It feels strange to be marking the occasion of Claire stepping out of the directors group, especially as she is not retiring, not ‘leaving’ Oasis. And yet, it is an important transition, with her returning to a role which she held for many years before the death of Bryce Taylor in 2010.
It has given us an opportunity to not only look back and reflect but also celebrate our relationship and all that we have shared, experienced and developed together over two decades or so, which of course, will continue, albeit in a different form.
So, a bit of history, for those who may not know it:
It was 1995 when Oasis mentor and long-time colleague, Mario van Boeschoten, ran his amazing two-year programme in Organisational Change and Development Consultancy. We were fortunate indeed that he chose to do this with Oasis and the programme attracted a national and international audience, and fortuitously brought Claire to Oasis.
Working as a senior manager in Northumberland Social Services, leading on internal change processes at the time, Claire was looking for her own next step. Having completed a Masters in approaches to change and leadership in hierarchical organisations, and having qualified as a lecturer, she found in Oasis a group of aligned and fierce peers who were also interested in development that went beyond the usual to enact real change in the wider world. The diploma participants, which included most of the Oasis directors group, shared two years of in-depth whole person learning, collaboration, challenge and support. It would prove to be the start of a rich and vital relationship.
During those two years we learnt how much we shared in terms of values, philosophy and commitment to making a difference in the world, and Claire – aware of and prepared for the risky step into the world of freelance consultancy – brought much with her; including experience in the world of film and theatre, as well as a boundless energy, skill, charisma, storytelling and creativity that would add so much to the landscape of our work together in the coming years.
As ‘Equate’, Claire’s skills, not surprisingly, were much in demand and she flourished as an independent consultant. Our first Equate /Oasis working relationship was with the forward-thinking Gill Palin, lead for Aycliffe Young People’s Services. Claire introduced Oasis to the already successful partnership to bring an even fuller organisational-wide approach to shape innovative approaches that developed all staff in service of their clients.
With Nick Ellerby, she co-facilitated a number of leading edge leadership programmes within Home Housing Group that would significantly enhance our reputation in the sector. Alongside Aycliffe development, Claire would go on to co-design and facilitate a range of impactful Oasis organisational change processes and leadership programmes spanning national youth services, regional and national housing providers and retail and manufacturing businesses and global alliances . It was demanding work, but as anyone who has ever worked with Claire will know, it was joyful, rich in learning and a whole lot of fun.
Becoming Oasis’ first Associate Director in 2005, Claire and Oasis continued to enjoy a close connection. In 2011 the step into the Director Group and Company Directorship following Bryce’s death in 2010, was highly valued and welcomed, and one that had been hoped for over a number of years.
When we look back on our lives we often discover that critical life phases last around seven years. This realisation resonates with Claire’s time as an Oasis peer director. From 2000 we have travelled in the company of a remarkable woman, marked by her significant contributions to sustaining and developing Oasis as a world leader in the development of Whole Person Learning, heading up substantial development in the award-winning North Star Housing Group, revitalising our Open Programme offering, taking the Oasis Approach out to a global audience in Pakistan, China, USA, Germany and Australia, and holding the role of Chair in the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative’s pioneering Guardian Group Council of Partners on our behalf. Her contributions to our associates and staff relationships are too numerous and varied to mention here, but suffice to say have not been insignificant, or without the inherent challenges and joys of being at the heart of Oasis.
The directors group have enjoyed the benefits of all that Claire is and does, not least her willingness, sanguinity, loyalty and her warmth and compassion which have brought us all so much to celebrate.
So, at a stage where Oasis continues to flourish, Claire too is flourishing and looking to regain a different level of freedom and responsibility which will enable her to spend more time with her family in Devon, to continue to travel and deepen her practice and influence on the global platform whilst taking Oasis with her out into the world. Claire is far from retiring. It is a joy for all of us that this transition is possible, that work and connection can thrive and stepping down from the directors group doesn’t mean ‘leaving’ but marks a new beginning.