Reflections on being FiMT’s Specialist Fellow on Clore’s Social Leadership Programme 2015
By Dr Jane Rowley, the first to be awarded Forces in Mind Trust’s Specialist Fellowship on the Clore Social Leadership Programme.
The aim of the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) fellowship is to foster and promote leadership connections between military charities and the wider social sector to encourage shared learning and collaboration. When I was awarded the 2015 FiMT fellowship, I was given time to investigate an issue in social care I support deeply, a new and emerging field whilst taking the opportunity to develop, nurture and reflect on my own role within this. I was given the space to learn my own lessons, be my own teacher and find connections often lost to people in leadership roles, who often work in isolation, driven by purpose and dedication to one ‘cause’, ’group’ or ‘issue’.
The Clore FiMT fellowship is not a panacea to resolve difficulties in supporting people through social action; it is not a solution for jaded social practitioners or a training programme for aspiring and current leaders working in social care. It is an inspired opportunity to foster networks of collaboration between people who may never have encountered one another and thus a way to provide rich opportunities to work together and support people in our communities.
There is training; new experiences to be had along with coaching and mentoring with experienced and inspiring people. It is above all an opportunity to consolidate your experience, your skills and knowledge and find routes to new ways to practise, and to offer support and care to people whilst learning that there are hard choices to make and often the hardest choice is to ask for help. This is a valuable lesson for both practitioners and people who are suffering because it represents a gap between those who deliver services and those of are in receipt of them; the challenge is to be aware of what is driving your work, motivating your support programmes and how this might influence change for good or ill. People who might be defined as Social Leaders have a duty incumbent on them to ‘Know yourself, Be yourself and Look after yourself’, the mantra of Clore Social Fellowship.
When I decided to apply for the Clore Fellowship, I had no prior awareness of the programme or its history. It would be easy to say I was at a stage in my career where I wanted to reflect on my work, review my goals and move forward but this would not be true. I was tired; change in this sector is relentless, as it should be because the sector needs to be responsive to people’s needs. I was also questioning the value of work I was doing and knowing something was missing. Over 20 years in the ‘social sector’ and still unsure how to articulate my purpose within it, or even what this term means, all I could come up with was I am trying to be as kind as I can and this seemed trite or disingenuous. The alleviation of suffering is I would say, a pompous goal; but, of course it is not a pompous goal, rather an aim loaded with judgment about what constitutes suffering, who needs support and who should support them.
So it was through instinct rather than articulate aims that I applied for the Clore Fellowship in 2014, starting in 2015 as the first Specialist with FiMT. In my work in Addiction I had encountered many ex-Services personnel; sometimes they were in addiction treatment but often training to work in the field. As a lecturer and social researcher, I ask questions of my students and participants, why they want to work in a particular field, what led them to the situation they find themselves in, what motivates them? I began asking questions of them and myself about why services did not work more closely together, why there were so many specialists and not so many connections between services and most importantly not so many connections between people. I used my fellowship to explore these questions and investigate an issue which could support practical collaborative work between military charities and my own practice.
The issue I chose to explore was Post Traumatic Growth, how do people who are experiencing trauma after Military service move forward with their lives (link to report). This work led to an opportunity for a secondment with SSAFA, a leading military charity offering support to people traumatised, injured and bereaved through military service. I was able to develop programming for their support groups that drew from the latest research evidence and practical experience. I have been able to see the development of my work from its inception to delivery. I have had an opportunity to work with the people offering and receiving this support alongside a continued relationship and opportunity to collaborate further.
The very essence of FiMT’s aims supporting a social practitioner with different perspectives and experience to develop links with military charities provided me with one of the most satisfying experiences in practice to date. I was able to leave my secondment knowing that this small piece of work helped people who have been traumatised, injured and bereaved through military service and it will continue to do so.
I completed my fellowship in March 2016. I have learnt that I can articulate my purpose more clearly, that I remain driven by a wish to practise kindness in all aspects of my life, that I can appreciate and recognise difference and that I no longer worry that this aim is vague. I have a deepened network of friends, colleagues and peers who scaffold and support me as I try to do the same for them. I am living in a different city, working with military charities, addiction services and care for older people and continue to work on knowing myself, being myself and looking after myself.
This process is not for the faint hearted; it has been challenging in ways I never imagined, being exposed to ideas, models and people some of which resonated, some of which were so far from my own values I was incandescing with rage. I have uprooted myself with purpose and struggled to do so but above all I am changed. I know through this process that I am contributing to helping others and we all matter, in this community. In my practice going forward the questions I will remain mindful of are:
- How does this work link across our communities?
- Are there opportunities to collaborate and how does this impact not only my interests, groups or causes but all of them?
The outcomes of the next FiMT / Clore collaborations are full of possibility and I urge you to consider the part you could play.