By Rachel Evans, Relationship Manager at UWE Bristol, with Amy Kington, Founder and CEO of Community of Purpose, Faculty Board Member and UWE Bristol Alumni.
As we join together again to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, perhaps this year, more than any other, we are asking how we can challenge both societal and workplace norms to give ourselves the space to be the best version of ourselves.
The last year has been immensely challenging for everyone and whilst some advances will undoubtedly improve the flexibility we have within our professional roles, we may all feel overburdened and find ourselves questioning our purpose and how we can support ourselves and each other to flourish in a post-COVID workplace.
This is where I see the value in UWE Bristol networks such as WILWAL (Women in Leadership and Women Aspiring to Leadership) and in taking time to actively celebrate our shared experiences through events like International Women’s Day. I recently took some time to ask Amy Kington; Founder and CEO of Community of Purpose, about her professional career, the challenges she has faced along the way, and why she values networks and events that celebrate women.
Hi Amy, can you tell me about you and what you do with Community of Purpose?
Thanks Rachel, as you have mentioned, I am the Chief Executive Officer of Community of Purpose, a C.I.C that empowers people and their communities to overcome big challenges. We have an army of dedicated, hungry, and passionate staff that encourage the creation and sharing of ideas to help the wider community become an amazing place!
Our approach is a combination of innovation and pragmatism. Over the last four years, working with the communities, we have acted as a link between the local authorities and voluntary sector, found ways to involve businesses, and developed a range of activities that aim to build aspiration and tackle inequality.
In 2011 I also led a transformational change programme at Bristol City Community Trust that helped the organisation respond to the challenges that the City faced whilst also supporting the football club to achieve its goals. This involved measuring, evaluating and rethinking to reach a higher level of strategic execution. I developed a team that built a sustainable and innovative business model that adapted, innovated, and envisioned the future. Together, we created economic opportunities and leveraged resources that brought millions of pounds into community, sport, and educational development.
What fantastic work! What led you to be where you are now?
I’ve been involved in using sport for social change in Bristol since 1998. I am passionate about improving the life chances of young people and creating opportunities so that they can fulfil their potential. Previously I have served as a special police constable with Avon and Somerset Police, a position that I held for 10 years. I have also worked for Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, Bristol City Council, The Football Association and Bristol City Football Club. Whilst working in each of these organisations it’s been great to see my work receive recognition through the achievement of national awards.
The truth is – I never sit still! I believe that learning is a daily adventure that one should carry and explore throughout life. I also completed an Executive MBA at the University of the West of England and I am a Learning Ambassador for the City.
As the female CEO of Community of Purpose, how are you tackling the biggest challenges our city and region face in terms of child poverty, hunger, health, education and race inequalities?
We have an unwavering belief that everyone can contribute meaningfully to society if they are given the right support and opportunities. Communities are at the heart of our organisation: we work within Bristol’s communities, with individuals and families, empowering them to identify what is needed to transform their lives and then supporting them to act.
Our projects are focused on supporting communities that are culturally, economically, and geographically disadvantaged.
Our three key projects in the community are;
We launched Break Free in 2018 in partnership with Youth Moves, who are based in one of the most deprived areas in Bristol, to address the problem of holiday hunger. It offers daily sessions for 8–13-year-olds during the school holidays, providing high quality educational and physical activities – from football and cricket to theatre school and computer coding – along with breakfast and lunch.
In 2019, we provided 824 free meals and 124 session hours to 223 children.
Using the universal language of football and the many benefits that participating in a team sport can bring, we launched the Bristol Together Championships in 2012. The aim is to create community cohesion, by bringing boys and girls from different ethnic, social, geographical and faith groups together to form football teams.
In 2019, 140 children from 28 diverse Bristol primary schools took part, with teams of five from each school twinned with another school from a very different demographic. They were given professional training sessions at each other’s schools before competing in the Championships, held at UWE Bristol in June. Four schools were then selected to represent the city on a memorable visit to Bordeaux, France.
These awards were originally established by the Mayor of Bristol seven years ago to showcase and celebrate young people who have overcome adversity to achieve greatness or gone above and beyond in their community. Community of Purpose took over the awards three years ago and we have worked hard since then to grow them, seeking new sponsors and supporters to enable us to expand the categories, reach more young people and add additional opportunities for the worthy nominees, such as work experience with local businesses.
Being so values driven forces you to challenge societal norms and injustices. What barriers have you faced in doing this?
Being the first female to lead a male academy at a professional football club was an interesting and challenging role. I loved every second, not least, because of the role and responsibility but also because it provided a platform to challenge societal norms. I have often thought about writing a book, but I’d have to work hard to anonymise things. Cliff-hanger moment… it would be a riveting read!
What value do you attribute to events like International Women’s Day, and why?
International Women’s Day is amazing as it provides a wonderful platform to celebrate the lives and futures of all women, including those who act as a force for good to create a fairer and more inclusive world. This year’s theme on choose to challenge resonates with me and all that I have done throughout my career.
Thank you to Amy for taking the time to speak to us about her amazing journey and community impact in the city. You can follow Amy on Twitter to keep up to date with her work.