So, after just over 2 and a half years as CEO of DAS it’s time for me to reflect back on everything we’ve done during that time before I move on to new challenges.

What a journey it’s been!

I wanted to start this blog with this picture of me introducing our Sober Summit way back in January of this year which feels like an absolute lifetime ago right now. I think this sums up just how far we’ve come in the last few years. The day itself was simply amazing, after a lot of stress beforehand and very little prep (sounds much like all of our crazy ideas!), we delivered a day which summarised the amazing work of our team and beneficiaries to over 70 attendees. We were also able to announce successfully achieving Reaching Communities funding from the National Lottery to enable Sober Social to continue for another 3 years.

At this point I already knew that we were going to be merging with Project 6, thus securing our future as an organisation and enabling us to continue to expand and grow as we had been over the last 2 years. I was safe in the knowledge that we were doing so with the support of a larger organisation with shared values and vision, but also knowing that this would mean the end of my time in this role.

It was a chance to reflect back on our time as an organisation, especially in our “second life”, i.e. when we moved back to our roots as a community-led organisation and away from mainstream contract delivery. I wish I’d have known on the day that we found out we would no longer be delivering on the contract just how far we would come in the following 2 years. At the time I knew we could do it but I had no idea how we would do it! It certainly would have saved me a lot of restless nights worrying about how I was going to enable us to continue supporting all the amazing people we work with.

There have been some really tough times in the last couple of years; acquiring and having to completely renovate a building from scratch (when I can’t even paint my own flat!), establishing ourselves back in our local community including building up relationships and networks that we didn’t previously have, working with young people for the first time in the organisation’s history and all the associated learning curves that come with that. We’ve also sadly lost people along the way, including Stuart Grantham, one of our biggest supporters and a long-standing Trustee of the organisation.

That being said we had an amazing foundation to build on. Thanks to the hard work and tenacity of our founder and CEO for almost 35 years, Helen Owen, we had a strong reputation and (thankfully!) some reserves in the bank to set us on our way. Personally I am eternally grateful to Helen, not only for being brave enough to take a chance on this wildcard 26 year-old that showed up to an interview knowing very little about substance misuse, but also for being committed enough to continue supporting me through these challenges and helping us to celebrate our success.  

And what a lot of success we’ve had! Nothing good comes without a little hard work so all those challenges had to be worth something. Dotted throughout this blog are some pictures of what I consider to be some of the highlights of my time in post. They include the establishment of almost 20 brand new projects which have reached and supported over 600 new people in the last few years, establishing a new 
volunteering programme which secured the Investors in Volunteer standard in less than a year, generating over £600,000 in funding from the £0 we started with, contributing to and delivering over 60 community-led events and, perhaps most importantly to me, building our team up to the diverse, passionate and skilled team we have today. 

It’s difficult trying to keep this short and sweet because there are SO many things I could talk about; we have literally achieved so much from so little. I still remember being sat on the floor of what is now Sober Social after a gruelling 8 hours of moving with only Sally and looking around the place asking, “what the hell have we done?” At that point we had no secured income, a team of 2, no volunteers, no networks or partners, no website, no social media and basically no hope! But now I look around Sober Social (or I did before COVID-19) and think “wow, how the hell have we done this?!”

Saying goodbye is never easy and because I have invested so much of myself into this organisation it feels particularly hard. Some of the people we support have taught me things I will never forget, I have gained some career-long professional relationships with my peers and hopefully given some of our workforce opportunities that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

The only thing that is making the ending of this chapter easier is knowing that Doncaster will benefit tremendously from our becoming Project 6 – Doncaster. As a CEO my role is to ensure that our organisation continues to be able to effectively support the people we are supposed to. In that context, none of my other achievements in the last few years could compare to securing the merger with Project 6. I am so excited to see what the future holds for the organisation and I truly couldn’t ask to leave behind a better legacy.

None of these things would have been possible without the support of the amazing people we work with and support, our colleagues, my peers across the sector, our funders and all the countless stakeholders that have been involved with us during this time. I will be forever grateful to every single one of you who made this experience what it has been for me, thank you.