A SHORTISH HISTORY
I was born and brought up in the wonderful Devonshire countryside. It is a real Rupert Bear landscape of woods, deep valleys, open moors, pudding shaped hills, and golden sandy beaches. Well to be honest I lived on the outer edges of Exeter, the "county town", but the country was only ever a short walk away.
Devon often gets missed out on the tourist route to Cornwall, but if you are ever in that part of England, slow down a bit. You'll be amazed how varied the county is; from the towering rocky cliffs of the north; the flat topped hills of the east; the Bronze Age prehistory of Dartmoor, and the deep drowned valleys of the south. Go in Spring or Autumn to see its true glory.
With adolescence out of the way, I headed off to the flatly rolling and flooded lands of Norfolk. I trained at the University of East Anglia in Norwich as an ecologist. I guess that's where my particular interest in systemic approaches to analysis and problem solving developed.
In 1972 I completed my University studies and joined the UK Department of Environment’s Coastal Ecology Research Unit as part of a large team commissioned to study the environmental impact of a major coastal development. I published two papers as a result of this work.
I also helped to establish the Norfolk Environmental Forum, an attempt to develop a multidisciplinary approach to environmental issues. I've been actively interested in the potential of multidisciplinary projects ever since.
MILTON KEYNES ......
I then joined the Open University's Systems Group to study and comment on public involvement in an inner city planning strategy. I was subsequently employed to design and implement the second stage of this process. Whilst at the Open University (based in the "new" town of Milton Keynes) I assisted the development of small cooperative enterprises, and established and ran an alternative to the local newspaper.
I also drank regular and rather large amounts of the local Greene King beer, mostly in a rather wonderful old local called the Royal Oak in Woburn Sands. A mug with my name on it is still there. Wonderful stuff.
And then of all things I moved to a place I'd previously loathed. London. For ten years.
London was a baptism of fire that honed me politically, socially and culturally. Life was never quite the same again. Fortunately.
I started off living in a run-down local authority flat in Islington working on a six month contract, and ended up owning a large three story house in Hackney heading a team of 20 people. Strange and wonderful times.
It all flowed from a couple of short-term contracts with local government and voluntary organisations designing and implementing public involvement programmes in transport and planning issues. However it sort-of carried on going.
From 1979 - 1985 I was employed by the London Borough of Haringey as a social policy worker. Here I developed ways of using community development methods inside local government bureaucracies as well as within local communities. In other words we used pincer methods to bring about changes in public policies and practices. Most of the work was pilot project based. The work included issues concerning the community use of derelict land, improving childcare provision, improvements to public services on a large housing estate, decentralisation and devolution of services to neighbourhoods, equal opportunity policies and practices, a variety of health issues, community based adult education and the feasibility and establishment of a translation service. I designed, implemented and analysed two major questionnaire based door- to-door surveys conducted according to accepted professional standards. For the final year or so, I worked exclusively on lesbian and gay issues.
During this period I also served on the Executive of the National Community Health Initiatives Resources Unit (CHIRU).
In 1985 I joined the Greater London Council to manage the wind-down and hand-over of one of the Council s major voluntary sector funding schemes. On the demise of the GLC, I was asked to establish and manage the Employment and Training Group within the newly formed London Research Centre. The LRC was a major source of information and intelligence to London s public and the voluntary sectors. The Centre s Property Register team was later added to my brief. The responsibilities of management, strategic planning, recruitment, and marketing within a large and new organisation consumed most of my time. However, I was able to produce a guide to labour market information and also to undertake a study of skill shortages in the construction industry to see if they would affect proposed £billion public sector building programmes. [They would]
NEW ZEALAND ....
Moving from relatively secure positions to short term contracts seem to be a bit of a patten. In 1988 I chucked in the LRC job and moved to New Zealand. It's a long story. The short version is I went for a holiday and never returned. The slightly longer one is that my partner, myself and a couple of others were worn out after a decade in Thatcher's London, and were scouting out other places to live. Three of us ended up in New Zealand - my partner ended up in Yorkshire. C'est la vie.
My first job in New Zealand was for the Department of Internal Affairs. It started out as a four month contract to work on the reform of local government. My particular responsibilities centred around the accountability and responsiveness of local government to local people. The annual plan process which all New Zealand local authorities are now obliged to carry out in consultation with the communities they serve was one outcome of this work.
Four months became six months, which became nine. Then in January 1989 I was appointed as the Wellington Region Co-ordinator for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. My main job was to restructure the Wellington Branch after a period of rapid expansion and to develop appropriate methods of management and strategic planning. The Foundation was then integrating newly emerging health promotion concepts (based on the World Health Organisation’s Ottawa Charter) into its approach, which posed it's own management challenges. I also played a major role in developing the relationship between the Foundation and the (then) Wellington Area Health Board as well as with the local voluntary sector.
And then back to short term contracts. This time permanently .....
From September 1990 until July 1995, I was a partner of Rivers Buchan Associates; a social assessment and policy advice consultancy. I also served on the Executive of the Wellington Council of Social Service, and for three years was the Treasurer of the New Zealand Public Health Association.
After Rivers Buchan I started to develop links with other consultancies, and broadened my work out somewhat. I currently work with a range of organisations in New Zealand, Australia, North America, Europe and SE Asia, especially those focusing on evaluation, systems thinking action research and organisational development.