Big news reveal: no sabbatical but an exciting new job

Mon 4 – Sun 10 Dec 2017

My new job

Surprise on the phoneSo I can finally reveal my big news! 🙂 It was a strange week last week and things could have gone in many directions. When I said in my last blog that I had a secret but I couldn’t reveal it yet, that was partly because I genuinely didn’t know what I would be telling you.

Surprised womanWe’ve had a big re-organisation at work. The week before last I found out my line manager was leaving. The job he would have gone for in our internal shake-up was up for grabs. I was in line for a decent redundancy pay-off but I decided to get my CV in. This was why I had to miss the Wavemaker meeting and NT100 event; instead I was writing my CV before the deadline. I was interviewed and when I wrote my previous blog I had no idea of the outcome.

Surprised monkey The Grants Director contacted me last Mon evening to offer the job. I had applied only wanting to do a job-share. This was taken on board and I was offered a job-share with my colleague Dilhani  Wijeyesekera.

We didn’t apply together and hadn’t really worked together before. So we met on Wed morning and discussed how the job-share could work. Things went well such that we confirmed our acceptance of the offer on Wed and it became public on Thurs.

Surprised babySo my new job is Head of Influence in the Impact & Investment (formerly Grants) Directorate at Comic Relief. Mine and Dilhani’s role is to promote the projects we fund internally and externally as well as working with our partners (including corporates, other funders, public bodies, and the general public) to promote what we as an organisation are trying to achieve beyond just providing funding. The exciting bit is that the I&I Directorate’s management team is all new consisting of internally promoted people. And it’s an exciting mix.

But no sabbatical (for now)

With the new job, I have agreed to forego my sabbatical. Though I might be able to take it in the future. I pointed out that I have some holidays booked with my partner Dave who will be early retired on 1st Jan. Those will be honoured: a fortnight in Gran Can in Jan then a week each in Athens and Berlin during Feb. There’s a week booked in March for Spain but it clashes with Sport Relief so I might have to forget that one. There is a grace period after starting the job in which I can still take redundancy after all but that is not my intention.

Going through all the stages

ChangeLots of my colleagues are still unsure about their situation and interviews are starting for all the other internal posts needing to be filled. I’ve been through a range of emotions on all this basically covering the stages of dying / grieving / etc – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance (or something like that). I had reconciled myself to a new exciting job or redundancy with a new future. But getting there took time and I was very upset with my beloved tech for good ‘comfort blanket’ being taken away. I must do my best to empathise with people still finding out what the future holds.

Dave’s Retirement Party

ravingOn a week of strange happenings, last Mon was Dave’s retirement party. Around 150 people turned up at Buckingham Palace for the event hosted by the Duke of York. A mixture of royal staff as well as Dave’s external friends and contacts.

It was a very nice event with a gracious speech by the Duke and a witty one by Dave. And just right in that it started at 6 and ended at 8.30. Drinks carried on in the pub though I left relatively early because I was tired.

Tech for Good

Tech for Good 2018 programme

So my days overseeing Tech for Good draws to an end and I will handover to someone else. But meanwhile it is still very busy with the upcoming deadline for applications to the Tech for Good 2018 programme (noon on Wed 20th Dec). Lots of calls with people wanting to discuss ideas. It’s a repetitive process but invaluable to spread the word on what we are looking to achieve and stop people wasting their time in applying if inappropriate. Some push-back on us for doing video applications. I accept it can be challenging but this is a tech fund and video is a skill not-for-profits have got to get more in tune with.

Good Tech Lab

Change pic from a year agoThurs afternoon I hosted a presentation and workshop by Good Tech Lab – a French-based initiative that we are one of the strategic partners of. It is a year long project to look at tech for good / social tech across the world and the ways this can be funded and supported.

Very exciting because it is not just including the non-English speaking world. We are lazy in the UK and USA, focusing primarily on places that speak English.

tech picThe GTL team presented their latest findings on what is happening around TfG. Lots of great real-life examples but it did feel like an episode of Tomorrow’s World (an old TV programme most people won’t know – look it up on YouTube) which always showed amazing new future stuff.

I was personally most excited around different methods of funding and supporting TfG. This very much links into my new role which is about how to encourage change without just using grants (and a key component of our TfG work has been cash plus support, both things being equally important).

The final report should be ready in summer 2018. In the meantime, I will be working closely with GTL including making contacts with other agencies wanting to create change and also learning from the activities of others.


Attended a lunch with the trustees of 360 Giving last Mon. This is an exciting new project bringing together the data from lots of different funders and making it easily as well as publicly accessible. A good discussion on how the initiative could develop and where it should be focusing its future.

Mozilla and Chatbots

A good meeting on Tues afternoon with Dees from Mozilla; always good to explore potential for working in partnership. His colleague Jon couldn’t make it but we spent a lot of time talking about the possible uses for chatbots. That could be around engaging with followers on Facebook and Messenger as well as using them internally around HR support and also in dealing with enquiries from potential grant applicants. A really good conversation to be followed up in the New Year.


