Liz Carlile: thank you and goodbye!
IIED's outgoing director of communications reflects on her last 16 years at the organisation.
Today is my last day in IIED as director of communications and I want to take a moment to say thank you to all those people in and around the institute who have made my last 16 years here the interesting and challenging journey that it has been.
Of course, there is a big thank you to my team. I hope they know by now how much I have valued working with them. Such a group of skilled, committed and constant colleagues who are always up for a new challenge, always ready to fit in that next imperative, always happy to try to improve things and always breaking boundaries.
Long may that continue. It has been a wonderful learning environment as well as a high-achieving space. I shall be sorry to be leaving this shared endeavour.
Without research colleagues there would not have been the ideas, the research, the constant pursuit of our partners’ voices and perspectives, the scrutiny and challenge of how we position ourselves alongside others among our global family.
Collaboration has been vital
This dedication to our mission and vision is what keeps IIED different and while sometimes we can become too internal, this mirror can be a good one to look into every now and then and check what we are doing.
Working alongside colleagues to craft the best messages, provide the best vehicle for our content and push for strong collaboration between research and communications has been invigorating.
IIED also cannot be the stable, firm foundation that it is without those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep us functioning. As a place to work, IIED has been great. It is an organisation that is thoughtful, considerate and always ready to look after staff.
Can we get work-life balance right? A lot of colleagues would say definitely not. But I think we do get the balance in striving to deliver our mission in the most cost-effective way possible and recognising policies that can maintain wellbeing and good employee relations.
It is thanks to many of my colleagues in the people team, facilities, finance, internal comms and IT who make sure it all hangs together.
But for me, I also want to say a huge thank you to all the people I have met on the journey while working with IIED. It is not just colleagues who provide the inspiration, it is all the people who have provided ideas, experiences, cultural insights, reflections, support and more.
The generosity of those who have hosted me as a member of IIED all over the world has been unparalleled and will not be forgotten. I hope that my strategy as director of comms has gone some way to reflecting this diversity of contribution and ideas, but I certainly know that from my own perspective this has been the richest 16 years I could have hoped for.
Growing over the years
Sixteen years ago it was about building the Communications Group – moving out of the basement into the light both metaphorically and physically. It was about moving us from a small team focused on the website and on disseminating publications into a group that could support IIED across the full range of communications.
We delivered excellent creative content, built the brand and consolidated the myriad products emerging from our research teams. We achieved a stronger voice in the media and worked much harder to build communications strategies that understand who we are talking to, supporting projects to think about communications in new ways.
We have innovated across the full digital and print spectrum. Introduced flagship events with our Barbara Ward Lecture series and our Communications Learning Week. Our digital community has been growing and our library of online material and database of over 7,000 free-to-use publications is accessible the world over.
The world of comms has also changed in that time and we have been able to contribute to the debates on comms – growing the enabling environment for policy comms, taking part in reviews of research-funded projects in the early days to doing research into social learning and the way it could enhance climate change communications.
Experience working with multilateral agencies and big programmes using strategic communications to achieve greater impact has been invaluable.
We have shared our learning, contributed to workshops and published our own material. The move from print to digital has been a recent driving force and has taken our work to a different place while still recognising that for many in the world we engage with, there is inequality in communication technologies.
So with the very welcome support of two directors, Camilla Toulmin and Andrew Norton, whom I also thank, wholeheartedly, I have been able to grow the communications space in IIED with my colleagues and I believe we have made a good case for taking time, effort and investment to use our communication opportunities well.
Their trust in me to get on with the job has been liberating and motivating and we have built what I hope is more than a firm foundation from which my successor can reach new heights. It is great to be able to pass on the baton to James Persad, formerly of FareShare, who will bring great new ideas and experience. So watch this space – and goodbye!