Repotted plants

Weeknotes 15th Jan 2021

This week felt a little odd. It’s the second week back at work and I haven’t found my rhythm. Also, a bunch of projects (and roles) I was leading came to their natural end in December, so I’m in that in between place before the next phase of work kickstarts.

I should really try to enjoy these quieter times. I spent time tending to my indoor plants, which included repotting those that needed more space to breathe. This is a messy but satisfying task.

Sadly, I didn’t make it outside much this week 😩 but I did attend all three classes of Zoom Pilates 😊. So, what else happened this week?

Our Delivery Manager is pulling together the various tools and processes she’s embedded over the last three years to support consistency and better planning across our department — something that will prove to be incredibly useful as we work more across Corporate Affairs. I spent some time offering a fresh pair of eyes, reading through and providing feedback.

Our Strategic Design and Innovation Lead Haidee hosted a mini team retro to reflect on everything we’ve achieved over the last three years. It was nice to take a moment to see the journey we’ve been on. We have come pretty far, particularly in terms of the scale of ambition we have in delivering on the strategy.

I started a piece of work to consolidate the different models we’ve tested to engage the public at scale. I also started some desk research to read around models tried and tested by other foundations.

My reading slowed down this week, but my watching and listening went up.

I’ve become addicted to binge-watching Homeland on Netflix. One day I watched five episodes. FIVE. 😬 I feel a lot of guilt about this — like I should be doing something else with my time, like finishing Pandora’s Jar, but I can’t seem to pull away.

I was struck by one storyline about a young black American of Nigerian descent who was about to be sentenced to 15 years in prison for uploading vlogs which the US authorities believed could incite acts of terrorism. It was hard watching this in the same week Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge any responsibility for what happened last week at the US Capitol.

Work-wise, I attended the second of a three-part series to hear from researchers commissioned by the Mental Health team to review evidence on workplace mental health interventions. My colleague Rhea wrote an excellent article on LinkedIn about the work, which we are delivering in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Several employers from different organisations were there — it was interesting to hear their questions on the research and their appetite to test the interventions out in their own workplaces.

I met with representatives from The Garden Classroom — A charity based in Islington that supports young people to access the outdoors and improve mental health. I spent time listening about their work, the challenges they’ve faced due to COVID-19 and ambitions they have for the future.

Although we can all agree that it’s a challenging time for small charities, hearing what this meant in practice really brought that home. It felt timely to see the relaunch of Beyond this week — an initiative to support non profits to respond to the crisis.

I really enjoyed listening to Timothy Snyder on BBC Radio 4 Today programme, talking about the impeachment trial, the narratives we choose to hold on to, and what’s key events need to happen to make the history books. He was only on the show for about 10 minutes but he really gave some food for thought.

Listening to Timothy Snyder only reignited my grapple with the impact of the narrative. I wondered whether the issue is more about how we frame challenges (and therefore where we point our focus for change) and what might happen if we flip it.

There are some obvious flips we know about — e.g. Is this thing a challenge, or is it an opportunity? I wondered what might happen if we flip some others:

‘How might we support more women to ‘lean in’ to opportunities?’

‘How might we tackle the lack of representation of people of colour in senior positions?’

Here with the emphasis for change is on the minority, so we naturally begin considering interventions such as coaching or training for said individuals. We feel the barrier must be confidence. The opportunities are there, they are just not taking them up. How might our focus for change shift if we instead asked:

‘How might we get those who traditionally hold onto positions of power to lean out?’

‘How might we address the hold we have on whiteness?’

Insights and Learning Lead for Culture, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion @WellcomeTrust.