A world without stairs….

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about my ‘mission’ and also the things I use my voice for.

These thoughts brought on by an event I attended around female empowerment where I was surrounded by some of the most impressive women I have ever met from all around the globe.

I walked into the House of Commons in May and I was excited.  Excited to meet likeminded people and excited to talk about real issues effecting real people – more importantly, how we could work together to create real change.  Helping people to change their lives and live the best version of their life is what makes me get up in the morning you see.

I feel the need to say that within the first 10 minutes of this event, I had forgotten my name and the job that I did and stumbled on these most basic questions when asked…I fear my excitement had turned into being a little overwhelmed and I did even debate going to hide out in the toilets for the rest of the day…because who would know right?!  Well you will be pleased to know that this story doesn’t end with me hiding in a toilet.. the event was an incredible success and for me the most successful part was getting me to really hone in my vision on how I can help to change the world… a big ask isn’t it!  Well, the people crazy enough to think they can change the world usually can and I think we all do in our own way.

Whilst we were talking in our workshops, people were discussing what drives them and all of a sudden, my vision started tumbling out of my mouth into fully formed sentences.  I had remembered my name, my job and most of all, my purpose.  My vision you see, is to create a world without stairs… literally and metaphorically.  The ladies on the table asked me to elaborate so that’s what I will also do for you.

We have roughly *7 million people in the UK (*Scope) who have various mobility impairments which can result in difficulty climbing stairs.  We have an ageing population and with age (for some) comes less mobility and sometimes a difficulty with stairs.  Have you ever stopped in a city and looked at just how many stairs there are??  Well I can tell you that there are hundreds of thousands in London alone.  Did you know that if you walked the stairs for the Hampstead tube station for 100 days it is the equivalent of climbing Everest!!  I have many fascinating stair trivia now, due to researching this blog…which I may add I will not bore you with.  I am now however someone you will want on your pub quiz team for stairs related questions!

Stairs are more economical in cost in comparison to some ramps and we put in stairs, sometimes because of space, but mostly (after speaking with architects) because it’s what we have always done and they look pleasing on the eye in a landscape or property.  So as a society, we put in stairs even though we know a large percentage of the population can’t use them…but don’t despair…because of Equalities legislation and also people recognising people’s needs, we then have some ramps, elevators, chair lifts and also escalators…as well as the stairs.  What an expense.

If we only had ramps or something similarly accessible, everyone could get around well.  No workarounds.

The stairs here are a symbol for the barriers we put in place for our people and communities – sometimes without even realising.  We then try and find a workaround when we understand the barrier and its impact. Thinking in this way is costly and also inefficient, there are also impacts on people whilst they wait for our bright ideas.  Now, I am not saying the answer to all of our problems is a world with ramps! I instead challenge everyone reading this to instead apply the ethos of ‘a world without stairs’ to whatever you are working on.  Let’s not find workarounds anymore or create unintentional unequal playing fields.  Let’s work to have no barriers and also applaud those who actively work to remove the current barriers which exist – that’s what I will be doing with this blog… talking about my new role within Aster in which I will be trying to create a world without stairs on my new adventure as Director of the Aster Foundation.

Now, according to my partner I am passionate about my work but I know myself and I have a tendency to waffle, so I hope you understand the point I am trying to make.  The next time you are out, take 5 minutes and stop and look at the world around you.  The amazing and impressive world/ society that we as human beings created.  Now, think about all of the different people in the world…can you see any barriers?  I challenge you to remove them – let’s start a revolution and be crazy enough to think we can actually change the world… go on, I dare you.

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Do what you love, love what you do… which one are you?

pexels-photo-867470.jpegDid you know that since some of the earliest writings from the world’s greatest thought leaders the notion of doing what you love (seeking a career that fills you with passion) has been discussed at length. But with current research showing how many people are disengaged, dissatisfied, and frustrated at work, I wondered is it possible to flip the words—is it possible to simply love what you do—your current job?

