In November we covered some approaches that you can take as an individual to affect meaningful positive change, whether you're in our industry or not. A key way to realise meaningful change is through becoming a mentor. You will be surprised of the benefits to you too. Approach your local secondary to offer your support. There are also other existing organisations that would be happy to hear from you. You could assist them with the work they are doing. Read on to find out how you too can 'change the narrative'.
Become a Mentor
In late September I offered to help a student at Eastbury Community School. She was in the process of writing her UCAS personal statement for applications to study architecture and I was approached by my wife Claudia, one of her teachers, to provide my input.
At this point I had little understanding of the impact that mentoring can have. I had read a personal statement written by a sixth form student, and I had identified a strong candidate with a well-considered understanding of architecture. The words this student used to describe what she felt architecture should be, and her aspirations to become an architect were astute for someone her age. It helped that they also aligned to the reasons why I became an architect. At this early stage of my involvement, all I knew was that I wanted to offer my experience and guidance on a continued basis. I recognised that I would have benefited from the input of a practicing architect at her age, in making the big decisions that are required when leaving school. I knew I had made mistakes that I felt could have been avoided, specifically in choosing the right further education environment given that there is such a variety of choice available.
Since September it has become apparent to me not only the value that mentoring has for the mentored, but that I too have become enriched and grown as a person by becoming a mentor. What has also become abundantly clear is that it takes up little of my time to do this, as I am in effect coaching – not teaching which requires ample preparation and a developed curriculum. Coaching uses established techniques that help others ‘do the work’ themselves, by offering a series of prompts in the form of questions. Indeed, mentoring, when done correctly, is about offering guidance through encouragement and insight from a position of experience, this results in increased opportunity for the mentored. Mentoring is not about the needs/requirements/path/growth of the mentor, it is about those of the mentored (although these are a nonetheless a by-product for the mentor too, without being the focus).
The key skill, I have found, is in not acting on your implicit bias or reading of the situation at hand – not offering your opinion. Mentoring is solely about helping to develop the existing thoughts and opinions of the mentored so that they gain more clarity for themselves, providing them with the space to understand the opportunity ahead of them, and supporting them with the design and implementation of their strategy for them to achieve their goals. In fact, as a mentor, when you remove your personal beliefs and opinion it is then that you begin to discern real value from the process. Being freed from the shackles of your own outlook is liberating, and this is where space for growth for both the mentored and the mentor resides.
Being a mentor leads to the positive meaningful development of both parties. Fundamentally it affords the mentored with increased opportunity, and clarity of precisely which opportunity best aligns with their goals. Changing the narrative.
Approach to Neil Pinder at HomeGrown+
David had liked a post by Neil on LinkedIn. I noticed the post and had a look into who Neil was. It became immediately apparent that Neil was a long way along in his journey to enact exactly the positive change within our industry that we were looking to define with our E2BH365 work. Neil has been active in working with architects and architecture companies to realise increased opportunity for school children from diverse backgrounds, work he has been doing for over twenty-five years, in the process becoming an established name within our industry and beyond. He has set up several organisations and initiatives that he runs with secondary schools and universities in the UK, providing a link between architects, designers and their companies to secondary school aged students interested in pursuing a career in a design field. Neil works by day as a teacher at Graveny School in south west London. He has won awards for his work as a teacher. Neil has also been a trustee of the Stephen Lawrence Trust for over fifteen years. Neil, it is clear, is exactly the type of person to learn from and engage with. For decades Neil has been and continues to change the narrative.
Following my initial research into Neil, I took the initiative to approach him on LinkedIn in late October. It was clear to me, to David and to Sam, that we wanted to help Neil in the work that he does, in whatever capacity we could. Very graciously Neil accepted to speak to us about our project and to inform us of the work that he was doing and upcoming. He invited us to get involved with his HomeGrown+ event ‘GLAM Goes Global 2020’, due to take place over a weekend at the end of November providing an opportunity for secondary school and university students to interact with professionals in the field of design during a two-day design workshop.
GLAM Goes Global 2020 (Video above shows just some of the work created during the event)
David and I both took part in the weekend workshop. I took the opportunity to involve my two daughters who despite being in primary school could only stand to benefit from such an opportunity – I knew that they would be able to get involved in the design activities with my assistance, whilst I could engage with everyone at the event. This seemed like a win-win.
The key take-away learnings for me from the two days were fundamentally to be found within the importance of community, engagement and networking – especially as features of design work.
Connecting and collaborating with people from the full spectrum of perspectives and backgrounds was incredibly enriching. And the end results were there to stand proof of how important this is – that including a full breadth of perspective and approach only increases the quality and depth of a design outcome.
It was clear to me that the professionals involved were gaining as much as the students they were tutoring during the workshop. At the end everyone, without fault, came away feeling refreshed, invigorated, enthusiastic and positive. No mean feat given the isolation that everyone is feeling as a result of the current COVID19 pandemic. This event provided much needed respite from isolation – this was especially apparent and felt by the university students involved who had been quarantined into halls of residence, interacting disparately with their peers, and receiving their education online, but it was clearly experienced by all of us. I met some incredibly interesting people during the two days, people I look forward to conversing with in future – especially in terms of how we can all continue to change the narrative, which so many of them, like Neil, have been doing for decades / their whole lives.
Neil understands the importance of community. His HomeGrown+ organisation is designed fundamentally with community at its heart. Neil understands the value that diversity brings to design. Neil has inspired us to continue changing the narrative. And we look forward to continuing to work with him and support him moving into the new year.
Look out for our next E2BH365 Blog, which will report on what we got up to in December.