Written by Oliver Johnson who is currently on the Brazil Immersion Programme in Rio de Janeiro.
Late 2015 saw me part with convention (and logic) by impulsively handing in my notice and selling my flat – with no substitute income, lodgings or discernible onward plan to speak of. The modus operandi? – Change (and with it, self- preservation). My career had thus far traversed the unlikely landscapes of private and public sectors- formerly encompassing TV production, marketing, events and sales- from property to hair & beauty promotions! In more recent years I have been ensconced within the domain of social care performance and project management- firstly in support of adults then latterly disadvantaged young people within one of London’s most populous and socially polarised boroughs. Despite the disparate nature of my employment history, most experiences had been underwritten by conformism to sycophantic one-upmanship or stifling bureaucratic constraints.
Notwithstanding some sense of reward, my path to delivering real social care value and developing professionally and personally was all too inhibited by a glut of middle management, bent on scheduling meetings to discuss meetings… or stationary orders and toilet supplies. Adhering to ‘policy and procedure’ imposed by a chaotic and counter-intuitive chain of command would more often dilute end benefits for those in need of service. I was noticing an insidious decline in my attitude driven by increased frustration, giving rise to heated monologues and such impassioned demands as: Why am I here? Why am I doing this? Self- absorbed, insular… and just a bit whiney. Yet my life was still in need of a complete and holistic overhaul. A paradigmatic shift in my relationship with and attitude to the world, channelled through and complemented by my actions within it; hence my much overdue discovery and pursuit of the ‘movement’! Since I began exploring the implicit nature of social enterprise, the premise of societal benefit directly generated and indexed against the efforts of a workforce and business productivity have resonated purpose and meaning. Now the questions on my lips are: Where have I been hiding? Why have I been doing anything else?
As the information age with its ‘disruptive’ technologies continues to level the playing field, opening up myriad opportunity- for all- to collaborate in the delivery of social impact agendas with unprecedented reach- I’m excited! I want to grab onto the shirttails of these young trailblazing entrepreneurs in driving forward this initiative while laying new vocational foundations of my own and recalibrate past skills. Reflecting on my education, I recoil in memory of outdated doctrines hardwired into our collective conscience; e.g. “achieve the best grades and beat your peer to the best employer” by becoming kettled into a vocational calling according to one’s aptitude for antiquated ‘skill sets,’ or otherwise overlooked. I’m delighted to be part of a movement that sees this tired self-serving paradigm further subverted in the interests of universal benefit.
I look forward to the prospect of the _SocialStarters platform within the irresistible setting of Rio; a city with much to resolve yet much to look forward to -once more under the world’s gaze. Altogether a relishing proposition forged of mutual benefit and reciprocation; and one offering what promises to be a revolutionary learning experience through cultural revelation.
Would you like to #JoinUs in either Brazil, India, or Sri Lanka in 2016? APPLY HERE. Immersion Programmes are running throughout the year as well as a new programme format for people who can’t take 6 weeks out of their lives – our 2-3 week Inspiration Programme in Rio in August/September, and our flexible volunteer programme _TheAssignment. See our website for more details www.socialstarters.org.