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Talk on Vision for Surrey 2030

Talk on Vision for Surrey 2030 by Cate Newnes-Smith, CEO Surrey Youth Focus

I believe that each and every person in this room is dedicated to making Surrey a better place to grow up, to study, to work, to travel, to live and to grow old. 

But if we work alone in our own silos we will have minimal impact. We need to come together to work as partners to make the difference that we want for our residents, especially the most vulnerable. Working together we have enormous potential. Working together we can massively improve the experiences for everyone who lives, studies or works in Surrey. 

I hear lots about austerity and cuts but I believe that as a whole system working together we can achieve a lot more. It is often said that a crisis is needed for significant change to happen. Well, if the cuts are a crisis then we have the conditions for change, we have an exciting opportunity here. However, there is no quick fix or sticking plaster, to make this happen requires us all to forge brave and creative solutions, to redesign the systems and services and cultures together.

I will blow the trumpet of the third sector here. The third sector is often best at understanding problems holistically. The third sector is often closer to communities and has a holistic view on people’s lives, without the limitations that public sector organisations have because of their statutory obligations. Lots of people in this room will have a good understanding of the problems and solutions already, we need to bring them to fruition.

This requires leadership; leadership from each and everyone of us. We cannot all look to Joanna and expect all issues to rest on her shoulders. I believe that this is a vision for all of Surrey, not just Surrey County Council. Surrey County Council is of course a big player in this, but not the only player. Each and every person working in third sector, in education, in the districts and boroughs, in police and the judiciary, and the health authorities (who have I forgotten?) and our residents have a role to play in making change happen, together.

I am fully aware that that is easy to say but far harder to implement in reality. I have come up with three practices which I think will help. I pledge to do them, you may like to consider joining me.

Firstly I will work with other organisations to understand the problems that I am trying to solve. When I ponder on a problem, I will not ask myself: how can Surrey Youth Focus solve this problem. Nor will I ask “what other organisations can help us solve this problem?” I will ask myself, who can help us to understand this problem? Only by exploring and  understanding problems together can we get to holistic workable solutions.


Secondly, I will put beneficiaries first (or patients, or residents, or clients, whatever you call them). This may seem obvious, but I believe that human nature can make it hard to put beneficiaries needs above my organisation. We are all taught that loyalty to an organisation is a positive trait and mostly it is. However, there are times when it might lead me down the wrong path. To do the right thing for beneficiaries, I may need to let funding or resources go to another organisation better placed to serve the beneficiaries than us. Or I may need to give up power and control to another organisation. 

Thirdly, I will build trust and promote collaboration.  The third sector is often a mass of voices and views and agendas, which can be challenging for other organisations to interact with. I personally will do everything that I can to promote collaboration within the third sector and between the third sector and other organisations to achieve our vision.

I will make new efforts to get to know the people I’m collaborating with.  I will take time at the beginning of meetings to find out how people are doing. Also, I will try to understand other people’s roles: the cultural and professional differences between the voluntary sector and other organisations are large. I was astonished when I first realised the gap in language and approach between youth workers and social workers, for example. Both want to help young people, but their professional frameworks and approaches are very different. I will take time to understand the challenges and restrictions faced by other professionals before I criticise them for making a particular decision.


There has, historically, been a Parent-Child culture between the public sector and the third sector. We need to move to an Adult-Adult culture. I challenge you this morning to leave behind your judgements, your preconceptions, your negative beliefs about other people and organisations.

Together we can forge new ways of working which are much more fulfilling for each and every one of us. And more importantly we can turn Surrey into an even better place for ALL people who live, study or work here, whilst protecting the beautiful countryside that so many of us enjoy. Let us deliver this vision together.

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