Un

What if the world is waiting for us to step up? Katie McSherry writes about thinking big and differently as social leaders

I want to change the world. I came to Clore Social looking to learn with and from others about how to have a greater impact - and to lead where previously I’ve found myself much happier following others. The results have astounded me.

Within six weeks of starting the programme, I was offered a new job, setting up the campaigns arm of an organisation working to tackle inequality experienced by children and families in the North East of England. Having always been part of a team of campaigners, working together on clearly defined campaigns, it was a leap. Knowing that through Clore Social, I would be part of a community who would support me, and who I could crowd-source ideas from, hugely encouraged me to jump in wholeheartedly.

For me, one of the most powerful aspects of the programme was the Action Learning. This small group peer-coaching model pushed me to think bigger than I ever had before, speaking aloud dreams I had never put words to. What would I love to have achieved 20 years from now? What is stopping me doing that now?

In that room, in that two hour slot, I spoke for the first time about my dream to campaign on gender equality and support women in leadership - something I have long cared about but have no direct experience in. I started to think, what would be the most ambitious thing I could do? If I could do anything, what would I try? The answer came to me pretty fast: go to the UN to lobby for gender equality. It was a crazy thought, but I started asking around if anyone knew how I could do it as my secondment for the programme. It was a game - my game: ‘I wonder what I can make happen…?’

To my amazement, within days, someone came back with an invitation for me to be part of the UN Women UK delegation going to the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. It was the answer to a prayer.

But two weeks in New York looked prohibitively expensive, so my next dream was to secure funding to go. Numerous people told me that no-one would fund me and that it was too short notice. But it was part of my game, so I played, spurred on by what I had already made possible. A few weeks of phone calls and emails later, a foundation agreed to fund me. And so, it is happening. I fly out on the 9th March, fully funded to shadow UN Women UK at the UN.

The momentum has taken over me. I’ve gone from shadowing one senior delegate at UN Women, to being central to the team.

The momentum has taken over me. I’ve gone from shadowing one senior delegate at UN Women, to being central to the team, speaking on panels and writing blog posts.

When I put my application together last summer, I never imagined this is where I would be now.

Fundamentally, this process has shifted the way I see the world. What if the world is waiting for us to step up? What if the biggest barrier is ourselves - our limited thinking, our fear of failure, our reluctance to ask for what we really want? When we are given space to step outside of our day to day constraints, surrounded by others who see us as leaders, we have permission to think big and think differently.

The issues facing society and the planet are epic. Many of us feel like we don’t know enough or aren't experienced enough to lead change on these issues. Yet, I call on each one of us to remember that no one has yet ended poverty, created equality or worked out how to live in harmony with the earth. There is no known right way to address these issues (at least that has been successfully implemented!). There is only learning by doing, together, collaboratively, with permission to fail, learn and try again - driven by the motivation for change.

What if the biggest barrier is ourselves - our limited thinking, our fear of failure, our reluctance to ask for what we really want?

Social issues facing humanity, therefore, require an iterative process of ongoing learning by doing, with leaders able to support one another to reflect and keep going. Clore Social Leadership’s Emerging Leader Programme is a community that sees each one of us as our potential, as the leaders of social change in a world desperate for action. It offers a unique space to learn about ourselves and how we can impact others, alongside other inspiring professionals committed to playing bigger to change the world.

My next dream is to take young women from the North East to the UN to share their experiences of inequality with decision makers directly. Who knows if it will be possible. But it seems like a good game to play for!

Katie McSherry is a campaigner on UK social policy, based in the North East. She has worked on welfare, housing, healthcare, childcare and the asylum system. She currently manages campaigns for Children North East and previously worked for Asylum Matters, Save the Children and on the Board of Directors for Amnesty International UK. @katiemcsherry

Related items

Close
Close
Fill 1Fill 1Learn Do Reflect ShareFacebookui-chevron-nextui-chevron-prevTwitter