The Power of the Network
by Lucy Cooke
In early January Roxanna and I met with Kamran at Youth Action in Blackburn and he asked to me to put a few words together about the residential in November. Rather than bore everyone with a blow-by-blow of the weekend I actually wanted to reflect a little on the importance of connecting with like-minded people; one of the highlights of the weekend for me.
Roxanna and I have been developing Watch This Space for a little over a year, and whilst a significant amount of our time has been spent meeting potential collaborators (or probably more accurately hounding people for help) there are times when starting out can seem quite a lonely task. Obviously we are lucky to be working in a partnership, and I know a lot of the volunteers are doing this on their own (props to you guys!), but we still have day jobs and this means we have to fit our own workload around breaks in our schedules. Resultantly I spend a fair amount of my spare time sat at my desk pounding the emails out, talking to cyberspace. You get to the end of the day and you haven’t seen a single living-breathing human, and you realise you have probably been talking to yourself for the best part of 8 hours! Of course this can be productive, but it can also take its toll.
When we were approached by Kamran to apply to be a Do It For Real Volunteer I think Rox and I were thinking quite insularly – being frank – another label for the business and an opportunity to give some funding to some close collaborators of ours. I think it was fair to say we had hit a bit of a rut with the business and were feeling a little frustrated. However, the residential weekend actually proved to be, to use another cliche, a breath of fresh air. Suddenly we were flung into a room full of like-minded people who want to share ideas and experiences. And more importantly who knew what it was like to embark on the daunting, and aforementioned sometimes lonely, task of starting a social enterprise.
Sure we learnt more about the valuable work of UnLtd and the potential of the Do It for Real award. Whilst also eating copious amounts of chocolate and admiring Kamran’s magnificent moustache. But we also came away inspired by the people that have got over ruts, like the one we were in, and were now making a real difference in their communities. This gave us the push we needed, and I am pleased to say Watch This Space has got off to a flying start in 2016, with two potential collaborations with both Salford Council and Manchester City Council. Perhaps more importantly this has also given us the renewed energy to help those we will be giving our Do it For Real awards to.