My community means both the small rural market town I live in, Diss in South Norfolk, and stretches across into the two countryside, towns and villages in the counties I straddle, Suffolk and Norfolk. I love the laid back attitude to life, having time to talk, and people being more important than status. I hate the lack of agency over the big issues and established power that affect everyone. I’m worried about cuts to children’s services, schools, health services, buses, and attitudes towards race.
Like most people around here, I get involved in my community by engaging in the arts events, the pub, the festivals, the heritage days, and talking to people about political and community issues. Up until March, I was also carer for a neighbour who had no family in this country, and was reaching the end of her life.
I’ve been the Chair of Trustees for Suffolk Artlink, a participatory arts charity for a 3 year term until last month. This connected me to disabled artists with learning difficulties and the realities of engaging with non-disabled communities. I’ve co-led a project to bring young people’s voices into education policy, when Suffolk was near bottom of the school league tables. I’ve recently become a member of the University of Suffolk Court, which means I’m engaged in the community outreach work of the University (a new community oriented institution), acting as an informal ambassador.
My paid work is strategic innovation across and within social purpose organisations, helping people uncover knotty issues and make changes in practice. I set up my company – Socially Adept - nearly 2 years ago. Prior to that I was leading complex change initiatives within the public sector for 11 years, working with charities and social enterprises. I’ve also worked across central government, including on the 2005 cross-government disability strategy. I enjoy working with clients who are prepared to go through the discomfort of change, and let me help them with all the difficult issues this involves.
I think it’s easy for organisations to end up having a narrow perspective, unconsciously, and not know what they are missing or need to value. Particularly when you’re operating in the current climate of political and financial pressures. If we as an advisory board can help with that, that will be valuable. If we can do it in a way that is congruent with the mission of giving voice to people outside of powerful institutions, then it could be exceptional.
My network is everything to me. I want to gain new insights into what other places and people are doing, in an a thoughtful setting.