Motivations matter

How can we help: Why we give, and how we might do it better

People clearly like to help other people. Last year a friend posted on LinkedIn that she was looking for a mentor; she expected one or two responses – but got an astonishing 25 offers. You see it the other way round, too: mid-career professionals offering time to answer questions or advise younger people on breaking into their industry. 

Why help a stranger? Some remember their own early-career struggles. Some want to help open up a field that lacks diversity. Some, no doubt, do it because they benefit too: they learn something new, they connect with someone of a different background or generation, they boost their own profile. (All of these reasons influenced my decision to mentor with CharityWorks.) The mentor that my friend ultimately chose said that he wanted to continue meeting up partly because her extensive professional network might one day be useful to him. Does that take away from his offer? I don’t think so. Altruism + a selfish motivation might just be the combination that makes something stick.

Continue reading “Motivations matter”

Feeling unalone, facing fears, and the questions of 7-year-olds

Three things I learned or loved this month

Lisa Taddeo’s 2019 book Three Women is widely described as a “bestselling phenomenon”. Columnist Caitlin Moran is quoted saying she would “probably re-read it every year of my life”. Now that I’ve read it, her praise doesn’t seem too far-fetched. 

As much as I was swept up in the real lives that Taddeo portrays – lives of complicated desire, sadness, sexuality, rejection, power, loyalty – I am fascinated by her process as a writer. She spent eight years on research (during which time she also had a baby). Twice, she moved to the town where the women lived to spend time with them; her husband moved with her. She was present at some of the events described in the book; she would meet one of the women immediately after her encounters with a secret lover to hear her recount the experience. Taddeo describes her role, in an interview on the Happy Place podcast, as a sort of “non-judgmental ghost”, present as lives unfolded. Each of the three women finds her decisions judged harshly by those around them; in giving them the full range to tell their stories, the author aims to challenge the quickfire dismissal most of us unleash on people we barely know. “I wanted people to feel unalone,” Taddeo says.

Continue reading “Feeling unalone, facing fears, and the questions of 7-year-olds”

Real-world work experience 

At the Impact Collective — the network of social impact consultants I work with — we’ve published a new case study outlining what we did for the national charity The Challenge.

The Challenge describes itself as a national charity aiming to ‘build a more integrated society’. Its founders set up the National Citizen Service, a government-funded programme that brings together 15-17 year-olds from different schools/backgrounds; to date, 400,000 young people have taken part. I met some of them two years ago while facilitating a few NCS workshops in photography/video; the workshops involve not only practising a new skill but also using it to engage with the wider community: elderly people, adults with special needs or young children.

Anyway, at the Impact Collective we helped The Challenge to deliver another project, which focuses on a reform of the UK’s technical education curriculum. Continue reading “Real-world work experience “

Cats and volcanologists

gilles-desjardins-684652-unsplashOne of the social media groups I use is for freelance women journalists. For all Facebook’s flaws, the group is brilliant: like an open-plan office with none of the irritations and all the companionship of 4000+ colleagues who’ll always deliver on requests for advice, feedback, sympathy, or last-minute contacts. Those shout-outs for contacts appear every day. “Looking for local post offices that still have a resident cat”, writes one. “Does anyone know a media-friendly volcanologist?” “I’m looking for a woman aged 30+ who showers at least twice a day. The more the better.” (These were all real requests. They all got multiple responses.) Continue reading “Cats and volcanologists”