Professionals who make a difference

July 2018 meetup summary

Photo by William White on Unsplash

Last week we hosted the third meetup of Professionals Who Make a Difference. The meetup group was started by Jonathan Khan. The mission:

We’re a group of professionals who believe that making a difference is more important than money or recognition. We want to use our skills to help those who are less fortunate. But there’s a problem: today’s workplaces aren’t set up to help people. Too many organisations have drifted away from their core purpose — to serve people, community, and the planet — so they prioritise profit and politics over meeting people’s needs. By making small, positive changes we can help our organisations to get back on track.

I went along to the second meetup. It wasn't your average networking event. There were speakers telling inspirational stories. They had all achieved great things, but they were relatable people too. By the end of the evening the group felt connected. It prompted me to take a good look at what I really wanted to do, which led to volunteering work and a fresh perspective on the definition of success. Allison and Kiran also attended, and the three of us independently volunteered to join Jonathan on the organising committee. We had several fun planning sessions leading up to the third meetup.

The meetup in full swing

The theme of the meeting was community in all its forms. Our evening started with three compelling speakers. They are all doing interesting projects to help people in different communities.

Kate Vang spoke about her move from a career in financial services to data science. Her story resonated with many. Climbing the career ladder and achieving success had given way to a desire to find intrinsic motivation. She found Datakind, an organisation who want to harness the power of data science in service of humanity (sign up to find out more here). This led to a fulfilling volunteering opportunity for Kate and gave her access to a diverse new community of people. Seeing how she could use her skills in a different way was a turning point in her change of career direction.

Niki Taigal spoke about her role as Volunteering Development Manager at the Wellcome Trust. She believes there is a volunteering opportunity for everyone and she shared how she helps hundreds of employees to find the right one for them. To do this, she created a framework. It maps the skills people can offer and what they want to learn. Then identifies the causes they care about in their own community and further afield. A key component is the unexpected element of volunteer work. The unpredictable moments can often be the most rewarding. Niki’s own work experience involves a mix of paid and volunteer projects. Building a portfolio career was another theme that resonated with many in the group. Niki offers a great example of how to make that work.

Floree Zama-Neagra is Development Manager at Koreo, the talent consultancy dedicated to social change. She spoke about her experiences setting up Good Women. Her idea was to set up an open network for women who are interested in social change. Many such events are focused on the business community, so she wanted to do something different. Her goal was to build an inclusive community with women from a mix of different backgrounds discussing topical issues. One of the formats is ‘soapbox’, an opportunity for anyone to stand up and speak for 3 minutes. This helps to get a diversity of perspectives. Floree grew the network from 400 to 3000 members and now regularly hosts 200 people at sold-out events.

The second half of the evening involved paired coaching. Lots of ideas were buzzing around, so we wanted to give people a chance to talk about them. Our coaching exercise focused on how everyone could make small steps towards making a difference in their own lives and careers.

Attendees found a partner and talked each other through identifying a goal they wanted to acheive. We thought about where we were currently in relation to the goal, and what was standing in the way. Then we discussed potential options, before arriving on a way forward. It’s powerful listening to someone outline their challenges. It’s also uplifting to hear that they already know the answer somewhere and helping them to vocalise it. We all left with our personalised notes and plans.

The organisers felt the meetup went very well. We’d love to hear feedback from anyone who attended (you can message us via Meetup). Please join the group if you’d like to be part of future events. We welcome more members of the organising team and ideas on how this growing community can support each other to make a difference.