Five Years, Five Lessons

Five Years, Five Lessons

April 25, 2019

When I joined UpRising as a Programme Coordinator in Birmingham five and a half years ago, I could never have imagined the growth we’d experience, the incredible participants I’d meet, the friends I’d make or the opportunities that would come my way.

Now, half a decade older and hopefully a little bit wiser, I’ve been reflecting on an amazing journey and some of the things I’ve learnt along the way. Here are a few simple rules I’ve tried to follow and that might be helpful people in the position I was fortunate enough to be in five years ago. They might seem obvious, but when you’re caught up in programme delivery, budgets or HR it’s easy to forget the bigger picture.

Listen to the young people, to the team, to yourself. Most of what I’ve learnt has been from hearing what others have to say, asking (stupid) questions and being open to new ideas. Participants have shared their life experiences, discussed religious beliefs, and taught me pop culture... their openness has made me a better person with a greater understanding of the world around me. The delivery teams almost always have solutions to problems and are the best placed people to respond to participant needs: trust them to make the decisions and changes they know will deliver the best experience for our young people. I’ve also learnt to listen to myself and trust my instincts – and the times I didn’t things generally didn’t go quite to plan!

Ask for help. No-one has all the answers and it’s easy, especially early in your career, to feel worried about asking for help or admitting you’re struggling. Now I realise it takes confidence to say when things aren’t going to plan. No matter your seniority, people want to help and two heads are better than one. This is especially true as a manager – knowing things aren’t on track in plenty of time is much easier to support than a last minute panic!

Be honest. UpRising have amazing supporters and funders who make our work possible. When I first moved into the Head of National Programmes & Grants role a couple of years ago, I was nervous about telling our funders if we’d struggled to meet a target – but a bit of bravery later, I realised that the more open we were, the more we could learn together (and often they have some great suggestions). Sometimes we’ve tried new things and they haven’t worked, but that learning and openness has led to something even better. Treating our funders as supporters, not assessors, has made my job so much easier and built strong, trusting relationships.

Celebrate the successes! Whether it’s a participant getting a job, a team member delivering a great session or a funding win, sharing the good stuff is so important – especially in a dispersed and often stretched team. UpRising’s ‘Friday Feels’ updates put a smile on everyone’s face and remind us why we’re here. I hope these updates become more regular and that the ‘well dones’ can be shared beyond the internal team – everyone deserves a pat on the back sometimes!

Say thank you and show appreciation. Whether it’s to young people for their participation, staff for their dedication or to supporters. An email or social media shout out is great, but sometimes a post-it note left on someone’s desk or a handwritten card in the post works wonders for relationship building. My desk is surrounded by thank you notes in various forms, and they really do make me smile.


At the start of 2014 I joined an organisation of about 10 people that had just become an independent charity. Now, we’ve doubled in size and last year celebrated our tenth birthday. So thank you to everyone that made that possible.

Thank you to the participants on the first programme I delivered five years ago and who are still in touch – thanks for being my guinea pigs and paving the way for those who followed. To our national and local stakeholders, especially those who’ve accidentally become my mentors – you are wonderful and so appreciated.

Finally, thank you to my UpRising family. You do amazing things every single day and really are making an impact on young people’s lives and futures. I’m proud to have been on this journey with you and am so excited to see what happens next.

Thanks for having me,

Lou x