14 October 2022

I’ve been working with the Feltham Convening Partnership for over six months now and getting the opportunity to attend the Strive Conference in Chicago made me reflect on what led me to apply to work with the Feltham Convening Partnership in the first place. Why am I so invested in this work? At first, I thought it was because I wanted a job that made me feel good, that made me feel that I was making a difference. Then I thought that maybe it was the place but I didn’t grow up in Feltham, nor do I live here but it’s not about me or the place, it’s about each child and young person that this work will impact. It’s about making a difference to their lives not because of my own self-interest but because I deeply care for each individual child and young person. Growing up I’ve always had this innate ability to listen deeply and empathise but sometimes this isn’t enough and the actions that this partnership is taking to re-engineer systems will bring about sustainable, long term change to ensure that every baby, child and young person in Feltham lives a life of choice and opportunity. 

“Systems are made up of people''. This was a quote from the start of the Strive Conference that has stuck with me since. We are working hard to restructure the system in Feltham but sometimes the system can feel abstract and intangible forgetting that working within these systems are people. It made me reflect on the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships with community members and individuals across sectors who work within this system. The only way the FCP can create sustainable change is through empowering people to work in a different way by building relationships. Building relationships is the answer to so many of the challenges that we encounter in this work. For instance, one challenge that was shared across groups at the conference was getting institutions to share information so we as a collaborative can make decisions based on evidence. To build trust, first we need to form a relationship. 

It also made me reflect on the importance of having difficult conversations, something that I know I need to work on. Again, I’m back to the quote “systems are made up of people” and we the people are all unique with different views and our opinions are not always going to align. However, part of this work is about finding that common interest to form that relationship to have that difficult conversation. Without having the difficult conversation it's near impossible to change mindsets, policies and practices to restructure systems within our community. 

During the three days, it was uplifting to hear that the work that we are focusing on in Feltham is also taking place in the US. On the other hand, it was comforting to hear that many of the challenges that we are facing in our systems change work are shared with others doing similar work. It’s not often that you get an extended opportunity to take a step back and consider how the partnership is progressing and this conference gave me exactly that. Moving forward, I feel energised and positive about the year ahead. Many exciting things are happening; activities co-created by the working groups are being piloted across schools in Feltham, we are beginning to involve community members in the evaluation of the partnership and are increasingly engaging more stakeholders in our work. We as part of the Planning Team should be proud that we are moving in the right direction! I guarantee we will encounter many new challenges along the road but I am confident that the people within this partnership have the power to overcome them.


Eimear North