I sat down to write this post with a firm focus on reflecting not just on the past year, but the past decade and it has certainly been a decade to remember! As we prepare to leave behind a time that has seen the world change so profoundly, we have much to reflect on. That personal reflection soon turned to the bigger picture and thoughts of what may be to come for us all.
On a personal level, this period saw me catapulted into my children’s transition to adulthood. This was one of the most challenging, triggering and tumultuous periods since my own transition. It was a period which also included the death of their father, a hugely defining experience for them both. We are through the other side and have emerged as different people in so many ways.
It is also the decade of my working life that I have spent as a self-employed person, getting up every day for nearly ten years and going through the process of making sure I can put food on the table. The last five years have been the least stressful in that regard and I leave the decade successful and reaping the rewards of years of hard work, sleeplessness and numerous periods of there being more week than wage.
Most of my time is now spent training and speaking on trauma, recovery and resilience, supporting others to lean in to ‘working alongside’ people compassionately as they navigate what has brought them to be working with that service, school, team, etc. My work has taken me to Australia, USA and Pakistan and this has developed a cross cultural perspective for me that has enhanced what I do. I undertook my MA and I have written three books. I now have a robust, successful business with a strong reputation for being well worthy of hiring! A decade to remember indeed!
Professionally, the country is a different one to the one we inhabited in 2010. Working across every sector (Education, Social Care, Health, Criminal Justice), has enabled me to have an inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary lens through which to view the last decade. Local Authorities’ budgets have been halved which has substantially altered what services are provided in communities and for some, this has undoubtedly been devastating.
Since 2010, nearly 800 libraries have closed, up to 1000 children’s centres have closed (although accurate figures since 2015 are difficult to gather as they were collected by Department of Education until 2015 and then by individual Local Authorities), Universal Credits arrived, food banks became a staple part of our work, rough sleeping on the streets of most towns around the UK became the norm and then of course the Brexit vote. Amidst all this is the private sector; mixing profit with safeguarding has meant watching Capital Investors make disgusting amounts of money through the high ‘ROI’ of vulnerable children and families. This for me, is about as sickening as it gets. Writing it up like this feels bleak.
Unsure what I could do to join up some grassroots voices, sharing the conversations I get to have as part of my work, I created the Podcast (available on all podcast platforms) so that people could connect with others around the country and share and learn good practice and ideas about how we might create shifts for the future. It felt like something small yet it has turned out to be something much bigger, shifting how we can grow in our practice, develop ideas and deepen conversations not just in teams but also in departments within Universities. We can shape a new narrative, a vision and a mission about how we can operate in a meaningful way in this ‘new’ country we find ourselves in, without spending all our time in a state of fury and rage about injustice.
The next decade for me then is all about Relational Activism. You can read more here. The podcast returns in January with the first episode of Season Two opening with a conversation all about it and how we MUST think differently. For example, lived experience is now generally understood to be an integral aspect of service delivery. ‘Participation’ can no longer be an ‘add on’ with the power imbalance determined by service delivery about quite how much ‘voice’ a person is allowed! This has fundamentally come about after decades of campaigning accelerated exponentially by social media and it’s platform for collective ‘voice’. By the end of this next decade, I would like to see services as safe places for those with lived experiences to feel comfortable working in, being able to be open rather than judged and that those people are found in every tier of a service, well paid, with strong ‘voice’. Because until that happens, services will continue to be ‘done to’ rather than ‘done with’.
Building connections in our communities and supporting others to do that may well sound like a time of the ‘olden days’ but the language of division and disconnection, the worshiping of consumerism and the reduction of community spaces has taken its toll. We need each other! Connection is a biological imperative.
We have choices. We can enter into the next decade angry, raging and in despair or we can use our resistance in the shape of relationships, altering the narrative and strengthening connection. We can really begin to know on a very deep level that whatever happens, no one can take our compassion and our understanding that we are simply humans living a human experience, away from us. We can make the next decade a decade to remember, but for all the right reasons!