As we enter a new month full of internal changes and transitions, it feels like a great time for reflection. I’m conscious that the pandemic forced us to be inward looking and, in many ways, we moved into “survival” mode. Once again, we have begun looking into the future and are feeling energised about continuing to operationalise our new strategy (which was created during lockdown).
We have been reflecting on how we create more leadership capacity in such a small organisation. One of the many impacts of Covid (during lockdown especially) was the extraordinary pressure created at the top of the organisation across a small leadership team. That, plus feedback from our monthly staff surveys, told us there was a real appetite in the organisation for progression as well as managers being keen to step up and stretch their responsibilities. This has also created space to think about our equalities strategy whilst recognising and retaining great people.
This work has brought about the appointment of a team of Senior Progression Coaches who, alongside their coaching responsibilities, will now play a vital role in supporting other coaches to enhance the delivery of our programme. This also creates capacity in the tier above them for Regional Delivery managers to step up and lead on more significant work streams.
We are absolutely thrilled with the level of excitement this has created in the charity; these new roles allow coaches to cut their teeth on leadership, experience the management of relationships and allow us to retain existing talent.
Our equalities work continues as we create space to work with our young people through our programmes. We took the decision to prioritise race equality, largely in response to the global Black Lives Matter movement and the events which were happening around our young people through last year. We wanted to recognise some of the issues they would face as they moved into the world of work and equip them to manage those challenges. We also wanted to explore the concept of allyship in more depth and understand what it looked like in practice.
This led to our participation in the ‘Young & Black’ campaign, which was inspired by UK Youth, we have arrived at a point where the outcomes from the project have come to fruition. The creative outcome is an incredible book containing artwork and pledges from young people. We’re also hosting a celebration event for our young people to recognise all their hard work and efforts.
As mentioned previously, we also celebrated Black History Month and tried a different approach than in previous years. We hosted an extremely inspiring ‘Lunch and Learn’ with fabulous guest speaker the Mayor of Camden, Sabrina Francis. Sabrina spoke about her distinguished career journey through politics and communications, memorable moments and offered words of wisdom about the importance of not only mentorship, but sponsorship, and how we can relate that back to our work at ThinkForward.
Sabrina also reflected on the importance of diversity and equality within organisations without being tokenistic, and her own journey as a Black woman in the political industry and workplace. I was particularly struck by her comments on hypervisibility and invisibility as a Black woman in the workforce, and how to navigate the world with such pressures.
Another exciting development this month is we are nearing the launch of our new digital Ready for Work passport. In partnership with The Nottingham, the app will allow young people aged 16 and over to demonstrate their readiness for work by tracking their progress in creating a CV, having mock interviews, undertaking work experience, opening a bank account and email and telephone skills. Through the app, young people will also have access to helpful careers resources from The Nottingham’s Career Academy.
FutureMe and MoveForward young people took part in a focus group to test the platform and provide feedback, and it was positively received. After the session, some of our young people also joined The Nottingham at the National Ice Centre, the home of the Nottingham Panthers ice hockey team, for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch the player’s train. They also took part in a careers-based Q&A session with the ‘team behind the team’, Panthers’ Director of Hockey Gui Doucet and members of the club’s support staff. A wonderful example of how diverse and engaging our partnerships are.
As the leaves on the trees are slowly disappearing and the weather turns crisper, it won’t be long before this year comes to a close. Each new month brings a world of change and opportunity for growth for our organisation and the young people we support, I’m excited to see what comes next for us!