Have you ever wondered what happens to all those talented and skilled parents after they have dropped their children at the school gates every day? LOUISE WEBSTER was one such parent who set up a website, beyondtheschoolrun.com (BTSR).  One year on, Louise tells Babablog about how the concept came about and where the journey has taken her so far….

Louise Webster had forged a career in PR prior to starting a family. She was dedicated to working in the kids and parenting industries, specialising in PR and marketing and having set up PR agency Rare Communications, which became respected in this field.  The arrival of her two children (now aged 5 and 2) made her reassess the balance she wanted to strike between work and parenting, at which point she started to experience the challenges in moving beyond the conventional – whether that be a stay-at-home mum or a working mum. 

This state of awareness inspired Louise to set up her website, beyondtheschoolrun.com, in March 2012. A place of inspiration for parents to go at any stage of their parenting journey, where they can feel supported in finding the resources, connections and ideas they need to find their way back into the wider world in the time that works for them.  This might be by connecting with flexible volunteering opportunities, connecting with the community, finding a job that fits around school hours, obtaining career coaching and much more.   

Since launch the website has attracted over 35,000 page views; significant media interest including two features in Daily Telegraph and an invitation to No.10 Downing Street to discuss the concept where Louise received their full support.

It also during this first year Louise came to understand that she wasn’t the only person interested in this subject – in fact a great many brilliant people and businesses were working hard to address different elements of this subject; flexible working; maintaining female board level quotas; encouraging entrepreneurial talent, the list goes on.   With this research Beyondtheschoolrun.com started to become a portal for all information, contacts, organisations that could support parents at any stage – from the pre-parent planning stages to when your children have left home, and all the times in between.  It also started to become very clear to Louise that this was more than just a national issue but a global one too – as the subject of gender equality continues to make headlines and build momentum with the launch of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean-in enterprise and Warren Buffet’s essays in Forbes magazine encouraging women into the workplace.  Louise hopes to keep the BTSR informed and connected with the debate via the Beyondtheschoolrun.com facebook page which has built a strong, daily following..

Kids Company collaboration: Just One Thing campaign

During this first year, Louise also had the great privilege of meeting Camila Batmanghelidjh, Founder (www.kidsco.org.uk).  As a result of this meeting BTSR and Kids Company have collaborated to launch a new initiative called ‘Just one thing’.  The campaign invites parents to offer one thing, a talent, skills, idea, connection to help Kids Company with their work in supporting children suffering in deprivation in the UK (http://www.beyondtheschoolrun.com/just-one-thing/).   The campaign very much reflects the ethos of BTSR, offering an opportunity for those parents looking for their first step to return to the wider world following those all-consuming early years of parenting.

 “The ‘Just One Thing’ campaign is about recognizing that there is a large part of society – parents – who have a range of skills and talents that when utilized could collectively make a difference to their lives as well as the lives of others.  I think this is an opportunity for parents to show what they are made of and together face the huge issue of poverty affecting so many families and children across the UK.  I believe if we each do one thing, however small, we can make a significant difference.”

What next? – from seed stage to social enterprise

BTSR has attracted interest and support from all corners, whether from a member of the US Senate, Anne Marie Slaughter who made headlines with the article ‘Women Still Can’t have it all’ in The Atlantic magazine to the owner of a toy shop in London; “I heard about Beyondtheschoolrun from one of my regular customers. I run a children’s shop at the heart of our local community. I meet women pretty much every day who are at a cross roads in their lives and I think what you are building is wonderful..  For Louise, this first year has been all about learning, developing the vision, garnering support on all levels (local to global) and working towards a plan to establish a fully-fledged social enterprise.  She has a great many plans for growth and is currently working on identifying appropriate partners to come on board for the next stage of the BTSR journey.

BTSR recognizes that we have reached a point whereby we need to find a new way of working that taps into the skills of parents in order to benefit them, their families and the wider world.   BTSR also understands that beyond the ‘parent’ label we are all individuals with different skills & circumstances and that collectively we can make a positive difference to our lives and the lives of future generations..”

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