From The Story of 2023

Graham:  So, what stood out for you all this year?

Shona:  For me it’s been about relationship building –  the strength of relationships that the team have built across the board, and the amount of skill in the team.

Victoria:  There’s been a real flavour of absolute dedication to the cause of bringing hope to people in all departments – back office, service delivery, shop, everywhere – despite our numbers going up and our income coming down.

Chris:  It was really special to get the NYA Quality Mark last year, and to see so much growth in youth clubs—not just in numbers but really developed cohorts with a sense of family, and the development in our youthworkers. For Illuminate, a particular highlight was the ‘Into the Wild’ weekend, where lots of young people grew in their faith.

Graham:  Our struggle for funding this year underlies everything, but that’s not stopped people on the front line doing their stuff brilliantly, with amazing staff loyalty and remarkably low turnover. A year ago we’d just launched The Keys – our blueprint for the culture of The Door.  This year we’ve been working on embedding them so that they’re woven into all we do and not just words on paper. 

Victoria:  That’s a standout piece for me – it’s been a master class in embedding culture front and centre through the year in everything we do, and it’s outstanding how everybody’s embraced it. And I think it’s kickstarted that culture of learning – the sense that we’re ‘never quite there’, but we’re on this journey of constant reflection on how we could do this better.  And I’m particularly excited about our new Senior Management team, and the reflective collective leadership we bring, looking to serve this organisation in the best way we can.

Graham:  How have you found the challenge of coping with a huge increase in demand within the limitations of static financial and human resources?

Shona:  For us I think it’s about the passion and commitment within the team.  In previous years we would have closed referrals, but we keep making a conscious decision to keep them open.  It helps us to see what the need is, and potentially signpost, support and hold people while they’re waiting.  Managing the waiting lists and triaging has been a key feature this year.  It’s back to relationship building, so that people waiting know that they’ve not been forgotten and that they matter.

Chris:  The goodwill of people outside the team supporting us has helped, but for me the best way to face that challenge is simply prayer.  I believe that God speaks through resourcing – where resourcing is abundant, that’s where he leads us.

Victoria:  We have to stay on mission and say ‘no’ to some things, but there’s now an assuredness of who we are, and we know our value.  We’re an intrinsic part of the response for young people, and not just in the Stroud  District.  People across the county know who The Door are and hold us in the highest esteem.

Chris:  We’re confident in our competence, but we’re only one attitude shift away from being overconfident, or confidently incompetent, so it’s really important to keep that self-reflective attitude.  Even if we’re hitting the spot right now, in 12 months time that will have moved, and are we going to move with it?

This year our youthwork commissioners have shown just how much they value what we deliver by meeting us  where they possibly could in resourcing.  As in Intensive Support, the passion of the team is paramount, driving us to high standards, but it’s also important that we’re providing the means for staff to keep some boundaries and look after themselves and each other.

Shona:  Self-care isn’t selfish.  It’s about making sure that people get the best of you, not the rest of you. 

Victoria:  I’d like to put in a word on collaboration.  As well as the Gloucestershire Mentoring Programme we now have a collaboration with The Churn, and with Cotswold Counselling. Successful collaboration comes when both parties are assured, not competitive, and able to be vulnerable.  And as we have been, our collaborators have been looking to us to lead.  I don’t think that’s an accident.

Graham:  Internally too, our Youthwork and Intensive Support teams have strengthened their collaboration and made time to meet.

Shona:  We cross over with so many of the young people that we support – they ‘weave’ through our services, so it’s really important that we learn from each other about them, to make sure we get the support right.  I’m particularly excited about the Digital Youthwork launch, as it’s another way that our services can weave together, especially with young people on the waiting list for support.

Graham:  So what do you think are the greatest challenges going forward?

Shona:  Volunteers, please!  We have an incredible team of highly-trained, highly-skilled volunteers who are really committed.  We also have growing waiting lists particularly in Dursley and Cirencester, so if I could magic up 60 more trained volunteers that would be truly wonderful.  In previous years we’ve done 2 training courses – this year we’ve done 4 and trained over 40 volunteers.

Chris: And there’s a challenge with how illuminate goes forward with volunteers and resources.  Are people  praying for us?  I’m not so sure there’s a culture of prayer for young people in churches in Stroud District – I’d like to see that shift in the year ahead.

illustrations by “Rhi” (Young Person)

Read more from our annual report in The Story of 2023

In conversation with the Senior Management Team

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