All that you leave behind

1 May

I’ve been finalising some pieces of work for my old employer, including the launch of their forthcoming evaluation. There’s lots in there, but the bit that has resonated with me over the last few days has been about the ‘ripple effect’ that individuals can have (in this case, social entrepreneurs): inspiring others, passing on experience + expertise, mobilising volunteers, employing locally and so on. Much of which is difficult to quantify, but extremely valuable.

Having been at one organisation for a long time, it’s also inevitable to think about my own personal impact there: projects overseen; strategies implemented; contributions made. There’s also a flipside with the life of the freelancer, who usually drops in to an organisation or project, makes a contribution, then leaves and moves on to the next thing. Is the contribution constructive, useful, implemented, practical? Does it move the project forward? Or, to put it another way, the question on both counts is “What did I leave behind?”

Which is why it was a pleasure to get a package through the post this week which took me back to the first organisation I’d ever worked at. I worked with a phenomenal social entrepreneur called Nicholas Albery. He started too many initiatives for me to list here; suffice to say it encompassed everything from learning poetry by heart to declaring a part of West London independent from the UK to ecologically-friendly funerals. One of the myriad things he started was a walking club, which was connected to a book he authored: the Time Out Book of Country Walks. You could do one of the 52 walks whenever you wanted, but if you did them on a particular weekend (according to the rota in the book), you would find yourself with the self-organised walking club.

It was (and is) a brilliant idea, combining many of Nicholas’ loves: walking, nature, health, community, togetherness. The strength of the idea is best illustrated by what happened when Nicholas tragically died in 2001. Members of the Walking Club he created wrote a new book of walks in his honour; I negotiated and co-ordinated with Time Out, drew the maps (!) and edited / proofed their excellent text…and this was ultimately printed as the Time Out Book of Country Walks vol. 2. A great testament to Nicholas, and a fitting tribute from the people he’d inspired and brought together.

Both the walking books have just been reprinted (all the proceeds from both still go to support charities that Nicholas set up), and those involved were kind enough to send me a couple of complimentary copies. They’ve been improved and updated (still by the members of the walking club, working with Time Out), and it was great to see that they are still going, still providing thousands of people with enjoyment each year, and still raising thousands of pounds for charity as well.

What an amazing legacy Nicholas left behind: the Walking Club + books are just one example…and he is an example too. I’d be happy to leave even a hundredth of the impact he did in the things I do.

2 Responses to “All that you leave behind”

  1. Noel May 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Really insightful post Nick. It is challenging to quantify personal impact, not just for similar reasons to quantifying social impact, but because it’s about what people think of you – you can’t hide behind a project or job title, it’s much more visceral.

    But often people never know, would Nicholas have know the personal impact his walking clubs had on specific people’s lives? Unless he went walking on all of those tours, it would be difficult to, but those people may able to describe the impact better than he could, and indirectly they did with the walking club guide they produced.

    The post you’ve written about Nicholas is an example of you describing the personal impact he had on you. Of course, the projects he set up and initiated all had wider social impacts, but I wonder if the story you tell about him is subconsciously remembering what aspects of his work inspired you to do what you do in supporting social enterpeneurs?

  2. nicktemple1 May 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Thanks Noel – you may well be right. He was certainly an inspiring person to be around, albeit with all the flaws you get in a genuine English eccentric. I think you’re right about the personal impact too: actually the key to achieving it is probably not to focus on it / set out to achieve it :0)

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