again (or “joggle” as my kid prefers to describe it). I could begin to figure out what the next steps in life might be Iike.

I realise how unlike myself I felt the whole of last autumn, the summer too, in fact. I’ve talked before about the need to go fallow for a while—I hadn’t realised that it’s not always possible to control when and where it happens, or for how long, nor how self-preserving it is. But now I’m back to sowing seeds for the next few months, and life beyond, life with two little kids.

I now more than ever believe that we each have an attitudinal weather vane. Sometimes it’s blown forcibly in a direction, sometimes we can edge it towards where we want it to face, we have less control over it than some (I) would like, but more than others might think.