Last week, I took the plunge and ‘got out there’. By that I mean I went to a networking event / story-telling workshop….
Was I looking for potential clients? Well, if I met someone who wanted my services - fantastic! But more than that I wanted to connect with people making the world a better place and get an insight into the struggles they face.
To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure I was supposed to be there because it was for social enterprises but I thought, what’s the worst that could happen - I get some funny looks and feel a bit cringey. It wouldn’t be the end of the world.
But, as you can imagine, everyone was really welcoming and completely understood why I was there - I was there to meet people and learn, just like them.
All the people I met had incredible stories of what they are doing within their organisation or the projects they hope to make a reality. I don’t think I met a single person who was tackling the same issue (from fitness classes for the homeless to increasing diversity in the magazine industry) and all of them are creating practical solutions or working towards them.
During the workshop we were being taken through steps to analyse and convey a story so that we can resonate with an audience, instilling a sense of urgency and encouraging them to take action. Incredibly useful for my client-work and for taking into my own brand story.
Most importantly, I found the reflective questions we were asked and the conversations I had refocussed my mind in three ways.
One, even thought I started out introducing myself vaguely as a graphic designer interested in working with social enterprises, by the end of the workshop I was talking about my specific passion - mental health. It’s not one moment that has lead to this - it’s the relationships, experiences and conversations in my life. It’s the fact that the ‘one in four of us will experience mental health struggles at some point in our lives’ just doesn’t ring true to me. It’s more, so many more than that, it’s four out of four - be it mild, temporary or life-long so we need to tackle it together.
Two, what I believe to be true was validated - if you talk about mental health, people open up. It may not be about their mental health, it may be a member of their family or a friend but most people have been touched by mental illness/struggles and it helps to talk.
Three, I was reminded specifically of another truth that I, like so many, know but easily forget. Those who support people with mental health problems, also need to be supported. Whether this is practical advice about what to say/not to say, education about a condition so they know what their loved one is feeling, or regularly checking in to make sure they are looking after their own mental health.
All in all, this event helped me get out from within the usual four walls - physically and metaphorically. If you'd like to know more about it, I'd be happy to chat about it and share what I learned and the resources we were given.
Today, more than ever, it seems that people want to feel they are buying from or using the services of people that share their values. We are conscious that behind every product or service there is a supply chain, there are people.
What we wear and what we eat etc. is not just about what we like or what we can afford, it’s a reflection of what we care about. Why would some people rather buy a painting directly from an artist they have met face to face rather than something mass produced? Because they want to support local artists, they want something unique that reflects their tastes, they want to know the source but mostly they want a connection with what they buy.
Do we always strive for that as often as we should, I certainly don’t, but the easier we make it for people to find organisations that share their values, the easier this will become and hopefully we will encourage all companies to move in the right direction. We are already seeing some moves towards large companies reflecting the good intentions in society. There are so many wonderful people making a positive difference whether it's creating ethical, sustainable products or keeping a community alive by providing a place for people to meet, talk and laugh together. Some changes might seem small like changing the paper used in packaging to recycled or sustainably sourced paper but these incremental changes multiply and make huge impacts.
Here's to the small companies choosing to make big positive changes through little actions.