So much is happening right now with many exciting opportunities, so I thought I would write. Oh my goodness, where to begin? Most of you know I am back in the land of amazing accents, green pastures, fortifying cups of tea and witty people, Kingston upon Hull in East Yorkshire.
My last five years have been a whirlwind of transitions, adventures and learning. I have now completed my PhD in Systems Sciences with Professor Gerald Midgley at the University of Hull in the UK. Upon my thesis defense, I moved to NYC to work on a UN Women publication co-written with my colleagues Anne Stephens and Shravanti Reddy: Inclusive Systemic Evaluation for Gender Equality, Environments, and voices from the Margins (ISE4GEMs): A Guide for Evaluators for the SDGs Era (in press; free link coming soon). ISE4GEMs uses an analytical framework, GEMs, to prioritize learning and inclusion of people, places and all living things, to support global efforts in creating an equitable and sustainable world. What makes the ISE4GEMs approach innovating and transformative lies within our spirited commitment to: Gender Equality, Environmental considerations and the inclusion of voices from the Margins. It is GEMs that I am using in all my current ventures. With the upcoming publication, my colleagues and I see numerous windows of opportunities to use GEMs across different sectors and learn from its use in different cultures and transdisciplinary contexts. Anne and I have formed a consulting group called Ethos of Engagement which is still in its formative stage. We are working on a book due out in 2019 on the ongoing development of Inclusive Systemic Thinking and GEMs This is where you can picture me jumping up and down for joy!
From October-December 2016 I did some consulting work in Ethiopia with a Canadian development agency which was equally exhilarating and illuminating for me. Exhilarating in that I got to explore a new culture with its symphony of foods, religions, music and history while working on a capacity development project in the agricultural sector in partnership with brilliant and funny professionals from Bulgaria, Canada and Ethiopia. From January-June 2017 I was hovering in Northern California, transitioning from being a student to being my new self – an independent global consultant with a broad range of partnerships. I don’t like working alone to be honest, I love the diversity that working with others brings. Way more fun for an extrovert anyway. A huge shout out to all my Nor Cal friends (especially Jamie and Tammy, Elizabeth and Panama) who gave me shelter, transportation and wisdom while cheering me on (physically and emotionally) during the first six months of 2017. Without you, this current path I am on would not have been possible.
So now what? I refinanced my house, payed off loads of debt, whittled my essential stuff to two suitcases (okay maybe three) and set up a slush fund for me to follow my passion of working in development contexts with people who are smart, kind and committed to making the world a better place for everyone. To do this end, I have been busy connecting new networks and opportunities, all that are entrepreneurial in nature, but designed to create a lovely income in the next year and moving forwards. My timeline and location will continue to shift as I follow leads and go to countries to explore and work on projects. Here is what the last few months have looked like and my projection for the 6-8 months are shaping up.
June 2016: My friend Anne arrived from Australia and we set out for a 7- week work trip promoting our publications and setting up opportunities to learn more about how GEMs might work in different contexts. We first met with a group of likeminded new friends in Washington DC that have a commitment and passion for the conservation of the planet. What an honour it was to hang, laugh and learn from them. This new partnership continues to grow as we actively look for projects to work on collaboratively. I personally am having to learn how to manage working collaboratively online with more finesse. Because I am working alone most of the time at this moment, I get enthused about meetings I have had, but may not have anyone to share it with right away. Then the enthusiastic emails pour out, not always thought through all the way. Whoa horsey….
After Washington, DC, Anne, Rochelle Sherlock and we went to Guatemala to conduct an organizational assessment with a powerful organization that has spent the last 30 years supporting indigenous groups of women artisans/weavers to keep their Maya Traditions…their scholarship program pays for the artisan’s children to complete high school and some to even attend college. If you looking a good place to contribute money that will have have an immense impact please consider donating to them. The three of us are planning a return trip in November to share the data we gathered with the women and seek their validation on what we have derive from our interviews.
If you want to buy some of their woven goods directly from the women, let me know privately. Let’s Talk!
July took Anne and I to Vienna, Austria as opening keynote speakers for the International Society for Systems Sciences conference. Our topic was well received an we are now following up on many of our new contacts. Fingers crossed!
I was reminded of my first trip to Vienna back in 1983…one of my favorite memories being sitting in public park in our grubby backpacking clothes watching people dance the waltz and being asked to dance by an elderly gentleman. He was so kind and brave to take me on. I can’t remember now if it really happened, I just know that I hold it dear!
Later that same week we hopped back on a plane and flew to England rushing back for my graduation ceremony. Yup, it happened. I no longer can claim I am in ‘school’ again but it certainly will not stop me from being a learner.
So now what? To be honest I am quite busy writing proposals for future work, conducting research to support the proposals and writing journal articles from my thesis. I am equally stress free and happy. I am humbled daily about how lucky I am to be living the life I do. I have three huge projects I am working on, all with potential, but none of them a surety of future income. But I do know that it is the work I love and know it will bring gifts: friends I have yet to meet, experiences that expand my understanding about my own skills and limitations, cultures that offer culinary surprises and different ways of being, and more opportunities to work with folks to who. In the next six months my travel plans include: Colombia to work on a research grant for a positive peace project (October), Washington, DC to attend an evaluation conference and some business meetings (November) – and hopefully Thanksgiving with my niece Courtney (awesome year-2 law student at Dickinson Law School); December (TBD) but probably in the US or Germany; back in the UK for January and then Oman for Feb-March on an entrepreneurial venture to create ethical tourism projects with two friends.
Even in my solitary moments, I still know and feel loved and held by all of you. Thank you for your encouragement and for understanding that I am not running from life, I am merely running towards it.