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Alison Seabrooke

What’s in the tin?

I am sometimes asked what I do for a living with an expectation that my response will comprise a simple word or two. I don’t, though, have an easily identifiable profession or job which says what it does on the tin, such as engineer, sales assistant, teacher. I have given up trying to create a meaningful soundbite – it was easier to agree with my kids’ assertion that I was a spy when I was a chief executive in a world of work they couldn’t quite understand. And now I am a consultant in several worlds of work, they still don’t understand so I might as well perpetuate this myth.

As I move between types of employment it has become more of a challenge to describe what I do within the word count limitations of a personal statement, or a list of CV deliverables. Following a helpful, reflective conversation with a respected recruiter, we concluded there was a possible way of doing this. For those who are interested and have the time to read on, this is how I would describe it.

Opening the tin

I imagine a single Venn diagram with three circles, one of each is named after my roles as either a chief executive, a trustee or a consultant. The intersection of the diagram – the interesting space in the centre – is the amalgamation of these experiences.

Expand this further and think of each of these roles with its own Venn diagram. As a chief executive the circles for this leadership role are titled vision, operations and delivery. As a trustee my duties are governance, strategy and compliance. As a consultant I bring a degree of independence, task focus and constructive challenge and assistance. None of these circles are mutually exclusive – there is a flow of skills and knowledge between each.

These descriptions have different interpretations or deeper skill requirements, too. For example, when it might be time to lead from the back, stepping aside to allow others to take initiative regardless of their role or perceived status, or where culture change is central to successful operations. The visualisation could be further extended to encompass personal attributes, but that is better described face-to-face.

Overlay these Venn diagrams – imagine the central point of each as the writing that runs through the stick of rock – and you might have a measure of what is inside the tin.

Looking beyond labels

I am fortunate in my title-less role that in my recent assignments clients have looked beyond a label, enabling me to apply a range of skills and experiences to the task in hand. The work has been both programmatic and operational, and the roles I have undertaken range from whole organisation, to an area of particular interest that requires analysis and direction. It has covered policy areas that couldn’t be further apart, for example health, social care and wellbeing as well as a community consent based approach to the disposal of radioactive waste. More recently, the ability to curate national data sets and combine this with local community development approaches has helped ensure both people and place are fully considered when setting out local priorities.

As I conclude two concurrent pieces of work I am alert to new opportunities that are either interesting or challenging and preferably both. If you think I might have something to offer, just don’t ask me to name my tin.

Ongoing and recently concluded work are summarised below as well as posts that reflect my experience and topics of interest.

I work on projects in a range of policy areas:

Sutton Coldfield Town Council
A review of the health and wellbeing needs of residents of Sutton Coldfield and recommendations on the priorities for community development and investment. (May 2018 – ).

The report is available from here: www.suttoncoldfieldtowncouncil.gov.uk/…/Community-Development-Report.pdf

Radioactive Waste Management (RWM)
Providing strategic and practical advice to a UK public body and BEIS on a community consent-based approach to a nationally significant infrastructure project. (July 2016 – )

BUILD: Bilbao Urban Innovation and Leadership Dialogues, 2014 – 2018+
Speaker and participant in the annual convening of leaders engaged in multiple aspects of urban spatial and human development, led by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Most recently engaged in joint work with the European Foundation Centre on moving from ideas to action focusing on effective partnerships.

BBC Children in Need
A review of its UK grant-making and grant management processes; recommendations to the board endorsed and implemented. (February 2017)

NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan
Reviewed neighbourhood and community-led, non-clinical approaches to health and social care across rural and urban areas in a Midlands county, for their STP submission. (July – November 2016)

Trustee ASDA Foundation 2012 – present

Community Development Foundation (CDF)
Between 2005 – 2016 I was chief executive of CDF. Originally established in 1967 as a non-departmental public body (NDPB) and charity, its role covered all four nations, working across policy, practice, research, evaluation, programmes and consultancy. I led CDF’s work building its business portfolio and partnerships, converting it to a social enterprise in 2011, achieving operational efficiencies and delivering £ms grants programmes and support at a community level. This covered multiple policy areas, working with all sectors and delivered by a highly collaborative and productive staff team.

