28.06.24 News and information

Celebrating Vicki: 10 years at the Partnership

This week we’re marking Vicki Woolley’s, our Head of Operations’, 10 years working at the Partnership.

A decade working for any organisation is a considerable contribution, but Vicki’s time at the Partnership feels particularly significant. Vicki has been instrumental in enabling and supporting huge change and growth at the Partnership and navigating shifting internal and external landscapes. This in turn has had a hugely positive impact on the wider city, with Vicki having a hand in lots of different projects and collaborations.

To acknowledge and celebrate all her amazing work we have asked her to reflect on the last decade and the changes at the Partnership over this time.

Vicki, can you tell us about your background and what brought you to the Partnership?

Before joining the Partnership, I worked at the Arnolfini for about 8 years and completed an MA in Performance at the University of Bristol. I was lucky enough during that time to work alongside a really diverse and inspiring range of artists and producers whose work brought audiences together in new and interesting ways to share ideas and imagine different futures. It was this experience that drew me to work with Bristol Green Capital Partnership (as it was then called), which was trying to bring people together at a city scale and shape a different and sustainable future for Bristol.

Can you explain what was happening at the Partnership at the time and what your role was initially?

It was an incredibly exciting time. The city had just been awarded European Green Capital status for 2015, and the Partnership was transitioning from being a network driven by volunteers (supported by the council) to becoming a new, independent community interest company.

When I started in 2014 as the first employee of the company, I was lucky enough to have the support and leadership of the two co-chairs of the Partnership at the time, Liz Zeidler and Phillipa Bayley, and its new Board of Directors (all of whom were active members in the Partnership). My role as Coordinator was to support and engage a diverse range of members in both shaping the activities of 2015 as well as making the most of the opportunities presented to catalyse and support the projects they wanted to see take place. I also worked closely with Bristol 2015 Ltd to make sure the work across the network was showcased throughout the year, whilst simultaneously laying the foundations for how the Partnership could grow and evolve as a legacy organisation.

It was a brilliant time to be at the Partnership. Thanks to the inspiring and tireless contributions of so many people following its beginnings in 2007, I felt privileged to be able to learn from its members and explore collaboratively how this newly founded organisation could sustain and strengthen the Partnership and its mission beyond 2015.

How has your job, and the organisation, changed over the years?

In terms of my job, I’ve tried my hand at everything! I’ve worked across projects, development, operations, governance, HR and finance.  It’s been super varied and rewarding – requiring me to use different skills and working with a huge number of brilliant and passionate people.

The staff team has grown from one to the now 11, and being able to bring more skills and experience into the organisation has greatly enriched the way we deliver on our projects and mission. The scale of what we’re working on has also constantly evolved, as we always hold the ambition to scale up and deepen the impact of our work. Our growth has brought huge opportunities, but also challenges. Part of my role now is making sure that whilst we grow, we continue to retain the Partnership’s core values and organisational resilience.

Another huge shift for the organisation is the context we’re working in, with the climate and nature crises so much higher up the agenda for more people compared to when I started. I remember coming back from my first maternity leave in 2019 around the time of the climate emergency declarations and it feeling like a very different environment to be operating in. This has led to many more opportunities for us to expand what we do and has enabled us to work with a much wider and more diverse set of partners and collaborators.

There has also been a big shift in our mission – focusing not just on the changes that are needed, but HOW those changes come about. Our recent rebrand really encapsulates this change.

What are you most proud of from your time at the organisation?

Seeing through periods of challenge and transition and coming out the other side! And being about to nourish and maintain such a breadth of relationships with a wide range of individuals and organisations, including those who’ve been involved with the Partnership since the start.

I’m also proud of the ways in which I’ve been able to contribute to impactful projects and collaborations over the years, such as the Black & Green Ambassadors programme, and creating new opportunities for people to share ideas and connect, for example, Healthy City Week, which ran 2015-2017 – and of course our many Partnership gatherings and Green Mingles.

What’s your favourite part of working at the Partnership?

All the lovely people I get to work with! I feel so lucky to be able to work with our incredible, inspiring, passionate staff team, directors and collaborators. I’m constantly motivated by people who have vision and drive to make a difference.

What is a particularly memorable moment you’ve had?

The 10th anniversary celebration gathering at We the Curious in 2017 really sticks in my mind. We were able to take a moment to celebrate all that had been achieved by our members, and the learnings and ideas that had come from the 2015 year. It felt special to gather with so many people who were involved and committed to the Partnership – after all sharing, connecting and inspiring each other is what the Partnership is all about.

I’m excited that we’ll be returning to We the Curious for our next gathering in November. Watch this space for more info!

What is something you have learned over the past 10 years?

To slow down. This is definitely easier said than done, but I’m learning all the time the importance of taking my time, even though it’s difficult to do this type of work without there being a sense of urgency. To build and sustain effective, collaborative partnerships with people and organisations, it’s essential to take time and consider our different needs and ways of working.

Where do you see the Partnership going in the next 10 years?

I can imagine the Partnership growing as we’ve got an amazing opportunity to share our learnings, and all the incredible and innovative work that’s happening in the city, with other places. There continues to be a need to scale up the pace of change in Bristol and beyond, whilst ensuring fairness is central, and I can see the Partnership playing a big part in this.

Our challenge is to be ambitious and take advantage of the opportunities whilst retaining our essence and keeping our roots in Bristol.

Finally where are some of your favourite places in Bristol?

Troopers Hill as my closest green space. I like having a wander down Church Road or Gloucester Road for good food and drink. Otherwise, anywhere that entertains my children for free!

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Vicki Woolley, Interim Chief Executive Officer