December 22nd, 2020

Reflections on 2020

What a year it’s been. At Good Innovation we’re definitely ready for 2021! At the beginning of the first lockdown we began posting some honest slack chats from our team to capture how we were feeling, and lessons we’d learned. So here's one final post to round off the year… Clare, Heather, Mary and Tara chat about gratitude, mental health, remote working, inequalities and wild swimming!

(Disclaimer: This blog was written before the Tier 4 announcements, when we were in a more hopeful mood! Perhaps this week our tone would have been different… but we decided to post this anyway as a reminder of the ever-changing rollercoaster of 2020).

Tara 1:15 PM

Hi team. I can't believe we're about to "break up" for Christmas. What a year! 

How are you all feeling as 2020 draws to a close?


Heather  1:16 PM

Like I'm limping towards the finish line... anyone else?


Clare  1:17 PM

Exhausted. Grateful. Relieved. Guilty. Overwhelmed. Where do we start?!?!!


Mary 1:19 PM

Good riddance - buh-bye 2020, get at me 2021! But really, there’s a lot to be thankful for about this year and reflecting back, also a lot we have accomplished.


Clare  1:21 PM

Yup. I am so happy to be back at GI and in a job I truly love.

But it was quite the challenge to get to my dream job in a year where the demands on parents were at an all time high.


Tara  1:23 PM

I have so much respect for parents this year. Have you any reflections from your own experiences working with the kids at home, Clare?


Clare  1:26 PM

Ha! So many. 

It’s just been so exhausting to home school, run a household and work. I know for me the 'right thing' to do for everyone else in my family would have been to stop working. And I felt incredibly selfish to dig my heels in and hang on to my work. 

But the flip side is that the work, our team and our clients kept me sane.


Tara  1:28 PM

I can’t even imagine the stress. It’s bad on an individual level, but also worrying on a bigger scale - how it’s impacting families and women in particular. 


Clare  1:30 PM

100%. I've read so many articles about this year dragging women back to the 50s and domestic drudgery. 

I know so many friends and colleagues who have had to fight pretty hard to hold down a job and keep a family vaguely functioning.

 Yes, men have stepped up and witnessed the domestic load. It’s definitely got them adopting flexible working and feeling more able at work to speak up about caring responsibilities. That's all really good.

 But many women haven’t had the option to continue work - and that’s worrying for the future. While continuing to work was the most exhausting thing I've ever done, I also felt so grateful throughout.


Heather  1:32 PM

It's interesting, as someone without kids I've LOVED them appearing on zoom and 'at work'. I feel like I've seen a side of you Clare, and our other parents at GI that I never would have. But I wonder if I've not quite comprehended the stress and the juggling act!


Tara  1:34 PM

You're so right - I think in many ways it has helped us see and understand each other's lives more. But it's scary how Covid is worsening inequalities - for working women, for minorities, for people who can’t work from home. 


Clare  1:36 PM

In some of our insight work we spoke to people who have either had to give up career aspirations to support family members with disabilities or work twice as hard to do a job and be a full time carer - I have way more empathy for the load on solo parents too.

 It's funny though how a child popping in during a zoom call is now perfectly acceptable!  


Tara 1:38 PM

Ryan's son Otis climbing naked into a dog cage in the background of a client call has to be one of the funniest work stories this year


Clare  1:38 PM

My 3-year-old bursting in armed with a hose and flooding my living room is not something I wish to repeat!


Mary 1:39 PM

So many great stories! And it’s true - Covid has allowed us to see into each other’s lives and get to know each other more personally.


Heather  1:40 PM

Even as a non-parent without the juggling act, I totally agree with Clare’s point about working keeping you sane. Work, our team and clients have felt like a real lifeline and connection back to the world this year.


Tara  1:41 PM

Haha, I was going to say - Heather, Mary, obviously we don't have kids - but how have you guys felt about work: has it been a release, a stress, an escape (all three?!)


Mary 1:43 PM

For me, being away from my home and family has been difficult - as I haven’t been able to get back to Canada. I think in a regular year it might not have been something we spoke about at the office. 

 Now that we have daily check-ins, we’ve really opened up as a team to talk about how we feel and the stress that we might have at work and outside of it as well.


