Family is good. Yes, we can all agree on that- but is it good to operate with a spirit of family in business? My views on why the Kids Company – a sizeable youth charity in the UK – fell apart.

Camila Batmanghelidjh - Kids Company Founder

Having watched the BBC documentary ‘Camila’s Kids Company- The Inside Story’ the answer is clear in my mind. The spirit of family is good – especially as a long-time youth sector supporter and social entrepreneur, I admire the ethos Camila Batmanghelidjh had, which was to see others as her own. However, in practice, the spirit of ‘family’ needs to be differentiated from the running of a business.

But what do you do when you’re so deep in the sentiment and feeling of giving and too emotionally involved? Well, this is where the big flaw was. The demise of the Kids Company underlined the importance of co-leadership (in whatever role and however structured) of someone who is emotionally tied to the mission and drives it with passion, and someone whose role it is to oversee the running of the business, the figures and finances and importantly accountable governance.

Watching the documentary, Camila reminded me of a bitter ex-wife. The ex-wife who doesn’t feel the new wife as fit enough to run her home and look after her kids. She was simply too emotionally involved to run the business side of things the way it needed to. In a way, I truly admire her strength and drive. She really was a woman on a mission- she had skills and assets which the charity almost couldn’t do without, but she was perhaps in the wrong role, and had she allowed someone in to run the business and instead focused on liaising with the community and ensuring that delivery on the ground was sufficient – the charity would have probably survived.

The thing which made me very uncomfortable was how dependent the service users were. There’s no doubt that Kids Company made a substantial difference to people’s lives. That was clear. However, I don’t think it a mark of success that people cry out your name in need- because that means you haven’t empowered them or helped them develop their skills to survive- you’ve simply empowered yourself to help- a help, they’ll always depend on. A help which without they’d drown. That’s dangerous. At InspirEngage International, we always instil a sense of social and personal responsibility in the individuals we train and work with. Otherwise, we’d be doing a disservice to them.

As a former Chair of The Board of Trustees at UK Youth Parliament, I was always conscious of the legal and financial responsibility I held. Something must also be said for their role in this.

When all is said & done- the demand & need in community is what should be highlighted. There’s work to be done.

Tweet me your thoughts @Melody_Hossaini.

Melody

 


Ballerina? World-leader? Cowboy? Inventor? What did you want to be when you were little? This blog explains why going back to your childhood dreams, could make your career more fulfilling today.

Remember when you used to say the sentence ‘When I grow up I want to be a…’ and it was so easy to commit to an ambitious dream. Not because it seemed unrealistic or so far away but because as children our thoughts are bolder and free of complexities that also create barriers. Those early dreams are more important than you think. Here’s why.

When I was 8 years old, I was obsessed with being a clothes designer (I couldn’t even spell the word ‘designer’!). I remember walking to my local library, sitting there for hours with old books about clothes and fashion through the centuries and sketch in my little sketch book until the library closed. That same local library became something I kept connecting to my ambitions. A couple of years later aged 10, I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up. An inherent sense of wanting to make a difference through knowledge. A passion for social justice.

Aged 13, upon moving to England, I became a co-founder of a national democratic youth organisation working in the community (including with libraries!) to help improve the lives of children and young people. We lobbied, changed policies and even laws. Years later, I went to University and studied for a qualifying law degree. But upon graduating, I decided to ask Oxford Institute of Legal Practice (where I had a place to complete my LPC) to hold my place for the year, while I explored my passion in the sector I’d held since childhood. I never looked back.

I realised I was the child who needed to be out in the community, I was the child who couldn’t be bound by rigid lines- but a creative child who liked to innovate (drawing new designs), and fight for what’s right (lawyer). So I created a brand new thing. A social enterprise called InspirEngage International.

The dreams you held when you were a child, are some of the most daring dreams you’ll ever hold. It wasn’t because you wanted to hit your financial targets, it wasn’t because people forced you and you were caught in the flow of the system to be something, and it wasn’t out of fear, therefore settling. Those dreams reflected the purest part of you.

So what should you do now?

Research released by Foosle.

The point isn’t about going and pursuing whatever you wanted to be when you were 5! But sit down and reflect on why perhaps you were drawn to those things at that age- the notions behind it. When your mind allowed you to be daring and bold without limits- what did it choose? Then see whether you have incorporated those elements into your life in your career now… or are you 1 million miles away? Going back to my personal example, I feel that although I am not a clothes designer, nor a lawyer, I have incorporated the reasons I was drawn to them, into my career now.

According to research released today by job site Foosle, people don’t just measure job satisfaction against a salary. People want to enjoy the work every day (40%), have a feel-good factor (37%) and have passion for the role (34%). See picture.

So when it comes to entering a career you truly enjoy- think back to those things you enjoyed for the sake of enjoyment when you were young, and passions you held without reason and ask yourself whether there is room for this in your career now. Seems our childhood dreams- weren’t just dreams, but perhaps even a forecast of a side of us more reflective than our current reality.

And before you go- here’s something to make you chuckle!

This is a genuine picture drawn by a little girl depicting what she wants to be when she grows up! Followed by a very uncomfortable explanation by her mummy the next day!


Melody Hossaini. CEO, InspirEngage International.

We want to know what you wanted to be when you were little! Tweet us using #WhenIGrowUp @InspirEngage / @Melody_Hossaini

 

 

 

 

When I moved to England aged 13, I started a chapter which became the worst years of my life. Watching ‘Educating Yorkshire’ the other night, brought back so many memories. This blog outlines some of the things I went through and my advice to anyone who is currently being bullied.

