Networks and a different kind of power

I’m having coaching at the moment to sort a few things out in my head after a difficult time at the beginning of the year. Also because I’ve stepped into a full-time job for the first time ever, at the age of 40, and there’s some reconfiguring to do. Some of this reconfiguring relates to my previous post about a networked mindset.

Getting started

11 years ago (2 years after I left the Nesta Creative Pioneer Programme) I left my (Nesta funded) fashion business, with no clear idea of what I was going to do instead. All I did know was that I wanted to use my design training for social change rather than catwalks. Luckily some of my peers on the Creative Pioneer Programme were already shaping the field of public sector service design so I got involved in that. From that moment on though, I was out on my own. I was labelled a freelancer, mostly working as a service designer (there weren’t many of us around at that time) and I worked at a variety of organisations on different days of the week – (thinkpublic, FutureGov, Snook, Social Innovation Camp, Participle…).

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Sense of power

I didn’t have any influence or power though, or not of the usual status-driven kind. I was just me. I didn’t work for a recognisable brand, or an organisation that could give me credentials. I didn’t work for a Foundation, where you automatically gain influence because you are seen as a route to money, or can use money to invest in things that build up your credibility by association. And I didn’t have any letters after my name. People that work inside organisations might take for granted how useful that can be for simply getting a reply to an email or a “yes” to a coffee request. It’s amazing how the world opens up to you, and what you have access to, just because you work somewhere.

Sense of self

Now, in 2017 I’m looking back at these last 11 years and reflecting on how much energy (and care and love) I have needed to use to create my own power. How much I have invested in looking outwards and all around me, and into relationships. I’m grateful to feel so “networked” and be aware of, and connected to many different worlds, but I think it might also have been at a cost. Maybe I’ve slightly lost sight of myself — which I’m working on!

Written by

Senior Head, UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund & Co-founder of the Point People. Previously Strategic Design Director at Doteveryone.

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