moving on from the crossroads....

Exploring a Social Enterprise dream

As I move into 2017 at 52 years old, I find myself at a cross road in my life, with some interesting, if challenging decisions to be made. I’m being made redundant by my current employers after just over 13 years, and need to make some decisions about my future.

My Background:

I’ve worked in IT in one form or another since I was 17 years old, when I had a Saturday job working in a large department store selling some of the first home computers way back in the 1980’s. I’ve spend the majority of the time since then in one form of support role or another, helping people make more use of the technology the company provides them with, and fixing it when it goes wrong. In the vast majority of those roles, I’ve done well and have been promoted or transferred into roles supervising or managing teams doing what I was doing.

In my last role, I joined the team at the very bottom, in an entry level simple operation supporting role, and over the last 13 years have advanced to a position managing pretty much the same small team across the country, providing help, support, training and repairs for the IT equipment they use daily in their jobs.

What next?

One of the great parts of my most recent role was the ability to help my local community and charities by working for a large company who understood the impact and benefit their staff could make by getting involved in local issues and events. Over the last 5 years in particular, I’ve been involved in multi-million pound fund raising events, both participating and helping to organise. I’ve been involved in individual and team activities improving the local community or the lives of local people. I’ve loved almost every minute of it!

So now I find myself with a slight dilemma on my hands, like everyone else I have to pay my mortgage and other bills each month, but I also want to keep making a difference in my local community (and beyond if possible). I’ve a number of options open to me, and some time to make the right decision, thanks to having the security of a redundancy package, but again like most other people I have some debts, and that money won’t last that long.

The Choices:

Another role in IT. I’m better equipped than ever to find a role to manage a team providing end user support, to provide that support myself. I’d previously not enjoyed “managing” a team, but over the last few years have become far more comfortable and adept at doing so, and this has allowed me to focus on helping that team to improve their service and skills to deliver a better end result to the colleagues we supported. I’m less technical hands-on now, but 30 years providing support doesn’t disappear and I still know enough to be more than helpful in a huge variety of situations, and have also learnt the value of allowing myself to “think outside the box” at times, and also to challenge what I’m being asked because sometimes that opens people up to different ideas and concepts, or simply shows them that their “target” wasn’t actually the right one.

Working for a Charity. I’ve spent so much time working on different projects and learning some of the complexity of running events and fund raising campaigns, that I think I could be a very useful asset, even in a role where my focus was simply to help others be more productive and raise more funds by encouraging them, and helping with organisation. Of course my IT skills would also probably be a benefit to many charities, even as simply part of another role and helping colleagues who weren’t as confident in their IT use improve their skills.

Helping my Community. Over the last few years, I’ve been working hard in my spare time to see how much I can do for my own community. I’ve setup and run Web sites working with the local Police to try and have an impact on crime and safety in the area. I’ve worked with various community groups on small pieces of work to fund raise, promote causes, clean up the community and anything else where I thought being involved could make a positive difference to the project. Most successfully I’ve created a number of Facebook groups and run them, the largest growing now to nearly 6000 people, most of whom are from the local area.  I’ve had more contact with local community groups, councillors police and other authorities during this time, and as a community group we have an incredibly passionate and positive group who really do what to improve anything and everything locally if they can, whilst accepting the challenges this presents in terms of funding, resources and practicality.

Decisions, Decisions

Actually, I know what I want to do, it’s the 3rd option, I just don’t know how possible, feasible, practical and sensible it is. But that’s why I started this blog, to document and explain my journey, keep notes on the good the bad and, no doubt, the ugly, as I move forwards to see where life takes me. I’ve got a whole bunch of skills I’ve learned over many years that I think can help the community. I think we can make use of them to help improve things for everyone locally and all work better as a community. So many things that get organised are supported well my the community, it’s the organisation that is so often the challenge.

Belief!

In order to achieve this ambition of working for and with the community, I need to believe in myself so that I can persuade them all to believe in me too. If I don’t believe I can make the positive difference I think I can, why would they? I need to research and develop my idea, and then present it in a compelling way that will answer their questions and resolve their challenges so that they feel confident supporting me on this venture.

Is Crowdfunding the answer?

I’m not settled on an amount, but I know that I need funding to do this. I don’t believe that I will get funding from any “official” source at this point, but that in the future this may be possible if I can prove the value and need for the services I provide. There are a number of ways this funding could be provided, and indeed maybe in the future it will come from many sources. For year one, it seems that the best option is to ask the community to believe in my and to support the effort financially. Asking many local people for a few pounds each to provide a resource for the whole community to use isn’t an unusual thing. But for that resource to be “time” to achieve things, to participate, to organise is much more unusual. I can offer “rewards” of dedicated time for specific people or groups as an encouragement or incentive, but the bulk of my time needs to be spent doing things for the community as a whole.

What Now?

From here I need to develop my idea further, add some “meat to the bones” and to turn it into a viable proposition I can make public, and ask people for their opinion, and ultimately, their money. I’ll try and keep documenting the journey here as an aside to the project itself, which may help others, or deter them, depending on how it goes. To share ideas and information on the journey, because I don’t think my community is unique, and I think what I do here others may already be doing in their spare time, which I also accept maybe the only way to undertake this type of work, but I truly hope the benefits of doing this full time show their own value to the community.

Wish me luck?