Saturday, 14 December 2013

Saturday morning rambles: leadership, young women, body image and more

Other titles for this blog could have been 'end of month brain dump', 'saturday morning couldn't sleep in because I went to bed too early'.  Essentially a collection of reflections as I process the week gone by.

1. Leadership and optimism

I am interested in how different people and organisations are responding to the opportunities and challenges of the political, commissioning, and economic landscape.

We need to be both optimistic and make realistic assessments about the difficulties and challenges.  We also have to be pleased with good enough when good enough really is good enough.

If I crudely categorise those perspectives I hear and see;

  • everything is getting better
  • everything is going to be alright in the end
  • everything will be alright if we get busy with the difficult conversations and look at how we collaborate for change
  • we need to make sure what I/my organisation does and how we do it stays the same and investment stays the same
  • we have taken the biggest hit we can, we cannot take anymore
  • we are all doomed 
All have some validity depending on where you sit and what outcomes you are looking for. It seems to me our biggest leadership challenge is to operate with a strong values and outcomes focus so we can focus on what we know works, be confident enough to bin that which doesn't and use this as the basis for discussing the really important choices that have to be made.

New challenges require models of bold and collaborative leadership; providers, commissioners and 'consumers' (people) come together to develop and build solutions that really work.  I am excited to be part of and watch us all step up to the plate and make this happen.

2. Addressing the needs of young women

I have been in a number of meetings recently where I or somebody else has emphasised the need for a focus of time, energy and resources on supporting young women's personal and social development.
I have been interested/surprised at how often the conversation is very quickly moved on to how 'its not just young women' and it is equally difficult it is for young men, or for LGBT young people.

In none of the cases has anybody been arguing that the needs of LGBT young people or young men are not important, simply that we need to think about young women and gender, about structural inequalities and the impact of these on young women; and that resources, time and energy are required to truly meet the needs of young women.

I enjoyed reading this article on the fourth wave of feminism last week  I hope this social action will form part of a culture shift where people think hard and well about gender identity and structural inequalities as part of our work to build resilience and well being, and to help all young people shoot for their dreams.

3. Body image
Last week Jo Swinson MP held a round table event on body image.  We have heard a lot about online pornography and sexualisation in recent months. I have had numerous conversations with colleagues about both issues.  As you would expect people have different perspectives about the potential harm that may be caused by easy access to the internet, pornography and sexualisation of the young. 

As I listened to people at the round table it brought it home to me that do need to be talking about and paying particular and more attention to how we support young women and young men to develop a positive body image against a backdrop of 24 hour access to the internet and social media. How we feel about our bodies impacts on our self confidence, self belief, what we believe we are capable of and what we can expect.

Coming out of the round table one of my work 2014 resolutions is to find out more about the evidence, and more about the work of organisations like Beat, and Body Gossip to see what and how Brook may be able to do to build on our existing work in this area as part of sex and relationships education, and how we can work collaboratively with other organisations to ensure we are doing the best for all young people. 

4. Different world views

I went to Marrakech a few days after the Office of the Children's Commissioner report on Child Sexual Exploitation (read it here) for a friends 50th birthday (best DJ ever).  With consent high on my mind you can imagine how unpleasant it was being in a discussion on the Sunday morning with a local man and a slightly fuzzy head about how gay people would go to hell, how alcohol made men rape women, and how the weirdest thing ever was men who wanted to be women.

It was very clearly one of those discussions in which neither of our minds were going to be changed. I brought the conversation to a close with a swift 'in my view you are very definitely wrong for a number of reasons and I cannot talk about this with you anymore.'

This combined with India's ruling this week about gay people, Australia's U turn on equal marriage remind us how much there is to do not just in the UK, but also across the world.  Chris Bryant MP wrote a great article in the Independent about making sure each and everyone of us keeps the pressure for a fairer, better world on.  Read it here

This will likely be my last blog before the holidays start to kick in. I, like I am sure most others, am looking forward to a bit of down time over the holiday period.  Whatever you are doing - opening Brook or other health and community services for young people, resting in front of the fire, sleeping and watching crap TV for a week - I hope you have a good time and some down time with people you enjoy. 

I will be writing my traditional 'how did sexual health fare in the past year' blog in front of a wood fire in Cornwall on NYE. As one colleague said about this year 'its not all sunshines and lollipops'.  That may be true Polly Toynbee's excellent article about the impact of the teenage pregnancy strategy in both reducing teenage pregnancy, and supporting young people to be good parents published yesterday is definitely a good reminder there are some lollipops and we mustn't let go of them. You can read it here - Happy holidays!

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