This month I bid a fond farewell to my colleagues at Revolving Doors and friends in the sector. Goodbyes are always hard, but harder still when you are surrounded by such talent and inspiration. Leaving this team is one of the hardest professional decisions of my life – every day working with the staff team and the lived experience team is a joy, an inspiration and, usually, a laugh. I will miss it greatly. But as I leave, I am taking a few minutes to reflect on how my 5 years as CEO of Revolving Doors has been a journey of discovery.
I have discovered an abundance of hope by working with the amazing people in our lived experience forums who show us that change is possible and that lives can be turned around. They are a daily inspiration to me, and doubtless to the many people they interacted with. What struck me most is their boundless potential and bravery. Most start by offering their insights in our forums but build on this to become something else, co-campaigners, facilitators, researchers, service designers and, in some cases, service providers. I have watched many journeys where people persisted against barriers for year after year, with the sort of long-term resilience that few of us can achieve. I have drawn strength from the eternal optimism for a better system and a better world – and I have seen it modelled in the (informal) peer support and friendship offered in the lived experience groups.
Some of the days I have enjoyed most have been “truth to power” – watching Minister Edward Argar share a joke at our 25th celebration, seeing Minister Lucy Frazer give a graceful apology for the impact of HMCTS (mis)treatment of one of our members. The one I missed was the “elevator pitch”, at the start of our Short Sighted campaign. Two minutes with one of our lived experience members and the minister’s first tweets on the subject came within hours!
I have discovered that people think Revolving Doors is at least 3 or 4 times its size. When we had a staff team of 4, people thought we were 20; now we are 12, people assume we are at least 40. And this is due, I am sure, to the amazing level of impact that the team achieves. In the same year that we launched the Short Sighted campaign our research uncovered characteristics of the childhoods of those in the revolving door which lead to our New Generation Policing work. We partnered with 78 services, reaching the lives of 56,000 people. Our lived experience team spearheaded peer support in the NHS Health and Justice services, now a national reality. Our evidence contributed to a landmark High Court ruling and our research convinced Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service to not go entirely digital. 100% of our evaluation recommendations were taken up by clients and 62 organisations worked with us in our Forums - from the frontline, through to Police and Crime Commissioners and government decision-making. We changed the world. And that was just one year.
Of course that was all achieved by the lived experience members working with the staff and I have discovered the absolute joy of leading such an amazing group of people. Our biggest asset as a small organisation is always going to be the people we employ, and we have talent coming out of our ears. Fantastic researchers, top quality involvement and co-production experts, premium policy and public affairs geeks, and the best office manager you could ever hope for. The magic is the respect they have for each other’s expertise. We are at our best when we are all we are – lived experience, policy, research. We have recruited great people: that’s no surprise to me because I know the work we do is extraordinary and that means it attracts extraordinary people.
I have also discovered a lot about myself. The resilience of the lived experience members has led me to discover an inner strength I didn’t know I had. I have discovered new ways of working, with the ever-supportive Board. And the inspiring, talented, collaborative, funny and just-so-damned-nice staff team have allowed me to discover my favourite way to lead.
In this film we made together Lived Experience Forum members reflect on our impact and tell us why lived experience should be at the heart of policy and practice.
The policy team reflect on the impact of our #Shortsighted campaign.
Today we launch our five-year strategy, created by our dedicated staff and people with lived experience of the revolving door.