Clare  1:45 PM

I think the way our team was able to share our mental health highs and lows was incredibly helpful. At first, I didn't even realise how much anxiety was building up in me during lockdown. 

 Mental health struggles were new to so many of us and exacerbated for others, which has been hard right? But equally our willingness to share and the openness we have developed will hopefully be something we hang on to. I’m proud of us for placing more emphasis on wellbeing and mental health.

 The thing that lockdown ripped away was our support systems - and work colleagues have had to step into that gap. For parents, this was nannies, after school clubs, grandparents, cleaners, friends. I think for families with two working parents, it can only be done with a support system and that removal was a real shock to the system. 

I could cope with the personal sacrifices but I did really see lockdown start to affect my eldest child (7) and I felt terrible that I wasn't able to offer her what she needed. Now she’s back at school everything is grand but the mental health effect on kids was real.


Mary 1:47 PM 

We’re facing stress and anxiety from our day-to-day projects, from a new way of working, from lack of social interaction. It was important to have an outlet and supportive peers that were open to talking about it…someone other than our partners/roommates, haha!


Tara 1:48 PM

I'm not sure about you guys, but i feel like we forgot about the mental health toll a bit over the summer / autumn, and it suddenly hit us hard again when the rules tightened in November. But I've been really impressed with how we've tackled it - lots of feedback, lots of virtual socials on these dark evenings, and generally looking out for each other.


Heather  1:49 PM

I remember at one point we talked about stopping our morning check ins and having them less frequently and I shouted quite loudly about how much I needed to see everyone, even for 10 mins each morning.


Clare  1:49 PM

Not gonna lie though, whilst we focused on mental health my physical health needs attention. I've gained too much weight, I barely exercise - I MUST make sure I correct this ASAP!


Tara 1:50 PM

New year, new you


Heather  1:51 PM

Oh I gave up exercise about 6 months ago


Tara 1:52 PM

I don't know how you cope! Running is the only thing that keeps me sane (plus Taylor Swift dropping two new albums. Thank you TayTay!!)


Mary 1:53 PM

Long walks at 6am, too!


Heather  1:54 PM

Oh I loved that idea of yours Mary, what do you call your group?


Mary 1:54 PM

The Old Ladies’ Walking Club


Heather  1:55 PM

I do think of sunny morning cycles to the office when I was going in over the summer as a real highlight of this year. Who knew it was possible to commute without the tube?!


Tara 1:56 PM

That's one thing I'm super grateful for - not having to cram onto a packed tube! 

A lot of us have mentioned gratitude. Thinking back to March... I don't know about you, but with all the uncertainty I was worried we wouldn't have a job by Easter! And yet we're still here, working harder than ever. It's been amazing to see the charity sector weather the storm - although we can’t forget there have obviously been challenges, restructures and jobs lost. 

How are you all feeling about the sector, the year, and the future?


Mary 1:58 PM

I think there was reluctance and nervousness at first…around working remotely, but also about whether they needed to invest in innovation, but I have seen clients bounce back and wanting to spend time in this area. 

It’s incredible to see clients who have gone through an innovation process and launched new products/ services in their own homes! Something we definitely didn’t think could be possible before. 

There’s much more appetite to work in new ways to get things done (much faster too!)


Heather  1:59 PM

As I'm sure will come as no surprise to you guys I usually LOVE a new year's resolution and plan / vision for the year ahead. But that feels harder this year, I feel cautiously optimistic both personally and about our sector but there is still an element of worry there.

But, as you say Mary, teams and organisations have shown so much resilience this year and the ability to adapt and do it so quickly has amazed me! 

Two moments that stand out for me this year were running my first fully virtual sprint and fully virtual training session - two things I genuinely didn't think would be possible before this year. I remember being really worried the night before both of them! And now, it's just the norm and I think we've all seen real positives to our new ways of working.


Tara  2:00 PM

I agree! There are some real efficiencies to working remotely. I never want to have to type up a physical post-it note ever again!


Heather  2:00 PM



Mary 2:02 PM

Technology has also allowed us to bring people across the UK together…it’s made it easier for workshops, audience interviews, and more

Selfishly…it’s even allowed me to work all the way from Canada…

…although I need to get better at telling the UK time from Toronto!


Tara 2:03 PM

You're right - it's allowed us to get much closer to our audiences. I don't know about you, but I find insight interviews can actually be much more fruitful when someone is talking to you through a computer from their own homes. It helps people open up. 

Though there was the guy who dialled in topless from his bed... that was a little too comfortable for my liking!


Heather  2:03 PM



Tara  2:05 PM

I just hope he was wearing something on his bottom half...


Mary  2:06 PM


Definitely - and I’ve had a couple projects that are focussed on working with children. The flexibility has allowed us to actually talk to them and their parents.


Tara  2:07 PM

You're right - it's been much easier to reach tougher audiences in general. The flexibility has really helped us with our interviews with blind and partially sighted people, too. So many of them have mentioned how Zoom and remote calling have made opportunities much easier to access in many ways.


Heather  2:08 PM

I can't imagine we'll ever go back to doing them all in person?! That and post-its could be a thing of the past...


Mary 2:09 PM

I think a big thing for me is how much we really accomplished in a year at home in these uncertain circumstances. In March, it felt like the whole world stopped, but we found a way to keep trudging along despite the negative thoughts, the stress and anxiety.

Heather helped Amnesty launch Reading Rebels, RNIB created a new children’s book, WWF launched a children’s adoptions pack. When we watched that reflections video during the Christmas party, I was just really proud of GI and our clients.


Tara  2:09 PM

Me too! 

Heather's shared her standout moments... Mary - what's been your highlight?


Mary 2:10 PM

I think the work we’ve done around Black Lives Matter, and the commitment we’ve made to making a change in our organisation and to support the sector to do the same. 

It’s something I really care about personally, and it’s been great to share my perspective and put this at the forefront of the organisation and clients.



Tara 2:12 PM

That's a fantastic highlight. It's been great to see the fruits of it within GI - I think I've mentioned that I've found our monthly diversity debates really invigorating. It's just brilliant to debate things with colleagues in an energetic, purposeful way, and to see actions come out of it. 

Otherwise, I think personally it was helping The Children’s Society pivot Give Joy into Give Hope for lockdown. We didn’t give up, and it’s been great to see it go from strength to strength. 


Heather  2:14 PM

Agreed, our conversation around cancel culture has really stuck with me. As you say Tara it's really great to be prompted to think differently by smart, thoughtful colleagues.

Can I add another one (on a slightly less serious note)?


Tara  2:15 PM

Of course!


Heather  2:15 PM

Kevin's rapping for the GI Christmas party?! That's commitment to your team and morale, I was genuinely crying with laughter.


Mary  2:16 PM


Definite highlight. How do you think he’ll feel about us sharing it? 


Heather  2:17 PM

His talents should not be hidden. 

Anyway, looking ahead, do you guys have hopes, plans, resolutions for 2021?


Tara 2:18 PM

I'm very excited by the number of new products we're working on and launching in the market. I hope we smash it.

It feels really tough to plan for the future in life, but in a way that makes it easier to focus on work resolutions. I just want to keep delivering awesome work that pushes boundaries.

I'd like to keep healthy... and maybe run an ultra marathon. So not much, really! 



Mary 2:19 PM

Definitely really excited about our delivery work. 

I’m also really excited about the charity sector’s ambitions to look at generating income in new ways to deliver services to more users. I came into GI really excited about this opportunity to help charities launch new ventures, and I think it’s coming to fruition! 

Personally….I’d like to convince my partner to get a dog

…might be a symptom of COVID though, so it might be best to wait until things ‘get back to normal’ (whatever and whenever that will be!)


Heather  2:20 PM

Great goals!  

Work wise - for me it’s culture culture culture!! I'm super excited by the experimental work we're doing in that space and the impact it's having. I'd really like to work with more charities to create, evolve and change their culture to set them up to deliver their mission!

Personally, more SWIMMING. I've asked Santa for a wetsuit so I’m hoping I can get some endorphin-boosting outdoor swimming in early next year.


Clare  2:21 PM

Yes, definitely making time for exercise! And getting out of the house a bit more!


Tara  2:21 PM

Even with Covid, our resolutions focus on healthy habits. Maybe life hasn’t changed that much?!


From everyone at Good Innovation, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

If you’d like to chat in 2021 - about anything - then get in touch. We’d be happy to have a virtual coffee to talk about the challenges and opportunities for the sector, about effective remote working, or employee mental health. 


We won’t have all the answers - but we’re here.