Let's work together

How collaboration helped me over lockdown

During the 12 week lockdown earlier this year, I felt quite lucky – and even vaguely smug - that my life hadn’t really changed too much. I normally work from home and, although my face-to-face meetings stopped, I was still able to communicate with colleagues via Zoom. Not going out didn’t bother me. I enjoy being a home-body with my office within walking distance of my bedroom, the kitchen and my garden!

Being freelance and having many fingers in many pies has meant that I am always busy and, therefore, have to plan my time very carefully. Even with a strict time-management system, I rarely have enough time to do everything and am continually chasing my tail. Weekends are usually the best time, I’ve found, to catch up, as that is when other people are away from their desks, enjoying themselves – in other words not working, so the phone doesn’t ring and the emails don’t come flooding in on a Saturday or Sunday and I am able to get on without interruptions.

To begin with, lockdown was a great time for me to catch up! I managed to get those two huge piles of filing done; organised my receipts and invoices into something resembling order and even began to think about completing and sending in my tax return in April instead of the usual two days before the final deadline of 31st January!
What a weight off both my mind and my time-constraints knowing that everything was ship-shape and Bristol fashion! (Where did that phrase come from?) Everything was in its place and there was a neat little place for everything. Then the rot set in! Well not rot exactly, but I gradually started to realise that I was turning into a Stepford wife! Having got my paperwork and study in order, I turned my attention to the rest of the house. I dusted places that hadn’t seen the light of day since forever; tidied out cupboards and stock-piled junk to take to the tip when we were allowed out into the world again. But what was really scary was that I started baking!

Yes! Baking! Me – who had got 22% in my Domestic Science exam and was told I would never be a Domestic Goddess was now baking for pleasure! I made a lemon drizzle cake, which the family loved and their applause spurred me on to make a carrot cake. Not a normal carrot cake, but a Carla Catlett Carrot Cake! Carla Catlett was an American friend of mine who really did deserve the title ‘domestic goddess’ and she had given me her recipe for an American-style carrot cake with oodles of super-sweet cream cheese topping.

It then occurred to me that, although I had my previous work load under control and it was a weight off my mind, my new cooking spree frenzy was getting out of control and creating extra weight on my body!

Luckily, just in time, I was literally saved by the bell – the telephone bell. I really can’t remember who it was that actually called me – whether it was Allison, Nigel, Barry or Fiona, but whoever it was suggested a collaboration!

It was all over the news that many 15-19 year old students throughout the UK would miss out on taking their GCSE and A-Level exams because of lockdown and their futures could suffer as a result. The suggestion from Allison, Nigel, Barry or Fiona was that we should all get together and do something to help by providing something creative for these struggling students to do and even provide a prize for them at the end.

Although we were all members of the Fairford & Lechlade Business Club, we had never worked together before and, indeed, some of us had not even met before! But we got together virtually and found that we all had different skills and mindsets to contribute to The Cotswold Collective – a collaboration of philanthropists hoping to make the world a better place for young people for a short while during this terrible time in the world’s history.

In just three months from the end of March to the end of June, we worked in collaboration: setting up The Cotswold Challenge; securing funding for prize money; recruiting illustrious judges, who were experts and well-known in their own spheres of Art & Design, Creative Writing and Innovation & Entrepreneurial Thinking.

I can honestly say it was hard work, time-consuming, but also fun and exciting. My four other co-conspirators were great to work with; I learned a lot about each of their own individual businesses and what they did on a day-to-day basis and my esteem for them grew to a level that would not have been attained under normal circumstances. That’s because we were collaborating together in extremely unusual circumstances and were achieving exceptional results by coaxing creativity from students who had been left in limbo, but now had something to focus on that could stimulate their intellectual and creative capabilities.

The Cotswold Challenge and The Cotswold Collective are now coming to an end. It has run its course. It helped around 500 young people in our area at a time when they needed help and it encouraged creative experts, celebrities, schools, colleges and businesses to collaborate with us to produce something special, something that had not been done before in very strange times that no one has had to endure before.

My collaboration with four like-minded business people generated hope for the next generation and I am very proud to have been a part of this collaboration, which certainly helped me during lockdown.

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