A letter to Year Here fellows

Last month Jack asked me to speak at the launch of the most recent cohort for Year Here.  I have genuinely admired Year Here since its birth - at first from afar in Glasgow and now up close in London where I deliver content for the fellows around design for social change, confidence and entrepreneurship and I mentor fellow Alice Harvey. A few of the fellows asked me to share a copy of what I said that night so here it is... 

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Dear Year Here Fellows,

You have made an important choice. A choice that should be celebrated, recognised and admired. 

You have chosen the difficult path - one that is ambiguous and real - free from the safety of exams and grades, but instead is full of complex, intractable problems, real people with real lives and real clients with budgets and demands. 

It’s not glamorous, it’s not sexy but it matters. You matter. You probably won’t get paid well for while, it’s not about bonuses and pensions but the money will come. Work hard and the money will come. 

There is no secret formula that will reveal itself. There are no rules or set path the faculty here can give you - but we can and we will show you what’s possible and we’ll be there to remind you to aim higher and stand taller every single day. 

Much of what you do during your programme won’t work as well as you’d hope, you’ll feel frustrated and stressed and that’s okay. That’s because you care and it’s because this type of work is really really really fucking hard. For every single thing that doesn’t work, choose to study why... convert every failed attempt into a lesson, then it’s no longer a failure. If you can win when things are going wrong, nothing will stop you. This is the hardest part. There is no such thing as overnight success. This is a long game and the joy, hope and optimism you will feel when you get those moments of impact, feedback or understanding is indescribable.

Do not settle. Use this time to challenge yourself and others. Speak up even when your voice shakes. Question the ideas you have, the views you notice and the opinions you share. 

Your power is here in this room - it’s each other - the power of the collective - you now have 15 other humans full of complexities, emotions and experiences to learn from - to collaborate with - together you can achieve incredible things.

 Lastly please promise me tonight you will look after yourself and each other - you cannot do good work or change the world if you are tired. (note to self) but seriously nothing is worth more than your health so be kind to you and your body. 

This is your chance to become the willy wonkas, joy divisions and marie curies of social innovation. I can’t wait. 

Enjoy the ride!

Love your eternal cheerleader,

Lauren

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There are 3 reasons why I’m a big fan of Year Here. 

I am someone who takes action. I make things, build communities and do things. I tire of talk and I despair at the potential and time wasted in meetings and other traditional systems embedded into our culture. This bias towards action is the first reason why I’m such a fan of Year Here. It’s about learning by doing. Fellows learn from practitioners AND authentically and genuinely practice what you’ve learned. This work doesn’t exist in a vacuum - it’s real. 

I’m driven by social progression - all the work I do is rooted in 'how can we make things better'. I’m bored of meeting entrepreneurs who are building apps nobody needs and I’m angry that most of the support out there for people with ideas is tailored to commercially focused businesses.  I started my own business when I was 23 - Snook was Scotland’s first design agency for social change and is now one of the UK’s leading service design agencies. This focus on social change and using design to tackle important problems is the second reason I’m a champion of Year Here. 

There is no shortage of problems to solve and they are right on our doorstep: our education system is failing our young people, our government is purposefully causing harm to our most vulnerable and we send the old people we love into concrete boxes to sit in front of a television as they grow old. None of this is okay. These are OUR problems to tackle. Past fellows are doing this RIGHT now as I speak; Sophie Slater and her team at Bird Song are leading an ethical fashion revolution Bird Song. Frankie Bee is changing how we work out and changing the lives of trainers by inviting ex-prisoners to train people at The Hard Yard. Katie Slee leading Settle, a volunteer-powered service to help homeless people move into their first home.

The pull you are all feeling towards social problems is real, listen to it and realise the potential you have to truly help. 

The third reason is very simple - I’m a feminist. I’m very proud to be a feminist and each and every one of you should be too. I’m the founder of #upfront; an organisation dedicated to encouraging and elevating new voices on and off public stages. We must work together to solve inequality and the crisis of confidence. I refuse to bring a daughter into a world where she won’t see people who look and speak like her in positions of power and influence. This picture shows all the femle founders who are graduates of Year Here...

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Year Here is role modelling to others how to build a platform that attracts bright, young, talented women who are our future CEO’s, mothers and leaders. I meet people who run incubators, hubs, accelerator programmes and they tell me that even though the website says ‘people’ - mostly men apply - Jack and the team at Year Here are building something that speaks to all the amazing women in this room and hundreds more who are watching from afar - it’s bloody brilliant! 

Speaking of bright, young women I’ve had the pleasure of making a new friend in Alice, my mentee this year. Alice has been my unwavering cheerleader - she always shows up with her infectious smile and our relationship is two way. Don’t ever underestimate the value each of you have to bring your mentors and use them - get introductions, invite yourself along and ASK for what you need.

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