Our CrowdMatch pilot has finished and all the projects that took part raised money via crowdfunding. Some raised well over their target and some didn’t. Overall I think about 75% of the projects raised their target or just short of it. We are now sorting out the release of their matched grant. Lots of learning to be taken from this. But feedback is that projects are pleased to have been able to create a new local donor base. Another great result of doing things in an agile manner. Over 6 months we have organised and run this new funding programme rather than just thinking about it. Yep we’ve made mistakes and had to deal with things as they’ve arisen but it is done and funding has been created for charities to help them do more.

Health and Efficiency


JoggingDid this on Sat morning which was really cold. Though it is good I didn’t leave it till Sun as that morning was heavy sleet. I like to go out early in the morning as this suits my body-clock. But that meant the temperature was just above zero.

The previous week I found the value of wearing a hat, last week I discovered the importance of long football socks. A decent enough time just under 1 hour 3 mins 30 seconds. In this type of cold weather it’s about doing the exercise rather than PB times. I was knacked for the rest of the day. Video can be seen here.


DumbellsDespite being a weird week with all the stuff going on around my new job or redundancy, I did manage to get to the gym four times. Though there was no time for yoga 🙁 Went on Mon, Thurs, Fri, and Sun mornings. All good sessions just focusing on weights rather than cardio on the treadmill. I’m trying to avoid breakfast before the gym as a means of losing weight but I can’t always resist the temptation.

Personal Development

So a very busy week which always means progress on PD is limited. No coding practice done and only intermittent Duolingo. My planned intense burst on both during the sabbatical needs rethinking. My emails continue to be a bit crazy but I’ve slowly started to make some progress. Weekends are my time to deal with personal and work emails.

Books and Reading

‘Our Young Man’ by Edmund White

I read this for the Velvet Page Book Club on Thurs evening. With the new job there was a change of plan as I thought we were entering a team in the work’s Christmas Quiz on the same evening. Just before it started, turned out we didn’t have a team. But I was waylaid by emails so still managed to miss Velvet Page.

This book really impressed me. As a gay man into reading, inevitably I have read loads of Edmund White. He’s a great writer but this book reminded me that. It’s about a French model in New York during the AIDS crisis. I thought he was the young man of the story but it turned out to be the young man he entered a relationship with. Someone he ultimately betrayed but may well have also saved his life. During that whole period none of us knew whether we had had an unwise and deadly shag or not.

The reviews of it online are mixed. I think it’s slightly tongue in cheek in the vein of Wilde’s Dorian Gray. And it is very cleverly written. Some see this as a sort of pastiche style. Perhaps I’m giving White too much benefit of the doubt based on his reputation and catalogue. But the novel really impacted on me – perhaps you had to live through the 80s & 90s to appreciate. My main criticism is that in old age, White focuses on familiar themes including the AIDS crisis and French people in America (or vice versa). His stuff doesn’t feel very varied and cutting edge though his descriptions of sexual activity are wonderfully graphic.

Dr Who audio adventures

‘Scavenger’ (sixth Doctor + companion Flip)

Oh dear, one of those very confusing DW adventures. I think it’s an attempt to do sci-fi but based on proper science as with the novel ‘The Martian’. Which might have worked as the Anglo-Indian space mission comes across a satellite adapted by alien tech. But there’s a story woven in about a man who is hundreds of years old trying to find his lost love who is now connected to the intelligence operating the converted satellite. The adventure does feature the fun companion Flip and it’s a cliffhanger ending. But, overall, a disappointment.

The Week Ahead

  • Office days re-arranged so me and Dilhani can do internal interviews to appoint our new team. It will be strange interviewing people I know well and they can’t all be offered a post 🙁
  • Dave’s birthday this week so I need to make sure I make a fuss of him more than normal
  • Aim is just to do gym twice next week and a jog-run on Sat weather allowing
  • Down to Brighton on Sun and Dave is coming with me for a change. I need to be back early on the Mon so looks like we will be seeing Bob, Brian and my mate Rob all on Sun – busy day
  • Work’s Xmas lunch on Thurs. Going for a curry which will be nice. Going to be slightly strange with people leaving.
  • Gonna do Duolingo and coding practice plus continue to try to get emails under control
  • Aiming to get through two books and at least one Dr Who audio adventure

And Finally…

1. Congrats to Coventry for being named the next UK City of Culture after Hull this year. I was backing Stoke-on-Trent due to my close working relationship with Stoke Wavemaker who were very involved in the city’s bid.

2. We had the Christmas Fair at work on Tues afternoon. Every year my directorate runs a tombola. People bring in stuff (good and bad) so that we can ensure everyone gets a prize for their £1 ticket. It’s a real laugh and we raised over £300. That goes to an organisation that does a Christmas lunch (at Nando’s) for children and young people particularly those who are part of refugee, asylum seeker, and migrant families with some of those children being unaccompanied and without parents or carers. Please at this time of year think about giving a donation to charity 🙂


Nelson Mandela quotation

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