Three Things I'm Holding on to in 2021

illustration of a diverse group of people looking to the side- faceless.

As we hurtle towards the end of 2020, I’ve been trying to gather my reflections on this year.

What have I learnt? What will I be taking forward? What will I be leaving behind? 

For me personally, it’s been a year of challenge but there have also been some surreal and life changing moments; a back garden wedding ceremony saw me go from Miss to Mrs, the moment I logged in to the Spark and Co. bank account to see all £120k of our National Lottery Community Fund grant come through and leading my first meeting with the new Spark and Co. team. 

These memories and the hope they made me feel, I’ll be taking those with me. There are also three main lessons I’ll be holding on to. 

1. Sometimes doing something is the only thing to do

I put out the first version of the Spark and Co. Resource Hub in early April (with a lot of help from now husband!). There were only two months between this website going live, to getting funding in the bank account. 

The days in between those two months I will forever remember; seeing the news that the first 8 doctors to die in the UK were all ethnic minority immigrants, knowing things were going to get worse, realising the pandemic was going to widen racial inequalities and feeling the fear and anxiety. 

I built Spark and Co. out of a need to just do something helpful, and  it has grown beyond my wildest dreams. I have a firm belief that trying, testing, learning and ultimately doing is better than not doing at all. This year, we’ve seen that come to life - so many people have done something to help in so many different ways, because sometimes doing something is the only thing to do. 

2. We stand on the shoulders of giants 

Everyone has different coping mechanisms. For me, building Spark and Co. has brought a sense of purpose and focus, and I needed those things to get me through this year. 

If I look deeper into where that drive in me comes from, it always takes me back to my roots - my parents (who migrated to the UK and are NHS doctors), and my grandparents (who survived the Partition of India). I’ve also seen this theme in so many people I worked with this year - our ancestors, our histories, our lived experiences, that is where we get resilience and strength from. 

It has been a really, really hard year for racialised people and communities, but there is hope in knowing we truly stand on the shoulders of giants. 

3. Community is everything

For us, at Spark and Co., nothing is possible without the community of people and organisations we work with. Every single post we write, project we do, conversation we have is driven by community. 

We’ve been able to really build and grow that community (and ultimately our impact) through our National Lottery Community Funding. This year, we:

  • Created 31 paid opportunities: we reinvested into people and communities through the creation of 31 paid freelance, part time and consultancy roles
  • Worked with 100+ volunteers: from advisory board members, to website developers and social media sharers, we’ve had support from over 100 volunteers this year
  • Built 6 outreach partnerships: our partners helped us reach people across the UK; from Wales to Manchester, Liverpool and London. From phones and data packs, to wellbeing workshops, our partners enabled us to deliver what racialised people and communities really needed
  • Worked with 11 community ambassadors: from domestic violence, to LGBTQIA+ support, to mental health - our community ambassadors have created amazing content that truly helps people navigate difficult times 
  • Work with 5 researchers: a team of five enabled us to grow our Resource Directory from 200 to 700+ resources; the largest, fact checked, quality assured directory of services available to racialised people and communities in the UK

Ultimately, we reached 10,000+ people through our online and offline work this year, and none of it would have been possible without the team, the partners, the volunteers and organisations we work with.  

Whilst there are many more to be reached, I am incredibly proud of the impact we have had so far. In a year of constant uncertainty, change, and confusion, we have managed to provide information, clarity and connection. We have strived to operate with compassion, inclusion and integrity at our core. 

It hasn’t been easy, and we are all very ready for a break, but there is not a single day that hasn’t been worthwhile. Though there may be more hard times ahead of us, there is also hope on the horizon and I’ll be holding on to that.

Thank you all, our community and supporters for bringing us that hope. See you in 2021! 

This piece was written by Spark & Co's founder and CEO Ishita Ranjan. Find out more about Ishita here.