Been watching a programme here in the UK called ‘Educating Yorkshire’ following stories and struggles of the students and teachers at a secondary school. By the end of it, I was feeling angry.

I was particularly intrigued by the story of a young, beautiful and articulate girl called Hadiqa. She grew up in other countries, moved around and spoke and acted very differently to the rest of the students. At one point, when asked about her perspective of a quote, which she was explaining so nicely, the other students laughed. There is NOTHING I hate more.

I always challenge any student in my training, who laughs at confidence, talent or passion. That laughter beats the confidence out of those who have it. We need to create a culture where we support & encourage people to speak up- venture their thoughts & show confidence. It’s weak to laugh at people. The real talent & confidence of a student with so much potential is otherwise overshadowed.

What made this quite personally moving for me, is how similar Hadiqa’s story is to my own. When I moved to England, I had lived in 4 different countries and spoke very differently, stood out and was bullied, all of which forced me to belittle myself.

UKYP: Me with the young people

The difference is, I REFUSED to be put in their box. Instead, aged 13, I looked outside the school, became co-founder of a youth organisation and kept myself busy. I remember standing up in assembly and presenting petitions to set up a UK-wide organisation (which later became UK Youth Parliament- pictured) and of course the students laughed.

My years at secondary school were HELL for me. I felt I was being held back. There were times I couldn’t breathe. I told myself it is a stepping-stone- ‘Melody, focus and get the grades you need then get out- you’re going to do bigger things’. In the meantime, I gave to my community (which later became my career incidentally). This fed my soul and kept me going.

They criticised everything from the way I stood to the way I carried my bag even the good grades I got. Everyone had to be the exact same to fit in, it seemed. I remember one girl, after getting our latest English homework back, said with a sneer “Melody, how the hell did you get an A in English- you’re not even English!”.

I remember a time when a group of girls tricked me into going somewhere to beat me up. We were in year 8 and had a school disco that night. Louise, one of the most popular girls, came up to me in one of the English lessons and said; “Melody- you’re coming to the disco aren’t you? Oh you have to- we want to clap when you dance!” Thought it really weird that she was being so nice. I later found out that she just wanted to make sure I was there, as one of her friends wanted to beat me up. Of course I still showed up and of course they never dared.

Being brought up in a Persian culture and having grown up in Sweden, has made me quite a straight forward person- I say what I mean and I deal with people directly. I remember one of the days in school- I walked up to a girl who I heard wanted to ‘get me’ because I’d been ‘slagging her off’. I happened to walk past her on her way into her Art class. I stopped her and said; “Lyndsay- I heard you were angry at me. I don’t recall saying anything to you or about you- what’s going on?’. She smiled and told me she had no idea- and was really nice to me. I walked away thinking, must’ve all been a misunderstanding.

That day, after school and on my way home, a gang of girls and boys (must’ve been about 6 of them) stopped me- all gathered around me and wanted to know why I had attacked Lyndsay. I remember standing my ground- I remember keeping my voice strong and my head held very high. Never showed fear. Of course, when I got home that day, it was a different story, as once again, I was reminded that I was going through hell.

It didn’t help that the school I went to was 100% white British. When I got there, people asked me whether in Iran, we had toilets.

Some people say these experiences fueled them to succeed. Not for me, although it hurt, it didn’t fuel me. That would be giving them power. I never wished them bad- and even now, so many years on, I have zero anger towards anyone.

Winning Woman of the Future Awards 2008

To be perfectly honest- going on BBC ‘The Apprentice’ felt like my high school years all over again. My awards (pictured) and achievements – which I didn’t even put myself up for, were laughed at and seemed like a joke or made-up. In reality those awards, those achievements were the results of years of hard work.

I never mentioned any of this before. I am untouched by it. I put it aside and continue my work with InspirEngage International like I’ve done since I was 13 years old.

So many students have a lot of potential – but it’s beaten out of them. They give in to trying to fit into people’s narrow boxes. THIS is why, I HATEEEE when people laugh at talent, passion or confidence. We need to change this.

These days I rarely think about that time of my life…. The times when I would cry almost every day, wishing for that chapter in my life to end. Watching ‘Educating Yorkshire’ sparked something in me and brought those feelings back. I am one of the fortunate ones though. Not every student who is bullied, is able to fight it and still be themselves in a world which is constantly trying to make you fit.

What upsets me though is the culture. THAT is the real issue may take years to put right but I am confident we will. As a professional speaker, I attend a lot of educational establishments and speak to students. I

Speaking to students

always remind them- it’s not big to laugh at people. Next time the kid with bright eyes and wild dreams shows you passion or talent- pat them on the back and say ‘that’s great mate- keep it up!’. This isn’t just true of the school playground, but also the workplace.

To those reading this, who are going through what I went through, or heaven forbid, even worse; remember, it’s just a phase. The behavior of a bully is a reflection of them, not you. Know who you are, be strong and do not compromise. Find something which you enjoy and fill your life with it. And finally- a lesson I learned 2 weeks into year 7 was; it’s better to be alone than compromising yourself just so you fit in. Because those boxes that they desperately force you to fit into, are not worth belonging to anyway.

The more horrible someone is to you- the nicer, you should be to the world. Don’t allow your sadness to become anger or resentment. Turn it into giving. Revenge is for those who still hold resentment and have a point to prove- let go of all that. Happiness is the greatest healer.

 

Thank you for reading this emotional and personal chapter. As always, you can tweet me @Melody_Hossaini.

For speaking enquiries: info@inspirEngage.com