So, to start, what do you all do in your roles? What does an average week look like for you?
Debbie – There isn’t an average week for us! Describing our roles, we are involved in Business Development and Partnership Management. So that involves making contracts and building relationships with partners across their areas. This can take years, whether it’s public health, education, active travel or economic development. We engage with them, firing them up about Beat the Street and all of its benefits. Ultimately, we bring in the revenue for Beat the Street. But at the heart of what we do is those relationships. One example, would be the recent Llanelli game, they first saw William at a conference back in 2016. They were inspired by Beat the Street and wanted to host a game, but they had no resources or funding available. Then in 2019-2020, we started speaking, and their game happened in 2022. Often, it can take years for ideas and wants to come to fruition. Another aspect of our role is, checking the scope of the programme, and looking at partner aims and objectives. We will research the area strategy and find out what matters to them. This is an excellent tool to utilise whilst building those relationships.
Theo – I would echo what Debbie has said. Building relationships is the most important aspect of our role. We speak to local partners to see how they can achieve their objectives, we also read through strategies. Partnership work is important, and we have done some amazing work with Canal and River Trust. As Sport England system partners we work closely with active partnerships. Day to day, we have lots of conversations really, checking in with people. We also work on proposals, scope the area, cost, schools and follow up with partners.
Debbie – I’d add that it’s nice to have face-to-face meetings again, I try to do these as much as possible. Conferences are also important, as they are a great way to meet and engage with others. It is also helpful to reflect upon which conferences are successful and what connections we’ve made.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Debbie – For me, it’s explaining how Beat the Street works and the benefits, I love talking after the game has finished, as clients and partners just get it then. So, I would say that, and also, I love having the opportunity to meet so many different types of people, across so many areas and different local authorities. So many different areas. Different local authorities. I agree with Theo, early conversations right the way through.
Theo – I love how we can see a project through, from the first conversations to the end where it’s been an outstanding success. It’s satisfying to see projects come to fruition after putting in so much leg work behind the scenes, building these relationships. It is also nice to see colleagues deliver. Having conversations after, it feels like I told you the benefits and we’ve actually delivered them and more.
What drew you to Intelligent Health?
Debbie – I had been involved in Walking for Health, from about the late 1990s, when it first started. South Derbyshire was one of the earliest schemes. I knew about William from then and I ran Walking for Health training sessions. I knew this GP would take people out on walks. Then when I delivered training PowerPoints, a picture of William was always included, I then began seeing him at lots of different conferences too. William was and is very inspiring to me. I heard him speaking about Beat the Street and thought, this is incredible. Then a friend heard they were looking for someone to work on Beat the Street in the East Midlands and the rest is history.
Theo – I can’t answer that haha! I did some work before I went travelling, mainly in mapping. I have been in my current role for almost 7 years now. *checks LinkedIn* It says I’ve almost worked 8 years with Intelligent Health in total. In the early days, we would work across all sorts as the company was much smaller. I was involved in Project Mobilisation, setting up games, mapping, calling schools, and even tech bits! Us 3 kids would help Dad out, not really knowing what we were involved with. From 2015, I was on the books and in 2017, I moved to Sales and Business Development.
What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?
Debbie – It’s all about relationships. Building them up is the most important thing. Another key thing is listening.
Theo – I would echo that, it is 101. As part of those relationships, listen to people, and have chats and conversations, as you never know where they might lead. Always find time to fit in a quick chat.
Debbie & Theo – Craig loves bringing along a packet of shortbread, as an introduction when meeting new people!
Who inspires you?
Debbie – Workwise, William has been an inspiration. I would say my main inspiration is my sister. She has been a big inspiration for me. She was partway through her Nurse training and discovered she was expecting twins 5 days before they were born! She celebrates her 80th birthday soon *disclaimer* she is much older than me. When her boys were 5, she began her teacher training, she completed that and went on to be a very successful headteacher in the roughest part of Stockport, she turned the school around and made it one of the most successful in the area. After retiring she continued to work with the diocese and supported other headteachers who were struggling. She didn’t fully retire until her 70s, and now she loves cycling.
Another person, that I’ve recently discovered after listening to the recent Movement is Life episode, The evolution of public health in modern society. Is Kitty Wilkinson, I’m actually reading a book about her now. The way she promoted Public Health and so much more, it’s an amazing story. The way she was a trusted voice within the community and the good that was achieved as a result. I’m currently reading The Life and Times of Kitty Wilkinson by Michael Kelly, quite stats based but certainly interesting, someone needs to make a movie about her ASAP!
