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Start by starting: leadership insights from Sophia Parker, Little Village CEO

'Start by starting'

Posted on June 5, 2017

About halfway through my Clore Social fellowship, shortly before the birth of my third child, this was the phrase I muttered to myself as I posted on a local parents Facebook group about setting up a ‘baby bank’ – where people could donate their great quality, unwanted baby clothes and kit, in order to pass them on to other local families in need.

Little did I know that 18 months on, I’d be running a fully-fledged charity, with two branches, and a third in the pipeline. In our first year, Little Village helped nearly 400 families across Wandsworth and Camden, and we’re on course to more than double that this year. This 4 minute video tells you more about our work and what’s important to us.

Little Village from Little Village on Vimeo.

Little Village grew, without question, from the things I learnt during my Clore Social journey. I love a good catch-phrase (see: Start by starting) and these are the ones I’ve lived by since launching the charity.

What would you do if you were ten times braver?

This question, posed to us on our first residential, remains one of my favourite provocations. I still ask it every time there’s an important decision to be made about Little Village’s future. Asking this question gives me permission to be authentic. It reminds me that I don’t want to play safe, I want to play true and aim high. It has led to having the difficult conversations rather than brushing them under the carpet. It has given permission for my dreams to breathe, and to guide Little Village’s evolution.

Keep things simple, even when they’re not

One of the things people often say to me about Little Village is “how great, that’s such a simple idea!”. I nod my head while thinking ‘if you only knew the half of it’. I’m someone who loves complexity and has spent most of my career working on abstract concepts in the thinktank world. And yet building Little Village as a practical, approachable, friendly organisation has been one of the great pleasures of this journey. I’ve seen how the simplicity of what we do, underlined by our brand, draws people to us. It’s very powerful.

Harness frustrated female energy

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is juggling Little Village with 3 kids under 5. I’ve worked some pretty interesting hours, my kids are definitely better acquainted with CBeebies now than they were, and I’ve pulled in a LOT of granny favours. Little Village is powered by an incredible network of women who are skilled and talented and yet can’t find work that fits with their family life. That’s crazy. We work with the grain of people’s family needs. None of us work more than a 3 day week; some of our volunteers bring their children with them; we offer flexible shifts – and we have access to talent that extends well beyond our core business as a result.

So – start by starting. Putting one step down almost inevitably leads to the next step – so be ready for the consequences, and take great joy from the journey.

Visit Little Village to find out more about their work. Share your comments below, or you can join the conversation with Sophia on Twitter.

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Sophia Parker

Sophia Parker

Social policy professional

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0207 812 3770
5th Floor, Kings Place, 90 York Way
London, N19AG
info@cloresocialleadership.org.uk

Registered Charity Number 1136727
Company limited by guarantee in England & Wales
Registered Number 7222275

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