Monday, August 25, 2008

A Day in Lincolnshire

Think of Lincolnshire and you see flat brown fields, long roads and old towns packed with new people from all over Europe.

Speaking Up's brand new place in Lincolnshire sits in the middle of countryside with Lincoln Catherdral towering in the distance. I spent a good day there yesterday. Morning was passed with our excellent leader there Ruth Ingamells who has led the team from two people to god-knows-how many now in a very short time. Ruth is a spirited Liverpudlian who once auditioned for the part Anna Friel got in Brookside 20 years ago. So you get the idea...Thankfully she didn't get that part so had ended up working for us. And what a good leader she is. The atmosphere up there, even through we're going through a lot of change, is really positive. She sets the tone. She supports people but also takes no nonsense either. And her skill in dealing with our Commissioners is legendary.

Went for lunch with about half of the team and managed to get several volunteers to run workshops and events for our Big Day Out event in October. Talk about up for it. I now have a didgeree-doo playing workshop, a visualation workshop and a movement workshop. On top I have a genuine Eastender in Colin Haywood introducing our `Marketplace' (in true Romford-market fashion) and two buskers in the shape of Glenn Gibbs and David Lawrence.

With staff like this, you're never going to lose are you?

Later on I met with Carolyn Kus, the Assistant Director of Lincs County Council Adult Services. Occassionally you meet people in the public sector who blow you away with their vision, courage and practical intelligence. Carolyn was one such person. She has already driven forward the personalisation agenda further than I have seen it done elsewhere. What particularly inspires me is that she doesn't seem daunted or phased by the challenges that seem to lead other public sector managers I know to have a bottle of vodka in their desk drawer. Members? They come round to it. Unions? We have them with us? Carers? Difficult but we talked to them. See how it is done.

From my Ambassador and Futurebuilders hats, I was really impressed to hear the efforts made to develop the market for third sector organisations. Again some real, tangible things. Who said you can't change things from within the public sector? Come meet Carolyn Kus!

We parted promising to share respective books - the one she is writing on stategic development of management team, mine on how to change the world. For once, I left a public building feeling inspired, not disappointed or subdued.

Some days as a CEO are like this. They go well. People recognise the good stuff and live with the bad. I need days like this as we are going through a lot of change - Growing Pains, essentially. A million organisations have gone through it but it feels unique to us and its toll on people can be really heavy.

I phoned one of my Trustees on the way home, the superb Jon Sparkes, the CEO of Scope, a charity facing huge challenges. Jon never fails to put Speaking Up in perspective when I am worried. We are, he says, a financially stable, successful organisation that is relevant to today and tomorrow. We are simply going through the pains of growth. Imagine what the opposite would be like, he says, just before my phone cuts out.

He is right, as always.

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