“This profession is about making a difference and each and every one of you has done that”- Think Ahead’s 2018 Cohort join our alumni network
We were delighted to welcome another cohort of participants into our alumni network at a virtual ceremony on Monday 19 October. After spending the last two years training and working as mental health social workers, participants from our 2018 Cohort looked back on their experiences, as they became members of Think Ahead’s alumni network, joining previous cohorts.
At the event, the new alumni heard speeches from fellow members of their cohort as well as Ella Joseph, Think Ahead’s Chief Executive, and Professor Martin Webber from the University of York. They were also joined by the rest of the team of lecturers and tutors from the Universities of York and Central Lancashire, Think Ahead’s partners for the 2018 Cohort.
Ella acknowledged the difficult times that our participants completed their second year on the programme in, working as qualified social workers in NHS Trusts and Local Authorities across England during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ella said: “You’ve joined a profession and started your careers in a context of global change… We’re so impressed with how you have dealt with this uniquely difficult situation.” She added: “We know that Covid has created a world where people have been isolated, people haven’t been able to visit loved ones… how you’ve stepped up to that challenge has been really, really important and has affected lots of people’s lives in a positive way.”
I remember that the values of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and anti-racism are what bind us and keep us going even in the toughest of times.
Olivia, Think Ahead alum
In moving speeches, some of the participants also used the opportunity to reflect on their time on the Think Ahead programme.
Madi looked back on the highs and lows of the past two years – from joining the Summer Institute where participants grew “ever-more excited about social work as a force for good” to training on-the-job in a unit of four participants in Year One where “we supported each other, we challenged each other, and we managed to have fun amongst it all”.
Chloe, who first trained in an Early Intervention team in Liverpool before moving to a forensic unit, reflected on Year Two of the programme and looked ahead to the future: “I hope that one day I’ll look back on my career and think, ‘yes, I did change things for the good’. But I think that the most impactful and powerful thing is sitting with people and listening to their stories in a non-judgmental way.”
Megan emphasised the variety of the role, and concluded: “I feel very fortunate to have shared this experience with some amazing people. Hats off to Think Ahead for connecting like-minded people through a challenging and rewarding programme”.
Olivia reflected on the difficult political climate of recent years, and said: “As we finish the Think Ahead programme and continue our careers as social workers, I think of all of you, of all of the NHS colleagues, of all of the service users who’ve helped me get here, and I remember that the values of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and anti-racism are what bind us and keep us going even in the toughest of times.”
To make the celebration special, the participants received various goodies in the post beforehand, including a kit for making pizza to enjoy during the event. In interactive polls, they were asked what had helped them through the tough times (enchiladas and sleep made it to the top of the list) and what advice they’d give to their younger selves before joining the programme (such as “remember to take time for friends and family”).
Participants will now join the Think Ahead alumni network, a vibrant community that provides anyone who has completed the Think Ahead programme with access to professional, development and social opportunities.
Looking ahead to the participants’ future, Professor Martin Webber urged them to “work together as a group of professionals aiming to establish relationship-based practice in social work, practice that is based on evidence of what works well.” He also encouraged them to “hold on to the precious moments” of the role, saying: “This profession is about making a difference and each and every one of you has done that.”