Championing, celebrating and amplifying one another.
Day after day, I'm surrounded by brilliant people doing fantastic, thoughtful, effective work. As a freelancer, I'm super-conscious that networks, connections, and word of mouth recommendations are vital. It feels as though who you know can be as important as what you know when it comes to hearing about opportunities, being approached for collaborations, and winning work.
I'm often asked to write references or testimonials for those I've worked with, and just as often find myself in the position of asking for recommendations from others. Inevitably, these requests come with a bit of a disclaimer: "sorry to ask", "hope you don't mind", "I know it's a pain".
It strikes me that a recommendation, review or testimonial is one of the most valuable gifts we can offer each other - free to give, minimal hassle, and potentially priceless to the recipient. I know from the testimonials that people have written for me that they're hugely important in applications and (just as importantly), offer a really valuable insight into the impact of your work.
To lean into the value and potential of championing one another, I'm going to take a few minutes each day this July to write a short recommendation, testimonial or review for someone I've worked with. Some these people will be peers, friends, and long-time collaborators, some will be those I admire or have learned from, others at the beginning of their career with an exciting future ahead of them. I'm curious to see how a collection of 31 recommendations for brilliant people might help amplify the value of my network - helping people get to know and connect with one another. Along the way, I expect it'll expose patterns and gaps in my own connections, and hopefully help me connect with new people too. I also hope it'll challenge our hesitance about offering and asking one-another for recommendations, and help ingrain a habit of regularly and actively promoting the brilliant people around me. Let's get into the habit of championing, celebrating, recommending and amplifying one another.
I'll add to this list over the course of the month, or follow my Twitter profile for the project as it grows.
This July, I'm celebrating and recommending:
Lewis Hou. Founder of Science Ceilidh, Scotland Ambassador for Fun Palaces, and anti-racism campaigner with The Anti-Racist Educator and the EDI Advisory Group for Creative Scotland (amongst many other roles, awards and skills). Always a champion of community-rooted creativity, a generous collaborator and an absolute wizard at bringing people, ideas and projects together.
Rachael Brown. CEO of Creative Entrepreneurs Club, leader of all kinds of programmes to support social entrepreneurs, and passionate advocate for creativity, social business and ethical, effective leadership. The kind of person who say yes to ideas, then supports people to make them happen - celebrating and cheerleading others to be their absolute best.
Janie Meikle Bland. Photographer, facilitator, change-maker. Founder of Picture the Possible and instigator of Stirling Photography Festival. One of the most generous people I know when it comes to sharing her time, energy and expertise, and to knuckling down to make brilliant ideas into reality. A fantastic champion of young people - always puts her money where her mouth is when it comes to realising opportunities for others.
Naomi Ross. Co-founder of high end clothing rental company Sioda UK, a social business with environmental and ethical values at its heart. Naomi is an unbelievably passionate, dedicated person who’s worked tirelessly to create an ambitious business that's leading change in the market.
Huda Jawad. Muslim feminist, activist, campaigner, organiser. Huda’s work in anti-racist, feminist leadership - like everything she does - is done with thoughtfulness, intellect, passion and humour. One of the most impressive people I know.
Kath Warren. Programme Manager with Creative Edinburgh, and Host of Daily Dancing with Cultured Mongrel. Manages to combine being warm, generous, welcoming and kind with fiercely efficient competence. Gets great shit done, does it with a smile, and will dig you out of a hole every time.
Denisha Killoh. Activist & campaigner, National Childhood Bereavement Coordinator at Includem. Always the voice in the room calling for representation, tackling structural discrimination, asking questions, challenging easy answers. Along the way, playing an absolutely fundamental role in creating lasting change for women, the LGBT+ community, and those with experience of the care system. Awesome at Pictionary, too.
Cassandra Baron. You know when someone's found - and is absolutely nailing - their niche? Cass leads creative, nourishing, totally welcoming bookbinding workshops, and I can't think of anyone in the world who'd be better suited to doing so. Of all the people I know, Cass is the most likely to have a random connection with someone I bump into in an unlikely place, which inevitably leads to them saying "I did a bookbinding workshop with her… Isn't she brilliant?".
Blanche Ellis. Hot off the heels of an event we did together this week - Blanche was a dream to work with. Super smart, engaged and thoughtful, incredibly easy to work with, and created unbelievably stunning visual minutes that blew us away.
Sandy Thomson. Sandstorm of creative energy, ferocious champion of equality, boundary-pushing filmmaker at Squad Walk films, and soundbite-generating inspiration to many of us. Will challenge all your assumptions, and make you better for it.
Alison Forbes. Inadvertently inspired this whole thread. Does really smart, thoughtful work on web design and communications - asking astute and empathetic questions to help coax us toward telling our stories better.
Katey Warran and Laura Wright who, throughout Covid, have created and hosted the Social Cohesion in Social Isolation network. Their warmth and care has created a consistently interesting, supportive and nourishing space, where everyone is welcome.
Jean Cameron. Creates exciting, ambitious, large-scale projects that manage to take a huge community along with them, & make space for everyone. Jean's work creates ripples that keep making good things happen over the long term. Totally inspiring.
Morvern Cunningham. Founder of Leith Late and respected thinker, writer and do-er, Morvern is working to transform Edinburgh's cultural landscape. Thoughtful and seriously intelligent, putting people and communities at the heart of everything she does.
Emma Jayne Park of Cultured Mongrel. Of course! An absolute icon to many - championing radical inclusion, speaking up for others, speaking truth to power and challenging ingrained ideas of how things are done. Embeds her values at the heart of everything she does.
Lindsay Hammond of Yellowbird Digital. A passionate, enthusiastic and vibrant marketing whizz, packed full of energy and ideas. Writes a fascinating blog, full of knowledge and super-generous with her time and expertise.
Sue John of Glasgow Women's Library. Quietly getting on with doing the work of creating beautiful, thoughtful, inclusive spaces that recognise and celebrate women's history, and in doing so help shape the future. Principled, generous, kind.
Kat Radeva, of Two Destination Language. Kat's work with, by and for artists always follows a thoughtful, supportive, and genuinely collaborative process. A real inspiration when it comes to creating work with empathetic conversation at its heart.
Talat Yaqoob, Creator of Pass the Mic - an invaluable list of women of colour expert commentators for Scottish media. A really effective and deeply practical resource to widen the pool of voices we get to hear from on the issues of the day.
Lisa Kennedy. As founder of The Kennedy Cupcakes 1940s dance troupe, Lisa is a warm and super-likeable performer. As host of The Braw and The Brave podcast, she's channelled all that generosity, curiosity & enthusiasm into fascinating conversations about people and their passions.
Medeia Cohen, co-founder of Creative Entrepreneurs Club. Super-straight-talking, no bullshit-taking, fabulously frank champion of others and endless maker-of-good-things-happen. I recently heard her say "I'm expensive, but I'm fucking worth it". The woman we all need in our lives.
Samantha Barnes. A warm, generous and open-hearted artist, who moved her whole practice online during COVID to share friendly, accessible, welcoming creative sessions that made people feel better just by showing up.
Eirene Wallace. Intelligent, thoughtful filmmaker. Makes moving and really high quality films, which do an awesome job of telling stories in an accessible and engaging way. Lovely to work with, too.
Lou Brodie. Thoughtful, smart and perceptive, Lou asks brilliant questions that shape better events. Never hesitant to push for better representation, or to challenge where challenge is needed.
Miriam Attwood and the team at Storytelling PR. Wear their hearts on their sleeves and their values at the heart of their organisation. Wholehearted champions of those who deserve their voices heard more loudly.