This year is a big year of change for me. I have left The National Lottery Community Fund after eight years in several different roles and started at Transformation Capital — a very different beast. From public funding to systemic investing, from 800 employees to 10, from managing a team and associated workload to being a consultant with a more specific brief.
I’ve also completely changed and realigned my volunteer work. Over the last 18 months, I have been uncentring myself from the Participatory Grantmaking Community, doing what I need to support the amazing collective to take on the organising and continue growing something truly remarkable. I’ve gradually stepped back from the work there, ensuring more diverse and knowledgeable voices come through. Knowing the Community to be in very capable hands, I will always cheer from the sidelines and can’t wait to see everything they will achieve in the future. I’m still volunteering weekly for Rainbows — an hour a week spent with a group of little girls aged 4–7, as well as fellow youth leaders who keep me grounded and remind me of the importance of play.
Having been in the funding world for the past eight years, I’ve built up a wealth of knowledge and wanted to ensure this could be helpful to others. I’ve recently been recruited as a Trustee for a UK Youth Funder — I am just going through the DBS and due diligence checks. I’ll support their work and strategic direction over the coming years and can’t wait to get going. I’ve also started to do some little bits of consultancy around the edges of this work, mainly supporting other funders in their ambitions to do participatory grantmaking well.
It’s all a big change.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last six months reflecting, thinking, and reminiscing on what has been and is to come, what I have achieved and learned, what’s important to me, and what I would do differently. In the lead-up to all this transition, I’ve been seeking words of wisdom from others. I’ve collated much of this to help others who might find it useful:
- Do some life planning — Work out what is important to you, think about what you want your life to look like, and where you spend your energy and time. Look for the next opportunity/job that helps you get there. Lots of people recommended getting a coach to help me unpick and explore what the next step should be.
- Ask others what they did and how they managed it — ask for and listen to the advice that works for you. Find out about jobs you didn’t know existed. Read obituaries and find out what others did with their lives — what would you want your epitaph to read? (Thanks Tom Steinberg for this gem of advice).
- Boom lists — Record things you’re proud of and your achievements — write them, paint them, list them. Make sure to celebrate them.
- Good riddance lists — Note what you want to say good riddance to and ceremonially burn the paper. Using this to capture the bad habits you want to leave behind and any upset, anger, or annoyance.
- Reflective practice — Use journals, or whatever form reflection takes for you, to capture the wisdom you have at this moment, as well as the questions or behaviours you will carry forward.
- Rituals and celebration — Debbie Danon shared this beautiful piece about private and public rituals of transition, which includes some excellent prompting questions to think through how you might say goodbye or move from one point in life to another. What are the celebrations and endings you want and need — a goodbye party, some public words, a meal with friends? Find something that works for you to mark the occasion.
- Take the holiday — If you can, take time off between new roles to rest, recuperate and reset. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but if you can build it into the negotiations on both your finish and start dates. I managed a week by the beach between roles, I wish I’d taken two.
- Reset and realign — What does this look like? Especially if you are working from home. Can you rearrange or change your space, clear your desk, refresh your surroundings, or switch it up?
- Make space for rest — Transitions are exhausting. Try not to hold too much; let the old things you don’t need to carry anymore fall away. Give yourself grace. Plan space and rest into the first few weeks for your mind to decompress and process all the new things you’re learning.
- Be a sponge — The first few months are about absorbing as much as possible; lean into it.
- Don’t try and turn what is now into what was — The new isn’t the same as the old. Work out when it is helpful to say ‘at the old place we did it like X’. Don’t try and throw everything out with the bathwater.
- Build the ends into your beginnings — As always, there was so much to learn from the folks at Stewarding Loss about good endings. This fantastic manual to leaving well by Louise Armstrong and Nour Sidawi provided excellent guidance and questions to reflect on. Thinking about your succession planning and endings while you start will help you organise your work, support and uplift those around you and work out what is helpful to those you leave behind. I avoided a 30-page handover document that no one would read beyond by the final day.
- Start slow — ‘slow is smooth, smooth is fast’ — this beautiful mantra originally by Jonathan Lykes was shared with me by the late, great Jess Search and has been dancing on my mind in recent days after her passing. You’ll never have this period again — enjoy it. Lean into the space — absorb, learn, and go slow to find your feet.
I was also recommended the work of Naomi Hattaway, who focuses on leaving well, which she describes as ‘the art and practice of moving on from a place, thing, role, or job, with intention, purpose, and when possible: joy’; Squiggly Careers Podcast on managing significant life transitions was also recommended to me for this time period.
I am grateful to all the people who shared their thoughts, wisdom, and ideas over the past few weeks and months with me, but especially to Katy Love, who bore the brunt of my existential crisis in Oaxaca, Mel Eagelsfield for always being such a guiding light, Carrie Deacon who helped taking the plunge seem not so scary and for my team at The National Lottery Community Fund for such a beautiful send-off.