December reflections from the Outside the Box team

This blog shares thoughts from the Outside the Box team on how 2022 was – the amazing positive experiences, and the challenges our communities are facing.

Our 2022 reflections zoom chat

With a thick, fluffy duvet of snow covering Scotland this morning, we started our Outside the Box 2022 Reflections chat with some humorous grumbling about rural transport, window glazing and weather.

With the backdrop of the fuel, climate and cost of living crisis, and all the snow, our conversation quickly turned to practical actions in the communities we work with. Charlene, who leads the LINKS Eyemouth food network, was saying a lot of people are feeling the cost of living. This includes a lot of working families, when this wasn’t the case a while back. 65 households have signed up for Christmas recipe bags (which sound mouthwatering)– she’s talking to local butchers to get produce in bulk.

Asked how on earth she’d logistically organise 65 recipe packs, Charlene answered with her can-do energy “Last week I put together and shared 50 recipe bags by myself, so 65 will be easy peasy. I think if it’s possible, we should just do it!”

The year in summary

Then we shared what felt challenging and positive about 2022. Here’s what the team said:

A busy, challenging year

“It’s honestly been such a tough year in our communities. Sometimes it feels like things can’t get any worse! Yet we’ve been keeping such an air of positivity, for the work and for each other. Without ignoring the struggles, we’ve kept positive and created those safe spaces to bring things forward.”

“It gets busier and busier. It’s great to talk with people who want to think and talk openly, and do things differently. Outside the Box has been an oasis of passion and sanity in my world this year!”

Supporting each other

“I started in lockdown with you guys and I’ve been so thankful for that. Working with an amazing team who’s so supportive is really motivating. People are always supporting each other and checking in, it makes a difference to me and the community. The project has gone beyond food and food deprivation, really building a feeling of community purpose and connection. Families have been saying they wouldn’t have got through the last couple of years without it.”

“Last year I didn’t feel like we’d ever get back to meeting in-person. I remember my first time after lockdown going to an event at a local theatre, terrified. With my co-workers’ support it became easier – look at where we are now.”

“It has been a challenging year. The supportive team dynamic and having space for critical, thoughtful conversations have made a huge difference.”

The Outside the Box community

“Since I’ve been to some of the board meetings, I see how the caring dynamic runs through the organisation. It’s encouraging how caring the board members are, how much they’re passionate about our work, and want to support everyone.”

“It’s been a great year of collaborating, building our personal and collective leadership, sharing the positives and learning together. It looks like 2023 will be a challenging year across our communities, but there’s reason to be motivated by all the positive, inclusive ideas people are putting into action.”

“It’s always so nice on a Tuesday when everyone gets together at the Team Meetings. Especially when we’re all across the country, or snowed in! I get to be nosy, and learn about all the good work people are doing from Moray to Borders.”

What we feel proud of

Inclusive leadership

“We handled the leadership transition really well, starting early on before Anne retired. We had a great handover to Louise, as well as building leadership across the whole team.”

“When we first started planning around leadership change, I felt some fear, because Anne was part of Outside the Box since I joined. But we’ve managed it so, so well. We’ve just seamlessly gone through it, adapted and supported each other.”

“Putting our learning around leadership into action in the team, and in recognising and valuing the leadership of communities we work alongside.”

Human rights

“I’m proud of the rights based approach people are taking in my community now. We have the freedom to reframe, and try non-traditional approaches to help make things work. I value that we get to use our creativity.”

“I appreciate space to explore ideas and work ahead of the curve – like using a human rights lens before it became something everyone was talking about. I really value that we can speak with confidence about how our work in communities links to the wider human rights framework.”

“I’m excited about our work on a human rights based Communications strategy. Already we’ve been working more with community media and finding ways for communities to access what they need to create films, animations, zines, blog and presentations to share their expertise and ideas.”

Having a material impact

“Recently we distributed 2068 carrots (and other delicious ingredients and recipes, but they’re a bit less interesting to count).”

“I’m proud of the Cost of Living resource. We’ve all fed into it, and I think it will be practically helpful.”

“Working with an organisation which never abandons people or projects, is always willing to give people advice and support many years after working together. I recently met an MSP who talked about Outside the Box and our work around mental health and suicide many years ago, without realising that I knew about it.”

Teamwork and trust

“The teamwork and trust, how we share out tasks and add to each other’s ideas. People are always willing to say ‘Could we do it like this?’. It just feels right!”

“I value how everyone has taken responsibility for the organisation’s sustainability and funding – everyone contributes rather than one person doing it all.”

“The way our team works across geographical communities feels like it is becoming more natural. We’re staying connected, and each local area is benefiting from experiences and ideas in all the other areas.”

Being part of the community

“I’ve been working in Eyemouth for 4 years and it feels like it’s my adopted community. Other communities want to learn from what they have been doing there.”

“I feel proud to be known as the ‘go-to person’ for things in the community, and knowing people have heard good things about Outside the Box.”

“Having been in Outside the Box for a few months, I’m proud of how quickly people are getting to know me in the community, from the local meetings to community gardens.”

Please get in touch if you have ideas for working together in partnership, and sign up to our newsletter for Outside the Box updates, events and resources.