Weeknotes 23

On Sohbat — learning by association.

Photo by Matthew Cabret on Unsplash

What I did

  • Inductions continue for new staff members! We’re creating an Onboarding guide which includes Checklists so we don’t forget to induct new team members like last month (oops).
  • We’ve been organising a fairly complex recruitment plan for Bloom which involves a roster of therapists, translators and facilitators on top of our existing team. This has been a real mind-bender!
  • I’ve been working on our Strategy co-creation alongside Kim, our Operations Manager. We’re holding weekly 2 hour co-working sessions which are mandatory for staff but volunteers and Trustees can drop in. In these sessions, we are working on the thematic groups and writing narrative to explain where we are headed. We will be sending out invites for the Stakeholder Consultations soon so keep your eyes on our social media!
  • I’ve been doing a Yoga programme since the second week of September and thanks to my colleagues for moving all of our regular meetings from that time, I’ve been able to stick to it. It’s so hard and it’s really putting all my muscles to test!

I’ve learned

  • Most of my working day is checking in with staff, leaving me with little time to do my work. This needs to change!
  • I need to get much better at budgeting for time and resource. I’m consistently under-estimating how much we need to meet a project or partnership’s goals and because I like doing things to a very high standard of quality, this can create stress in the team. I need to learn a lot more about accurate budget planning!
  • You never stop fundraising. Every time we get a grant, I am so happy and for two weeks — I don’t think about applying for more funding only to then realise that the grant we got does not cover Core costs so I still need to raise more. And this is also connected to not budgeting well.


  • Our team is now 9 people and we’re likely to hire 6 part-time contractors for a project. This is all good news but one serious challenge apart from onboarding is the management time that increases. I’m the line manager of everyone right now and since I’m very involved in project delivery, it means I’m having lots of short calls with staff every single day. This is outside of the work that I do with our volunteers. I find myself frustrated at the end of every week because I am behind on my actions and have to either work an extra day (defeating the idea of a 4 day week), or keep falling behind my tasks. Do you have any advice about this? Please share it with me!
  • I’m also finding the context switching between strategic planning and minute project management tasks for the organisations quite mentally draining. And I’m looking for tips about preserving mental elasticity.

Something else

Sohbat — صحبت

Though the roots of Sohbat are from Arabic’s “friend” or |companion”, by the time it filtered down from there to Urdu (via Farsi or otherwise), it has become to mean “companionship” and in a platonic sense. In South Asian cultures, seeking the Sohbat of elders and any learned person is encouraged because you learn by watching someone with more experience. It is a type of mentorship that can be both direct but also very indirect. Sohbat is dense, enriching conversations or ample and sometimes aimless time spent in the company of others. Learning by observing. It’s noticing the little twitches, intonations and the movements of leaders deserving of admiration.

Since July 2020, when I went full-time on Chayn in a paid capacity, I’ve been observing and admiring how many leadership delimmas I have have been able to deal with simply because I was exposed to it from professional and volunteer experiences. Of just being able to watch leaders — both good and bad — and learn from that. It’s this kind of opportunity that is often not afforded to people who come from backgrounds that face gate-keeping. We push people to networking events which serves this purpose in a very superficial way. Shaking hands and exchanging business cards is the anthesis to the idea of Sohbat.

I have also been reflecting on how just by observing people do their work in the open, through blogs, presentations, templates and events — you are able to absorb so much. I’ve seen people present at events or at looked at project plans from partners and gone right to back to my laptop to create better templates for mine.

I’m grateful to have had good role models at home and in my professional circles. And I hope these Weeknotes and all the effort all of us are collectively putting in sharing our progress and blockers is helping all of us be better at what we do. A beautiful thought to start the week with.



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