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Jenny Ruth O'Hara-Jakeway

Jenny Ruth O'Hara-Jakeway

Type of Fellowship: Specialist
Year of Fellowship: 2015

Social Justice Fellow (Paul Hamlyn Foundation)

How have the first few months of the Fellowship been for you, Jenny?

Already everything I have learned has had a huge impact on my approaches within my organisation. I can't quite do justice to the magical combination of workshops, coaching, action learning and research preparation. I have a long way to go but the impact seems instant.

I hope the learning curve continues to be as steep. It is great to learn that you don't have to be superhuman to support social change - we just need to tap into the skills around us.

What has been your greatest challenge?

My greatest challenge was leaving my son to go on the residential. However, having done it, I now know it is possible to do occasionally without having an adverse effect on him! Skype was a huge help.

Leaving the Rhondda has bothered me a lot. (Jenny and her family moved at the start of the Fellowship so she could take up a new role as CEO of Powys Carers' Service). I felt it was my vocation to work on social justice in the Valleys and that I was betraying that to pursue work with Carers in Mid Wales. However, I think I have got my head around it now, thanks to a conversation with Liz and Ralph, and I am super excited and feeling guilt free about my new role and working on rural poverty and carers issues.

How has your leadership had an impact on those you work with?

Following the 360 degree review and coaching session afterwards, I decided to email every team member at the Powys Carers' Service before I started to ask for their top three wishes for the organisation. This gave me a great insight before I started and enabled me to start as I mean to go on in terms of listening.

Applying the Four Seasons model has been so useful in my interactions with others as well as explaining to others what to expect and not to expect from me. I have very different personalities in my Senior Management team and I’m now much more able to make everyone feel valued and accepted for who they are. At our recent team away day we ran an introduction to Action Learning, a Four Seasons workshop and Thinking Environment sessions. The feedback was great!

In what ways you are a better leader now than at the start of the Fellowship?

Of all the sessions at our first residential, Eve Poole’s had the most influence on me. The whole ‘keeping the batteries charged’ idea has made me really try to prioritise well being for me and my team. I now keep saying to people, ‘Do what it takes to keep your batteries charged; we need you.’ And Eve’s recommendation to ‘do small things beautifully’ has made me pay much more attention to the details of my work.

Tell us about an important lesson you’ve learnt so far during the Fellowship.

Listen - REALLY, REALLY listen and get good at it - because everyone has gems of wisdom to share. Having said that I still talk too much, but I am practicing listening more

How have you been inspired by your fellow Fellows?

There have been countless ways already. Claire and Emma’s reflections on inequality and climate change really crystallised my determination to find ways of deepening democracy and unlocking the latent potential of people experiencing social injustice. My Action Learning Set have helped me think through my approach to listening, co-designing and co-producing with much more clarity and have given me confidence.

How would you sum it all up so far?

It has exceeded my high expectations. The Fellowship has made me realise it is possible that by tapping into the collective talents around us we can make poverty history and live more sustainably. It’s not just a dream after all.


Twitter: @JennyJakeway

Current principal role: CEO
Current principal organisation: Powys Carer's Service
Other leadership role 1: Director
Other organisation 1: Co-production Wales

Research: The use of co-production methods to reduce educational inequalities for young carers
Research topics: Community development;

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