Project Hope Reflection: The Journey So Far

Wow!! What a week?! We’re only halfway through #iwillWeek but here in the Project Hope team, we are really feeling the love from everybody! So I just wanted to take this moment as the founder of the project to really reflect from a personal and honest perspective on this journey, because it’s been a rollercoaster that’s for sure! This will likely be a bit of a mini-series starting with the challenges I initially had.

It’s no surprise to anyone that knows me (Naomi), particularly the Project Hope team, that I love a ridiculously ambitious idea. Back in March, sat in my university house, I was processing the imminent lockdown. I just knew we needed to do something to support young people who were going to be feeling increasingly lonely. I had a few ideas but I thought they were totally unachievable.

So it started out with me reaching out on my Twitter with a simple ask for support from young people. I thought one or two young people might respond but I had not anticipated the response it got. I distinctly remember setting up spreadsheets and google forms very quickly just to keep track of interest and keep a record of the kind of roles people wanted to take and frantically ringing my best friend (current Co-coordinator Amelia) in shock at how I was going to lead this project. Then things moved QUICKLY (really quickly) and Project Hope was formed.

I very soon felt totally out of my depth. I found myself leading a team of 20 young people with what felt like, no idea what I was doing. The imposter syndrome made an appearance on yet another occasion in my social action journey. This time it felt like all eyes on me for the direction of this project. I had to manage the challenges of team dynamics, volunteer wellbeing, safeguarding and so much more.

One of the biggest challenges at the start was figuring out my own leadership style. How I wanted to run the project all while contending with the existing relationships I had with each individual team member. Well-being had to be at the centre and my leadership has to be authentic. I wanted to have a team structure to give people clearer roles in the project but at the same time, this meant making uncomfortable decisions about who got what role. I wanted the project to be as inclusive as it possibly could be, giving young people who hadn’t had leadership opportunities the chance to give it a go. Whilst also making use of the incredible existing experience some of the team members had. But this didn’t all go plain sailingly. I was left feeling like I was doing a terrible job at being a coordinator. But I persisted (often through tears!) as I knew this project did have potential. A few people along the way both internally and externally reminded me that I did know what I was doing even if it felt like I didn’t. For that, I am forever grateful.

Meanwhile, ideas were flowing in the team and our delivery of sessions was thriving. We were gaining attention from organisations and from young people themselves and gaining participants in our sessions from all over the world. No pressure there then!

I felt so proud of every single member of the team; For their commitment to the project, the huge amount of time & energy being put into creating engaging content and the sheer number of new ideas being generated.

The project became a community that I never ever imagined and watching the impact on volunteers and participants was incredible. For me, the community we created in the project was crucial to keeping me going throughout lockdown where I was feeling incredibly alone. Even in those moments, where I felt like a total imposter and so ridiculously out of my depth, I had absolute faith in every single member of the team to deliver something fantastic.

My message to any young person reading this is that you can do whatever you set your mind to! Leading a team to deliver your idea is scary, you will probably experience imposter syndrome (adults feel this too!) or feel totally out of your depth but that doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of being an awesome leader. This week I’ve been reminded that I have done a good job even if all I did was connect the young people who make it so awesome and empower them to be awesome! It’s weeks like this week where I feel really proud that I persisted…