After nine years as Executive Director at the Campaign to End Loneliness, Laura Alcock-Ferguson is stepping down. In this blog she reflects on her time here.
I will forever be proud of being the founding Director. I have so enjoyed and been challenged by this journey since 2010 and I can’t quite believe I am about to set sail for a new shore.
Many of you know I have been reflecting on these past nine years. I think one of the best questions I have been asked about loneliness is a personal one. Last year, before our international conference, Vivek Murthy, one of our keynote speakers asked me: have you got better at your own connections and relationships?
I had to admit I’ve become consciously incompetent. Because once you know about the causes and implications of loneliness, you end up looking at life and connections through something like the De Jong Gierveld loneliness scale.
This work will keep an imprint on my life. What will stay with me about my personal learning, is an unswerving commitment to the importance of:
- Being aware and comfortable with your own self
- Having purpose in life
- Belonging – to something, someone, a group, a place…
What will also stay with me, is the passion, commitment and knowledge from everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
I have spent many enjoyable days speaking with and sharing ideas with older people at groups about their experiences of being alone, living alone, solitude and loneliness.
Thousands of older age groups and charities have really propelled the Campaign to End Loneliness from our launch, working with us to create new solutions, champion well-tested ones, and fill gaps (such as a new scale to measure the impact of their work on reducing loneliness). They have all inspired and buoyed me along.
I have deep respect for the many knowledgeable researchers from the UK and across the world. They have worked on this subject, and/ or, their related prisms and views on loneliness for so long before the Campaign came along, and they still remind us of the importance of nuance and further learning.
I have particularly enjoyed the challenge of getting loneliness understood as harming our health – and working alongside the health professionals and leaders who have now acknowledged the health impacts of loneliness. During this I had admiration for the many local activists who worked with us to get health and wellbeing boards and MPs taking the issue on from 2012 until 2016.
I’ve learned too from other age-groups willing to share experiences of loneliness for them, particularly during the work of the Jo Cox Commission.
I’ve also relished seeing the issue reaching politicians who have taken loneliness over the line, in terms of policy commitments, and continue to keep it there.
I’ve been reminded of how differently businesses think about social change, and yet how powerful they can be when they choose to make real change to an issue – such as the Co-op’s dedication to this issue for the past five or so years.
I’ve hugely valued the open-minded and ambitious-for-the-issue funders who have not only benefited the Campaign, but far more importantly, the thousands of other organisations who have received funding.
I would also like to thank the many advisors, experts and critical friends, who have given me time and advice over the years.
In searching for support and advice for this most recent change – leaving the organisation I love so much, one piece of advice about leaving a job you love resonated with me:
“While you say your heartfelt goodbyes, take all you can with you, lest you leave yourself behind”.
For me, the most important thing I will be taking with me is the knowledge that the world is ultimately better for collaboration, and the ego-less letting go of the very issue you are aiming to change and make a difference for, in order for it to truly fly. And now, I wish you all a good flight!