What I’ve done this week
It’s been a busy week of ‘giving out’ for me: I spent Monday delivering our redesigned induction training for 25 new volunteers. On Tuesday I was with our 3 site directors Rebecca, Candice and Blanche, and Neeha Khurana, who facilitated us for the day as we worked on our vision and our team culture; I spent Wednesday and Friday interviewing some pretty impressive candidates for our Operations Manager role.
This week was also the first call between a few of the bigger baby banks (us, plus Baby Bank Network, Stripey Stork, Baby Bank Windsor, as well as Sal’s Shoes and The Hygiene Bank) to talk about how we could work together more to achieve shared goals.
I’ve also, in the spirit of my new years commitments to planning my time more carefully, set my intentions (personal ones, as well as ones for Little Village) for February. I’m trying not to freak out that in 25 days it will be March!
What I’m learning
There was a fascinating conversation with the other baby banks about the impact that last year’s Dispatches programme and Observer article had had on our work. As a result of the media interest, we’d all seen a significant increase in the number of people asking for meetings to talk about how to set up something in their area. We’d also all seen an increase in donations, not always of the things we needed, which created more work and more cost.
So we talked about whether media work was a distraction from the vital job of getting kit out to families who need it in the face of rising demand. I’ve spent a lot of time since that call thinking about this question, and wondering whether the time we spent with journalists could have been better spent doing something else more focused on getting kit out of the door.
On reflection, I think this is a false dichotomy, and that’s because one of Little Village’s strategic goals is to tackle the very existence of child poverty in the first place, as well as alleviating its more immediate and pernicious effects on families.
The phrase I hear most often when people come to visit Little Village is “I just had no idea poverty was so bad round here.” If communities remain unaware about what is happening around them, public pressure to take action on child poverty will simply not exist— and baby banks will continue to grow and grow.
So while it might have created a few extra logistical headaches for us, a presence in national and local media did a lot to help us raise the profile of child poverty and what’s causing it. And that’s a vital step towards encouraging more people to take action, and towards changing public attitudes about poor people basically having brought this on themselves.
(if you’re interested in how we engaged the media in a way that didn’t patronise people or reinforce the very stereotypes we’re trying to break, check out this blog I wrote for SoundDelivery this week)
What I’m celebrating
I’m celebrating our amazing volunteers. It was such a pleasure to meet so many new people on Monday at our induction day. We had a fantastic range of people in the room, spanning different ages, cultures, races, incomes (and even a man too, something we need to work on more…)
And I’m also celebrating the success of our induction day design, which was a bit of a gamble. Lots of people came in expecting to be trained on what the Little Village process looks like. But actually we spent the day talking about much more interesting things: our values and why they matter, the emotions around being helped and giving help, the power of true listening, how to spot and manage our own prejudices, the importance of being ‘with’ people rather than trying to fix them. It can be summed up pretty neatly in this beautiful two minute RSA Animate from Brene Brown on the difference between sympathy and empathy.
The next step for these volunteers will now be to buddy with more experienced volunteers so they can learn all the practical stuff on the job. The feedback we’ve had reassures me that we are doing this the right way. Designing all our volunteering with personal growth and self-awareness in mind is a vital part of us honouring our value around thriving.
What I’m feeling
Despite the excitement about the induction, I’m a bit dispirited this week. I’ve worked flat out, every moment I haven’t had kids with me. Exercise, piano playing, time with my partner and indeed sleep all fell by the wayside. It’s a struggle during weeks like this when there’s so much ‘out there’ time. In a 3 day working week, inductions plus awayday plus interviews hasn’t left much time for any of the other things I really need to be doing, like fundraising and finding new spaces for us to work from.
In fact, I had to beg some extra childcare so I could work an extra day to fit everything in — something I really dislike doing. I can never shake the feeling I’ve failed my kids when I do it, even though I know that’s entirely irrational. It’s too easy to catch the guilt ball when it gets thrown my way and I wish I had more tactics to dodge it.
Who I’m working with
It’s been a week of great people again — something I’m eternally grateful for at Little Village. Beyond the team itself, Neeha’s perfectly judged facilitation meant every second of our time on Tuesday was valuable. I continued a wonderful conversation with Jim Godfrey, a fellow CTI coach and recovering wonk (a very niche identity that we share). We’ve been talking about where coaching might fit in Little Village’s mission. As an aside he shared a brilliant post on his experience of quitting booze — a live conversation for Will and I at the moment. And I caught up with the super impressive, super generous and all round superstar Cat Drew. She was telling me about the fascinating work FutureGov are doing with Camden Council around skills and employability, and we talked systems change and Point People work too.
Photo of the week