My Dear Time to Shiners, Class of 2016,
What a year we’ve had! From that trepidatious first encounter in the bitter month of January up in Morecambe, to the serenity of Lake Windermere and finally on to the buzzing and blustery city of Blackpool (it’s a wonder people only chose to sample the night life of the first of these three and not the last), our tour of the ‘Hotels of the North’ is complete.
Over the past nine months we have all had the opportunity to engage with a sector of society that strives to support marginalised people. From film making and fundraising, to events management, being the ‘Jack of all trades’ and the start of a hopefully illustrious career as a chimney sweeper! We have, thanks to the Time to Shine Programme, each contributed to the important work that our organisations undertake on a daily basis.
This last conference in Blackpool brought our Time to Shine programme to a close in the best possible way. By gathering together the whole Rank Foundation family we were able to meet with the people who make up the Rank network (now helpfully available online through their new initiative RankNet). At the conference we: received mentor training; learned, through our respective showcases, more about the work that the Time to Shine programme has enabled each of us to do; attended informative workshops which gave us further insight into matters of importance to the social sector such as fundraising, pitching, and social media to name a few; and we met some of the inspiring people from across this country who are driving social change and championing a vision of Britain that puts mutual understanding and support before self-interest and disunity.
At the heart of this vision of Britain is empathy. Empathy is the driving force of the social sector. It is certainly the reason I applied for Red Balloon; the reason I have, at times, worked late into the night; the reason I fill in fundraising application after fundraising application after fundraising application. As we watch the run-up to the US elections, a race that has been marked by its distinct unempathetic rhetoric, I thought I would turn to the thoughts of the incumbent President, Barack Obama. In the chapter entitled Values in Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope, he mentions the importance of empathy in today’s world. There is a line that I think resonates particularly well with my experiences in the social sector. Obama writes, ‘Talk is cheap; like any value, empathy must be acted upon.’ Taking action is key to the work we do and the purpose of each organisation. As Siobhan said in our mentoring session, it is no wonder that there are so many ‘Activists’ amongst us! And based on what I have heard from everyone about their year, we have all been very busy getting stuck in, organizing events, activities etc.
But, alas, all good things come to an end and so must our journey as ‘Time to Shiners’. It has been a fantastic year and, like I said last Thursday night, one that I shall not forget. Thank you to each and every intern for being brilliant and a barrel of laughs (see you at Blackpool next year for T2S 2K16 reunion?); thank you to the Rank Foundation (in particular Helen and Caroline) for your tireless work and support throughout the year; and thank you to the line managers for initiating us so well into this world.
As we all move on either to pastures new or to a permanent position in our respective organisations, I should like to leave you with a quote from ‘Little Gidding’, one of four poems comprising T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
Whilst this year of the Time to Shine Programme is over, we now pass the baton on to the next crop of ‘Time to Shiners’ who will bring, in another voice, new and innovative ideas that will support their organisations, enabling them to address and fill development gaps, and have a fantastic time doing it.
We, my friends, are the future of the social sector. We are the leaders who, thanks to this year, will be able to carry forward what we have learned and ensure that, wherever we end up, the disadvantaged people whom we have supported this year will always have their voices heard. The Rank Foundation has supported us thus far; now it is up to us.
Alex Peter (Time to Shine Intern, 2016)