Introducing Lucent, a new venture for social change


When we were kids, my brothers and sister and I developed a game. If our mum and dad were out and the phone rang, the unsuspecting caller would be subjected to a conversation that went roughly like this:

Small voice: Hello!

Caller: Hello? Is your Mum in?

Small voice: No Mum’s in prison.

Caller: Oh dear. What about your Dad?

Small voice: No Dad’s in hospital

Small voice collapses in fits of giggles. Drops the avocado trimline phone on the floor. Call ends.

My mum at the time was a prison visitor and went on to run a charity dealing with alcohol and drug addiction and my dad was a doctor, the eighth generation in his family. The value of making a social contribution was so much a part of my childhood landscape that it became the focus of sibling silliness.

And my career ever since has been about bringing that ideal to life. From my days as an academic, through a spell in government, to being a charity Chief Executive and setting up a national statutory body, I have kept social purpose firmly in mind.

But there have been some tough lessons along the way.

The biggest lesson is that good intentions are, on their own, never enough. That paradox is neatly captured in the term “do-gooder”: the person whose burning commitment to a cause is the very thing that gets in the way.

There are points in my leadership where I can now see how my own impatience led to a flurry of activity but little in the way of impact. Passion for cause is a vital component of any work with purpose, but that passion can quickly result in a loss of focus.

With the benefit of hindsight, I would counsel my younger self: “Think hard about your long-term legacy. Make sure the work you are doing this week, today, right now is creating lasting change and be ruthless in stopping the work that is diluting your impact.”

I have also learnt that most change processes are a marathon not a sprint, and that grit and determination can quickly spill over into stubbornness and dogma.  A lack of reflection and over-ambitious targets just lead to personal and organisational burn out. So I would advise balancing dreams and optimism with a healthy dose of realism and pragmatism.

The lessons learnt through working on these issues are now the essence of Lucent, a new venture for social change. Lucent will work to help clients with a social purpose to translate their good intent into real change in the world around them. We are here to help organisations crystallise their purpose, work more effectively and with impact and find clear, practical and achievable solutions to the challenges they face.

What I am excited about is making connections between changemakers who share the same bold ambitions for social change. That’s why for the launch of Lucent, I wanted to share a checklist for organisations seeking to inspire change:

  1. Are you clear about your unique value? Is there a manageable pace set by your senior team? Would the organisation be easily sustained if key people left?

  2. Are you fuelled by a healthy competitive spirit or do you look at others with jealousy? Does your organisation form powerful partnerships, working to establish a common agenda and addressing challenges with honesty?

  3. Do you have a clear focus informed by the people you serve? Is this shared across your organisation? Does it help you prioritise and say no to work, even that which carries substantial funding?

  4. Do you know how what you do on a daily basis makes change happen? Are you and colleagues comfortable using different tools as circumstances change?

  5. Is there trust among colleagues to challenge? And do you take time out to learn from what works as well as wash up after things have gone wrong? 

Do get in touch to talk about how we can help you take that next step to achieving your goals. Sadly we don’t have a trimline avocado phone, but you can contact us at; send a message via @LucentUK or phone 07939 257040.


BlogKatherine Rake