Openness and honesty – impossible? Maybe not

Opinion by Ken Powell


Never impossible: Ken explores the possibilities for openness and honesty with Calderwood House

LAST month I had the privilege of attending the AGM at Calderwood House.

It’s not often you’ll hear a journalist talk of AGMs in such ways. They’re a necessary evil to report on – not a pleasure. For me though, this was different.

First it was good to see how such a wonderful idea has progressed since I witnessed its opening in October 2015.

Rachel Holliday had a great vision to help the homeless of West Cumbria and I wanted to see if she could pull it off – it looks like so far she has.

Second the AGM was mercifully short – something other organisations could learn from. More than that, it was fun and relaxed; something

I’ve come to associate with Calderwood House and its team.

Third it was inspirational. This ‘social enterprise’ business which seeks to be self-funding hasn’t just created jobs for staff working there but made a huge difference to dozens of people for whom life has taken a wrong turn.

The work at Calderwood House is so real you can almost touch it.

But most of all the privilege was to see Rachel Holliday in action again.

Anyone who knows her knows that this remarkable woman is incredibly open and honest.

There was no attempt to sugar-coat the work over the year.

While much of it has been brilliant, Rachel is the first person to say mistakes were made along the way and she’s learned from them.

She tells it how it is and her enthusiasm is so catching she ought to be issued a governmental health warning.

I wish everyone was so open and transparent but we seem to live in a ‘blame culture’ world where people are on the defensive all the time and swift to point fingers at others.

While Calderwood House is repeatedly praised as a model for other efforts to help the homeless to learn from, I think all business and organisational leaders would benefit from an hour or two of Rachel’s company whatever their profession. Somehow, Rachel and her team make honesty work – and it’s being recognised nationally.

Imagine a world where everyone is honest and encouraging?

A place where no one is frightened to own up to mistakes because everyone is working together to build up rather than tear down?

It’s a bit scary isn’t it? Go see Rachel at Calderwood House (the door is always open, as she says at every opportunity) and get a taste of it for yourself.

You might just come away a changed person.