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A safe space to get to know others and better understand yourself

Blog by Annie Edwards, Project Manager at Young Women's Worker

I’ve been asked to write a blog about my experience on the Clore Social Emerging Leader: Women and Girls Sector Programme – my limit is 700 words, but I’m not sure I can write the word “AMAZING!” 700 times over, so I’ll try and break down my experience a little more for you.

I originally applied for the programme because a colleague from a partner organisation to mine encouraged me to go for it, and I couldn’t think of a reason not to. I’ve always been passionate about women and girls’ rights and ensuring equal opportunities. This has been a common thread for me in my work and studies; at university I studied Theology and had a deep interest in feminist theology and the place women can and should have within faith communities and traditions. I’ve been working for my current organisation, Canaan Project, for three and a half years – we offer girls-only provision in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, collaborating with schools and community partners because we want to see young women flourish.

'I was sitting in a room with the upcoming female leaders of our sector – and I was considered to be one of them.'

I looked at the application form and was pretty confident that I wouldn’t be accepted onto the programme. I was hopeful that I would be, as any opportunity to develop (and be pampered in the process!) is something I always enjoy. It remained a genuine surprise, however, when I was accepted onto the programme – mostly because of the calibre of the other women who had also been accepted. I’m a big believer in Imposter Syndrome, and on the first residential (we were spoilt with two residentials – the food and the venue were simply amazing. Nothing like a bit of TLC to make you feel like a leader!) we were introduced to each other and our work and I was just amazed. I was sitting in a room with the upcoming female leaders of our sector – and I was considered to be one of them.

The best thing about the programme was the consistent underlying determination of the Clore Social team to ensure that we left the residentials, the coaching sessions, the secondments and the online learning sessions believing that we were brilliant and we still are today.

Clore Social created a safe space for me to be honest and open about where I fell short in my leadership style, and celebrated with me when I felt I’d made a change or grown in those areas.

'My biggest challenge as a leader has always been my confidence, and Clore Social helped me to find bucket-loads – mostly within myself.'

My biggest challenge as a leader has always been my confidence, and Clore Social helped me to find bucket-loads – mostly within myself. My ongoing relationship with Imposter Syndrome was challenged when other women in the group shared that they felt the same – I wasn’t the only one after all! – and that together we could support one another out of that head-space because it turns out it was never true really.

One of my favourite things about Clore was the coaching sessions. I’ve always been a much better talker than a listener, but I’ve not always been brilliant at listening to myself. Coaching helped me to do this so much better, and it’s enabled me to become a better leader because I can communicate my limits, my strengths and my still-celebrated areas of weakness much better. Honesty and integrity are so important to me as a leader, and Clore Social has taught me that a part of that process is to learn to be honest with yourself.

Life doesn’t stop when you become a leader – if anything, it can sometimes make life a bit trickier for a while. But thankfully, I’m still in touch with my wonderful co-Clorers and we continue to support and challenge each other to keep leading the way that only we can.

Clore Social is more than just a course; it’s a community and safe space to get to know others, and yourself, and love both much better.

Clore Social is more than just a course; it’s a community and safe space to get to know others, and yourself, and love both much better. If you’re not sure whether to apply, or you don’t have a colleague pushing you to do so – then let me: GO FOR IT, GIRL!

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