Reflections from Director Lynn Mumford as she prepares to move on from Mayday Trust to a new and exciting role.
There are so many reflections and things I’ve learned during eight years of working at Mayday Trust.
The experiences of going through personal and organisational transformational change, working alongside some incredible people and organisations doing amazing things in the world of systems change are many, but as I move on to pastures new, these are the ones that spring to mind and felt right to capture and share.
to the people we work with is where the true wisdom is. When we listen without agenda, without structure, research frameworks or preconception, people take the conversation where they want to and what they say, often in the tangents, can be transformational. But only if we’re willing to hear it. This means being willing to question whether and how we are part of the problem, act upon what we hear and commit to doing things differently.
It starts with us..
to honestly and openly reflect upon what we do, what we say, how we respond, what processes we put in place and why we do what we do. It’s exhausting and scary, but unlearning what we’ve learned as best professional practice can be one of the most liberating and necessary things we can do if we genuinely want to be person-led and strength based. This personal reflection applies to everyone, no matter what role we play and comes first, before we start to embark on transforming our organisations or funding and commissioning practice.
Go where the good energy is…
and don’t worry about trying to convince the sceptics or respond to reactionaries. Instead, attract the enthusiasts, find your people and have a cuppa. I’ve had so many game changing conversations and built amazing relationships with people whilst having a chat and a brew. It can feel hard to make time for this but reflection, connection and friendship is so important when the weight of systems change weighs heavily on your shoulders. This was one of the drivers behind the New System Alliance as we kept hearing how going it alone was the toughest part!
Speak the truth…
even if your voice shakes. It’s a common saying, but when you’re the lone, challenging voice in a room full of comfortable agreement, whether at the grassroots or on a stage in front of hundreds, please keep speaking your truth. Calling out what’s not working with the current systems and practices whilst trying to model the difference is hard will very rarely will it make you popular. Amongst the raised eyebrows, the mutterings of being too radical, or too fluffy, or not collaborative enough, please keep speaking your truth. It’s not about saying it’s all wrong, it’s about making it our joint social responsibility to question everything.
One of the main reflections that I would leave here is that the responsibility for systems change shouldn’t just rest with frontline practitioners (I’ve still not found a better word for frontline), organisations or individuals. The consistent and main barriers to change that I have come across and heard from those trying to work in a different way is how funding, investment and commissioning can either make or break person-led work and strengths based organisational transformation.
At Mayday we were so lucky to have amazing learning partners who have believed and invested in our work (shout out to Lankelly Chase Foundation, Tudor Trust, Bridges, Oak Foundation, Rayne Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the UK portfolio of the National Lottery Community Fund to name but a few) as without them, none of what Mayday has done to date would have been possible. But funders like these are still the exception and can’t support the same organisations forever. Until we move toward funding models that are person-led, trusting, curious and brave, the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in system change that actually works for people will wane and the struggle of mission & change vs money & survival will continue to be a real one.
As I move on toward a new sector and a new challenge working with an amazing organisation raising funds and investing in the impact of others as a grant maker, I will aim to keep these reflections with me.. and will always try to make time for anyone needing to have a chat over a cuppa!