Kaleidoscope has just reached its second birthday. Throw confetti, chow down on some cake or create a cotton masterpiece – any and all forms of celebration welcome.
Now that we’re the wise old age of two, we’ve started to ask ourselves the serious questions. Can we still call ourselves a start-up? When do we become just an ‘up’? As a former (or possibly still present) start-up, have we really drunk enough hipster coffee or tried our hardest to work a man bun?
As well as the key questions, we have six reflections we’d like to share – any and all feedback on these ruminations welcome. But before you dig in we’d like to highlight one overarching, inescapable fact: your team matters. Funnily enough, starting an organisation isn’t all a bed of roses. On the days when running out of money is a possibility, when the workload seems a bit much, or when your Wi-Fi cuts out just before you broadcast a live webinar, the folks around you can make a difference.
1. Recruit a little differently. We have, and will continue to, put significant time and energy into developing our recruitment process. Our job ads are largely free of job titles or specifications, we place a lot of emphasis on kindness, and our recruitment process often involves biscuits.
This is wildly off-putting to many, but we think to make a team work you have to get the basics right. You spend a lot of time at work (the somewhat terrifying figure of 90,000 hours over your lifetime pops up after a quick google), so why wouldn’t you want someone kind around? This doesn’t mean that we don’t look for ridiculously talented people to join us, or that as a team we agree about everything – far from it – but we do make it explicit that we’re looking for people on our wavelength.
2. No job is too small. A million and one processes keep an organisation going. Every person at Kaleidoscope has pitched in – whether that’s through cleaning the office, acting as bartender at our Writing the Future storytelling event, or bulk buying twenty meal deals for a Melting Pot Lunch (heavier than you might think) – with no magic pot of money you’ll end up with a to-do list that might look a little different than expected.
3. No job is too big. Kaleidoscope doesn’t do hierarchy (more on that here), and while this brings with it a lot of freedom, a fair chunk of responsibility is thrown in too. This can be daunting, but more often it leads to exciting moments and an interesting job – partnering with prominent US organisations to launch a global writing competition and being at the forefront of a national learning network committed to prioritising the physical health of people with a mental health illness are just two examples that spring to mind.
4. Patience is key. The myriad of financial and contractual processes involved in starting a project always, always take longer than you think. Budget in time (and a bit more time) for this. ‘Nuff said.
5. Celebrate the little wins. Taking time to say thank you or well done to a colleague (or yourself) makes a difference. Even if it’s just in response to a delightfully executed PowerPoint presentation, or because someone has remembered to buy Friday pastries. It can help you take stock and remember why you chose to be part of this endeavour in the first place.
6. Ask for help. We acknowledge that we’re not experts at some things. Or at most things. What we have done well over the past two years is identify interesting people and organisations we want to work with (Centre for Mental Health, Arthouse Unlimited, Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust to name just a few). These folks have helped broaden and better our work, and for that we are very grateful.
We know there’s plenty more to learn and more adventures to come, but for now we’d like to say a huge thank you to all those individuals and organisations who have been a friend, who we’ve worked with or who have supported us in any way. It’s thanks to you (and not the rumoured Russian support) that we’ve been able to keep going. You’re welcome for a coffee on the balcony anytime.