Finding a job you love is age-old advice. A well known philosopher (Confucius) said to “do what you love.” His words, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” have been repeated throughout history.  And let’s not forget the thoughts of Maya Angelou who said “…pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

So what about the other approach —telling people to love what they do? You don’t have to look far to find the advice of Steve Jobs who said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”  He was a great guy who seemed to love his work… and was incredibly successful; so is this key component?

Research shows that great work (award-winning work) is produced when people focus on doing something others love, basically asking yourself the question; “What difference could I make that other people would love?”  Or how can I make a positive difference to others?  The point is, loving your job is one thing—the activities and responsibilities you have on a day-to day basis. But loving the impact your job has on someone else is another. If you are not totally happy with what you are doing, try this one little simple activity: Go and see your work being received. See how it impacts someone else, another co-worker, a customer, another team, or whoever benefits from your work.

I work in social housing and every single person in this sector is an important cog in helping us to house our customers and deliver housing and related support services to customers right first time.  You are awesome… so whenever work gets busy or you feel it unmanageable, remember  what you do and the impact of your job on our communities and repeat after me.. “I am awesome because I work in social housing and I love what I do!”

Fix things and make them work…when they are working, support an evolution to match the aspiration!

pexels-photo-209712.jpegIt’s been a while since I have written a blog in which I voice a personal view but I felt the need to with reading a lot of articles about strength or asset based community development of late.

I have a few thoughts on this I wanted to share to see what other people think?

 I have personally worked in the business of creating a society where everyone can be themselves and have the best quality of life possible – this through many guises such as community development, charitable work, coaching and as a diversity and inclusion lead.  Through these roles I have been lucky enough to work with some of the most incredible people; mainly within my time in social housing.  I have met Halina, the Polish paratrooper who took homeless people back to her home (where she lived alone) and she put them back together before delivering them to us as a social landlord to house (amongst other things!)  I have met Dave, the man who turned his own personal challenges into a positive through creating Europe’s biggest disability charity (WDP) which supports people to build and rebuild their lives – this guy is unbelievable. 

I have met *Bill, who has dementia and other personal challenges but gives up his time daily to improve the lives of others through volunteering his time – he even messages to apologise if he can’t make a meeting due to being in hospital because he puts others needs before his own…always.  

I met an 86 year old man who was a medic in the British Army who had lived with alcoholism due to PTSD and now due to understanding this illness – supports others to climb the steps back to their own version of normality.  Then there is me…

…I was a straight A student in school with an amazing mum and fantastic dad.  We lived a normal life on a low income but ridiculously happy because my parents invested more than money into me – they invested their time.  Whether I was cooking with mum or doing forward rolls on a crash mat with Dad (he was a budding martial arts guru… for me, not so much!) … I was happy.

Then mum got cancer, ten times over ten years to be precise.  This was our new normal.  She lost the fight when I was just about to turn 17 and this impacted the straight A student version of me and rocked my whole family, and my whole world – reverberations which we still feel today because we miss the beautiful kind soul who knitted our family together perfectly.  People saw I was faltering and stepped in to put me back together.  Some were family, some were professionals in the educational setting and some complete strangers.  I now have a great career, great outlook on life and have the drive to support others, because I know how someone understanding me at my lowest point actually helped me to become me again. 

What I am trying to say, is that I have met the most incredible people within my career who inspire me to be the best version of myself but one thing which they all have in common… someone supported them to first jump the hurdles life had put in the way.  This by showing them that they had an understanding of where they were in life; and also were they could be in their future. 

For me, this shows me that the best type of community development, one which creates real change in people that carries on for decades…is both asset (or strength) based and at the same time supporting the person to jump those hurdles (I don’t like using the words deficit based!)

Plugging gaps which exist ensures people have the support they may need which could be missing at certain points.  Focus on the strengths and making these stronger.. but also focus on areas which need improving to ensure those who need the most support are not left behind.

So to finish – I believe there  needs to be a layered approach to community evolution but lets start with understanding a communities needs and working with people 121 to really give them the time and space to be the best version of themselves. 

“Fix things and make them work…when they are working, support an evolution to match the aspiration!”

Also – a big thanks to those who have  invested in me – you will never know how grateful I am for being glued back together.  For you in seeing both areas to strengthen and also improve.

Bye for now,

Cam