After an incredible almost two years working as part of Solutions for the Planet’s core team, it’s coming up to a month now since I finished in my role as S4TP Admin. The team gave me the most amazing send off – I was genuinely lost for words (a rarity, they would assure you!) – and I’m incredibly grateful to all of them for their kind words and well wishes.
I started working more closely with Solutions after CEO Jen wrote a blog post entitled ‘The Phoenix Rises‘ (in May 2020). The blog described the pivot that Solutions for the Planet was doing to facilitate the continued running of the Big Ideas Programme throughout lockdowns and the challenges posed by the Coronavirus. I found the piece extremely inspiring. And it has been massively rewarding to have been with Solutions on the journey that Jen began to imagine and plan in the article.
You may know that Solutions sets aside some time for the team to come together and reflect every week. Over the last 18 months or so, those meetings became a highly valued part of my weekly routine. They were an excellent way to stay in touch with those members of the team that I wasn’t in daily contact with. We’d share a highlight, a lesson learned, and something we were looking forward to. So, here is my final team meeting contribution. A reflection on my time with Solutions – a highlight, a lesson learned and what I’m looking forward to.
There is an embarrassment of riches to choose from, keeping the 2020 programme alive and thriving despite all the challenges we faced to our live online Celebration Event for the same year. Attending the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2021 and watching our CEO Jen (full disclosure – also my sister) collect the Entrepreneur for Good for the South West Award. Developing and running presentation skills training with National Finalists and seeing the success and impact of the S4TP Youth Insights panels, and getting to see our team face to face again after nearly two years! And finally getting back to doing in-person Big Ideas Days….the list, as you can see, is extensive.
But there is one clear standout for me – and that is the young people that I’ve had the privilege of working with over the last 18 months. I’ve done some teaching in my time and worked with young people on plenty of occasions but what Solutions does is truly special. S4TP is all about giving young people a platform, amplifying their voices, and ensuring that they are listened to (really listened to) and that their thoughts and ideas are taken seriously and encouraged. The results of this are simply phenomenal. The quality of work that I’ve seen produced over the last two years has been breathtaking. Watching the journey that many of our Big Ideas students go on has been most inspiring of all. From a doubtful, uncertain place as they conceive their Big Idea, wondering if it’s possible, to then watching them grow in knowledge, skills and above all confidence in themselves and their ideas as they present them to peers, experts and judges. I also love that Solutions has brought Young People into the heart of the business, with two Big Ideas Alumni now sitting on the Board. The new Youth Insights programme provides further opportunities for graduates of the Big Ideas Programme (and others). It reiterates Solutions’ commitment to providing a platform for young people. The work I’ve seen from all these young people has had me leaping out of my chair in excitement, crying with laughter, beaming with pride, and frequently has left me completely awestruck. I leave Solutions a more hopeful person than when I joined it because of my time working with these inspiring, thoughtful, passionate voices of the future.
A lesson I’ve learned…
Again, there are a plethora to choose from. Still, the thing that has come up, again and again, is the value of having diverse people and personalities in a team. On our Big Ideas Days, it is something that we encourage students to try and recognise – how their differences individually actually make them stronger as a group. People notice things others wouldn’t, different strengths, skills and experiences all enriching each other and the whole.
It helps when there are some fundamental shared values, which is undoubtedly the case at Solutions. But having a supportive environment in which challenge is welcomed, there is always an eagerness to listen and learn. Honesty is a fundamental tenet, creating an atmosphere of openness that I think gets the absolute best from people and is something that I feel not just workspaces, but the whole world could do with more of right now.
What I’m looking forward to…
It’s more the ‘how’ I’m looking forward that’s interesting to me. I’m looking forward much more hopefully. Working at Solutions for the Planet has restored my faith in optimism, positivity and hopefulness.
When engaging with Sustainability, many people feel fearful, ashamed, confused or guilty (myself included). These feelings can be powerful motivators for changing behaviours. However, they can also leave you feeling overwhelmed or even defeated. What Solutions does is encourage young people to engage with Sustainability using creativity, teamwork, passion, innovation and hope. I’ve realised that I sit so much more comfortably in that space, and there is plenty of room (and a crucial place) for it. I’ve seen the energy it brings out in the students on the Big Ideas Programme. So I’m now proud to call myself an optimist again – who wouldn’t be when working with such amazing young people!
I’m looking forward to seeing how Solutions renews itself once again as we (hopefully) return to more normalcy in schools. With new team members, new initiatives and new energy. And finally, I look forward to some time in the hopefully not too distant future when I can return to fly with the phoenix again.
With huge thanks to Noorafsha, Dan, Kat, Simon, Melanie, Mark, Jeremy, Katie, Aurora, Matt, Fran, Claire, Sarah and Jen.
Big Ideas Programme Associate
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd