Whisper it quietly but it’s all starting to click.
It really is.
After years of recording a depressing catalogue of setbacks and frustrations in this blog – with a few victories sprinkled in to keep the Hope tank topped off and the sense of jeopardy alive for my readers - I’m faced with a blank page and the prospect of telling you about, well – good stuff.
Spine tickle-ingly good actually.
Of course there is irony here as well: The pandemic has hit a great many people in the criminal justice sector disproportionally hard. No surprise there: Right now you can go grouse shooting till your trigger finger falls off but if you are released from prison you still only get £46 in your hand but this time while you were staring at walls the world shrunk, turned upside down and writing the ‘How To Navigate’ manual remains a work in progress.
In my sober moments it has not been lost on me that at a time when the need of many is escalating and still only just becoming apparent even now… https://www.russellwebster.com/capptive2/ I seem to have turned a corner and I’m doing more than OK thanks.
I’ve switched up my work, it’s starting to fly and that’s not really fair – is it?
Sorting that repressive shit out has been quite important.
I’ve donned my Thinking Clearly PPE and wriggled inside to work on that sneaky building inner conflict:
This is me putting myself into the best position I can to make the best contribution I can.
It’s been 8 years in the making – shut the f*** up and follow it through: The time is now.
It sure seems that way.
Are you ready? Here we go…
Full Court Press
It has felt that way for these last 4 months. I would describe it as getting a sniff of really being onto something - the Supporting Prison Governor work – and realising that no-one else was doing anything like it AND reminding myself through the early stages of the work that I really was very much at home in this space.
I could do this shit really well – hell, I’d been practicing for 20 years!
I could get hold of senior people because they were at home and/or part of reduced operational regimes which meant they were there, talking and I was listening, checking and testing.
And whatever else I had in 8 years in the sector I knew damn well that I’d nurtured a professional network stacked with good people.
The rest was running down the leads and checking what I was hearing and doing it all wrapped up in a layer of courteous relentlessness – if indeed there is such a thing.
Of course it helped that most of my paid work had stopped – concentrates the mind – but as a partnership Mouncey Inc was still doing OK because Mrs Mouncey was busier than ever www.bookstyle.co.uk Seems like in lockdown folks just want to get that book out…
It felt like I was pushing – FINALLY – at an unlocked door, and the more I pushed the more it opened.
So I f***in’ pushed.
And pressed and was generally all over it like an orange-clad shaven-headed rash.
Now there’s a picture.
There were setbacks and stonewalls for sure – multiple unsuccessful grant applications / Powers That Be utterly uninterested – but this time it’s been all fuel to my fire:
This Is The Way – sometimes you just need to find another route.
Play The Long Game
We are – yes, really - in detailed discussions with one of the Big Four London-based auditors about a partnership that supports the governor work. This will bring some of their senior leaders to work alongside our governors in our Reciprocal Mentoring model.
And they’ll match-fund.
I have to go back 5 years to find the origin of this: I did two half day workshops for them – thanks Michael - at their London base and I knew then that the end game was to find a way that they could support my work in the criminal justice sector.
The rest has been keeping the connections alive without coming across as a needy pain in the arse and building a track record in the sector that would give me credibility.
‘So…what’s got your attention about this chance to work with us?’ I asked one of their senior people last week.
‘We’ve never done anything like this, it scares the shit out of us – and we need to be shaken’ was the gist of the reply.
Well, I can help you with all that…
Do The Work
I bless my partnership with Kebbell who continue to give me some ££ every month for this work. It means we’ve had some funding to work with though the majority has been on my time and expense.
My choice: Just do the work. Set a limit, park any worries you think you have about ££ and just do the work. You need to wow ‘em with the work – It Is The Only Way.
So that’s what I did – started back in May with 3 prison governors with whom I had the strongest relationships, set limits and grew it through their say so to a total of 10: Our original 3 plus 7 of their peers.
We reached those limits last month – since then it’s been squidgy bum time or holding my nerve, whichever you prefer.
Invite Them In
The one thing that has tipped people from a position of Interest to Advocacy has been a chance to participate in the Zoom group coaching sessions. That means joining a live coaching session with 3 prison governors and being willing and able to join in without really knowing what’s coming.
Squidgy bum again.
We’ve had 3 expressions of interest in the Reciprocal Mentoring model and each time I’ve invited our senior contact from that private sector business to join us on Zoom. It means the participating governors have to be OK with it – they have without exception – and our guest has to play by our rules.
(Which gave me a few broken nights figuring a way to keep everyone and everything safe).
For all our guests this has been their first contact with the criminal justice sector – it has, they tell me, been an incredibly moving one - and it has been the experience that has swung it for our Interested Auditor.
Have A Wingman
I have Chris – a wingMan.
I recruited Chris to RFYL CIC advisory group a couple of years back.
‘You wont have to do much ‘ I said – which was just as well as he was just ending a career with Shell as a senior trouble-shooter around the world and was looking for a bit of the quiet life to play with his big boy toys.
And then this started to go – and I asked a first question – and he got hooked.
He’s been a bloody godsend: He supports me when we deliver – we’ve figured out how to back each other up on Zoom to make it look like a seamless same page thing – and he’s a voice of considered reason during those time I just wanna jump first and figure it out after.
Working with me is no small ask: I have expectations, opinions – and lotsa orange shirts.
Bless him he’s rolled with it also far.
Big thanks, fella.
And Finally, Know That People Talk
You just want ‘em to talk about the shit you want ‘em to talk about in the way you want ‘em to talk about it to the people you want ‘em to talk about it to.
‘Cos then you get a call like I did this week from the people who employ our prison governors in one particular part of the country:
‘We’ve heard about your work with our people.
We want to support it.
Can you put a Proposal together please?’
Timeline RFYL CIC
So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.
This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk
Timeline To Date
2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start
2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison
2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££
2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected
2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)
2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££
2019 March: Second ‘Proof Of Concept’ pilot delivered HMP Stafford (unpaid)
2019 June: First business sponsorship (v surprised smiley face) from Kebbell Homes
2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Lancs.
2020 March: Covid19 pandemic hits - work stops as prisons enter lockdown
2020 June: Start an online service supporting prison governors as prisons stay shut
Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 37
Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4
Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2
Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1