The articles below provide an insight into some of my interests and experience.

Sutton Coldfield Town Council; a community development approach to health and wellbeing

In October 2018 I concluded a project for Sutton Coldfield Town Council, to consider the health and wellbeing needs of its population and how a community development and engagement approach could help address local priorities. I combined a data review to identify local priorities and listened to local organisations to understand the reality on the ground. In addition to providing firm evidence to support future allocation of resources, there were some unexpected outcomes of the research.

read more

Who gives a Pluck?

There is nothing like reading a good book, but I am bad at it. Daily demands, aka a lack of personal discipline, reduces me to an online daily digest of public affairs, contemporary articles and content that might serve well in a trivia quiz. The only way to devour one is to chain me to a chair; I am, therefore, a holiday reader. This is a review of Madeleine Albright’s book, Fascism: A Warning

read more

Looking back, to look forwards

The Marshall Plan was a bold gesture to rebuild the economies and spirit of western Europe after WWII. As we enter a fragile period of post war politics, this article explores our need to consciously engage with our past as we attempt to shape our future, drawing on personal insights. It highlights the importance of transnational dialogue in advance of BUILD 2017, held in Detroit and initiated by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

read more

My most recent posts…

Sutton Coldfield Town Council; a community development approach to health and wellbeing

In October 2018 I concluded a project for Sutton Coldfield Town Council, to consider the health and wellbeing needs of its population and how a community development and engagement approach could help address local priorities. I combined a data review to identify local priorities and listened to local organisations to understand the reality on the ground. In addition to providing firm evidence to support future allocation of resources, there were some unexpected outcomes of the research.

read more

Looking back, to look forwards

The Marshall Plan was a bold gesture to rebuild the economies and spirit of western Europe after WWII. As we enter a fragile period of post war politics, this article explores our need to consciously engage with our past as we attempt to shape our future, drawing on personal insights. It highlights the importance of transnational dialogue in advance of BUILD 2017, held in Detroit and initiated by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

read more

What is a community?

We often debate the definition of community, particularly when designing policy or programmes. The problem is that there are different definitions of community and that we too often disconnect our professional expectations from our personal experiences.

read more

Health and social care; shifting markets, models and money.

Shifting the weight of demand from clinical to community care and responsibility from clinicians to citizens is critical to the future viability of our national health services. NHS England’s 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans set out how areas in England will approach this over the next few years. But how easily will clinicians and commissioners find it to incorporate community-led responses into the health and social care eco-system?

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Magnetic cities

What does it take to create a magnetic city? This post looks at the different approaches city leaders should consider when planning for urban transformation.

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The evolution of Big Local

Local Trust’s chief executive, Debbie Ladds, invited me to write an article that, on the closure of the Community Development Foundation (CDF) in March 2016, provides an insight into Local Trust’s beginnings and the relationship between the two organisations. Here’s the story.

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What next for UK Cities, as we Brexit?

The shock of the UK Referendum result has provoked a multitude of reactions and self-searching, both at home and abroad. For me, it has opened questions I hadn’t even considered before the vote, which could have a permanent impact on the UK’s nations.

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Guardian Society Profile April 2016

This isn’t the end for local activism
The head of the axed Community Development Foundation on how local organisations already hit by cuts will have to pick up the slack.

www.theguardian.com/...

BUILD Bilbao October 2016

Bilbao Urban Innovation and Leadership Dialogues
From September 16-19, 2015, BUILD convened over 100 civic leaders and urban practitioners from GMF’s network in the U.S. and Europe to discuss strategies for leading transformative change in cities for BUILD's second annual convening.

www.gmfus.org/forum/bilbao...

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