Monday, 27 October 2014

Another Inspiring Young Person

Last week I spoke of the inspirational young people in Surrey, some of whom were at our Celebration of Youth. I want to tell you today about another inspirational young man from the Netherlands - Boyan Slat. While diving in Greece at age 16 Boyan became frustrated by coming across more plastic bags than fish. Whilst many of us might just have said “ain’t it awful” and gone home to watch TV, he took a different path. 

Boyan researched plastic pollution and the problems associated with cleaning it up. Over the next few years he developed the passive clean up concept and subsequently got a team of 100 people to work on the Ocean Clean up project. The feasibility 530-page feasibility study report (authored by 70 scientists and engineers), indicated the concept is indeed a feasible method to clean almost half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years. To date $2.1M has been raised to support the project and Boyan Slat (now aged just 20) has led the charge to solve a major problem which the governments, environmental organisations, corporations and others had all failed to tackle.

I believe that there are lots of young people around Surrey also spotting problems and taking initiatives to make the world a better place. If you are a young person doing a project like this, or know of a young person who is, please do email us and tell us what is being done and why. We would like to create a collection of stories about young people doing fabulous initiatives in Surrey.

Here are Surrey Youth Focus we are thinking about how can we create the conditions in Surrey where we have thousands of Boyan Slats, working on inspirational projects to make a difference to the world. My challenge to you this week is:  How can you nurture the young people in your life to spot problems in society and go out and solve them?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Inspiring Young People

We held our wonderful Celebration of Youth event at Leatherhead Leisure Centre on Saturday. We celebrated young people’s achievements as well as the leaders, projects and businesses who have helped them.

The themes that came through for me were safety, belief and trust. Every one of us needs at least one person we can feel safe with, one person who believes in us and trusts us. A person we can turn to when the chips are down. A person who will hold us and tell us all is okay when life seems rotten. This is never more true than with young people who have experienced more than their share of difficulties from a young age. Some young people have been badly treated by those who are most supposed to nurture them. Others -  young carers - have had to spend much of their lives nurturing rather than being nurtured.

My challenge to you this week is: how can you nurture the young people in your life to achieve their full potential?

A huge thanks to all involved in the Celebration of Youth including our award presenters - The Lord Lieutenant of Surrey Dame Sarah Goad, the High Sheriff Mr Peter Lee, Surrey County Council Chairman Mr David Munro and Mole Valley Chairman Councillor Emile Aboud; Sylvie Blackmore from BBC Surrey for hosting; Leatherhead Leisure Centre for the venue; All saints Leatherhead for the refreshments; all the exhibitors and talented young performers; the Lord- Lieutenant’s cadets for their valued assistance; Unity Insurance UK & Councillor Tim Hall for their hugely appreciated  financial contributions; the Mayors of Elmbridge, Guildford, Reigate & Banstead, Spelthorne, Waverley, Woking and the chairman of Tandridge; the SYF trustees; the parents, family and friends of our young people. Phew, what a list. We couldn't have done it without you.

Finally thanks to my team members - Su, Kate, Alex and Karen - who have proved yet again the old adage that if you want something done, give it to a busy person.

Monday, 13 October 2014


Once upon a time there were charities, businesses and public sector organisations. And then the world started to change. My predecessor, Mike Abbott, has talked and written about the blending of the sectors in the past. Charities are changing their business models to become “Social Enterprises”. Local authorities are spinning off operations to form Local Area Trading Companies or  Social Enterprises.

I saw the blending of the sectors from a different direction last week. We went to see Eagle Radio, based in Guildford. Eagle is part of UKRD group, a privately owned for profit company. However, their focus is on a lot more than just profit. They do a large range of activities to support and enhance the local community, including their “Big Community” – helping voluntary organisations to find volunteers with the right skills. And by the way for the last four years UKRD have topped the Sunday Times best companies to work for. Can anyone doubt the motivating effect that true Corporate Social Responsibility can have on employees?

Eagle's approach reminded me of an event that I attended the previous week where the question arose “What is a Social Enterprise?” I didn’t ask Eagle Radio whether they would classify themselves as a Social Enterprise, probably not as they never said so. But the issue as to what is or isn’t a Social Enterprise seems to bother people a lot. One of the reasons that this debate arises is because contrary to popular belief a “Social Enterprise” is not a legal form of organisation, it is a just a label. Companies limited by guarantee, Community Interest Companies, Charitable Incorporated Organisation – these are all legal structures. So why does it matter? It matters for two reasons. 

Firstly, communication. If two different people understand two different things by the same word or phrase, it often causes confusion. Secondly, it is important to have a legal structure that is fit for purpose for what you are trying to achieve with your organisation. Charities have more constraints on them than other forms. On the other hand, they also have advantages such as being able to access grants that businesses cannot.

If you are involved in any way in setting up an organisation or changing its structure then getting the legal structure right from the start is very important. If you don't have it, it is very important to get good legal advice. If you need professional help on this maybe you could try posting an advert on Eagle Radio’s Big Community. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Variety is the spice of life?

I am thoroughly enjoying all of the different types of things that I get involved with in this job, I have always been someone who loves to get involved with all sorts of things. However, with that comes a challenge - figuring out how to best use my time to greatest effect. I could easily fill my diary three times over every week. So, to put it another way, I need to figure out what to say no to. A friend laughed when I said that I need to be able to say no in this job. She knows me (and my sister) well. “Good luck” was all she said, but the meaning was clear – not one of my strengths!

In the last week my activities have included – recommissioning of youth services event run by Surrey County Council, meeting with a group of other Infrastructure CEOs as well as meeting individually with three different charity chief executives, various not so fun admin issues, internal meetings on Communilab and our Youth Social Action conference. The week finished with an event on Social Inclusion organised by the Enterprise M3, the Local Economic Partnership covering the M3 corridor.

Fitted in between the activities I am  writing our three year strategy. The purpose of a strategy is, of course, to help guide the organisation to make choices over what it will and won’t do over the forthcoming months and years. Will that help bring me clarity about my priorities? Hopefully, if it makes sense.

My challenge to you this week is this: Are you clear about what you are trying to achieve in work or life? Are you saying “yes” to the things that will help get you there and “no” to the things that won’t? Of course there will always be grey areas – activities which could possibly bear fruit - but clarity about where you are trying to get will definitely help.