Theo – A company that inspires me is The Ocean Clean Up. As a company they are doers, they decided one day to start cleaning and just got on with tackling cleaning the ocean. They are determined to make the world a better place. It’s nice to see so many other things can be bogged down, whether it’s in a political sense or another. But they just do! The Eden Project is another example of that. They just do things to change the world.
What was your very first job?
Debbie – Nursing. Growing up my Mum was really funny about me having a Saturday job. So, I used to clean for my Mum, and she’d pay me £1, that shows my age haha! She would walk around afterwards and inspect it with her finger. But my first full-time job was nursing in the 1980s.
Theo – A paper round, I must have been about 14 maybe, 15/16. I once delivered papers to the wrong address, that was the first time I was told off by a boss. It’s funny what memories stay with you. For most of my teenage years I worked as a waiter.
Did you go to University? If so, what did you study and where?
Debbie – I went to nursing College at Nottingham University Hospital. I registered as a general Nurse and then a Midwife. Two of my children (who now live in Australia) went to Uni, they aren’t working in a relevant sector now, but loved it.
Theo – I studied Economics at Leicester University, aka the degree when you don’t know what else to do in life! I had a really good time and made friends for life. My degree is effectively not used at all. It is hard to put a value on the social benefits of going to Uni, as there are so many. University can encourage people to come out of their shell and flourish.
What is your decision-making process at work?
Debbie – I’m a planner, I’m a list person and very visual. I would say I’m quite methodical, I like seeing things written down. We have a new CRM which I’m utilising as well. At the end of the week, I always plan ahead for the next one.
Theo – I am very, very, conscious that I’m disorganised. It has never been a strong point for me, I should make more lists than I do. When I have a thought I need to act quickly, I note it down. Some would say I’m inherently disorganised, a trait from my Dad.
How do you motivate yourself? How do you motivate your colleagues?
Debbie – As a team, we have weekly meetings which include William (CEO) and Debbie (Operations Director). These are really beneficial as it gives us an opportunity to chat through all that’s currently happening. The 3 of us meet every month, it is always helpful to have a chat. As a team we complement each other nicely, we all have different strengths. Plus, all 3 of us are good at asking for help if we need to. We have a lot of experience combined, so we can always rely on others for advice or support.
Theo – Well my colleagues certainly don’t need me to motivate them, they do amazing work! But as for myself, it sounds really corny but I genuinely am motivated by the impact our programmes are having. For example, our work with the Canal & River Trust has been so rewarding to truly see communities better connected to their local canal network and realise it is just as much of a public space as a park.
What does health mean to you?
Debbie – Well coming from a nursing background, I think of the WHO meaning initially. But for me, health has many components. It includes the physical, but also the mental, emotional and spiritual sides are very important, it’s the bigger picture that connects. I like the holistic approach; I love being in nature and around my family.
Theo – To me being healthy just gives us more freedom. Illness or disease can add so many restrictions to what we can do in life and that is such a shame. Sometimes health can seem a slightly abstract concept which we push to the side in favour of living-life how we want to at that time. Yet if we ignore it too long, ill-health means we are forced to live-life with huge compromises to accommodate treatment or inability. That’s not to say of course that we should never do anything risky or bad for our health, that would be far too boring.
What are your hobbies?
Debbie – I love walking and my dog. I spend a lot of time with my family and grandchildren. I have 6 grandchildren, 2 of whom live in Australia. I also love listening to music, but I would say walking and the countryside are my favourite things to do.
Theo – Mushrooms! Growing them, foraging them, photographing them and eating them. I’m pretty obsessed with fungi, they are just the most fascinating thing on the planet to me. The mushroom is just the fruiting body, like an apple on a tree. The main body of the organism is the white mycelium which spreads through the soil, tree-trunk or leaf litter. You can cut out any small part of that mycelium and it will continue to grow as the same organism, with the same DNA and same intelligence; it’s as if its consciousness is spread evenly throughout the whole organism. 95% of plants on planet Earth have a “mycorrhizal” relationship with fungi which they need to survive, so they are absolutely essential for life.
Humans first appeared about 5 million years ago, plants 500 million years ago but fungi are as old as 2 billion years! They have seen everything. I think there is so much we can learn from them in terms of ecosystems, health and community.
I do also love music and am attempting to get better at playing the piano.
Tell me a fact about you that no one will know…
Debbie – Well, I’m slightly obsessed with David Beckham. Every Christmas my husband buys me his calendar *proceeds to lift this year’s calendar up and show us on the call*. If I ever met him, I think I would faint. I also, have my belly button pierced, or I did. (Now, this is becoming a recurring theme… who else at IH has a piercing?!).
Theo – I was part of the security team for the London 2012 Olympics. It was when G4S were massively under-fire from the Government for having enough security personnel and so they did a big recruitment push and I needed some summer work. I didn’t really think they’d accept me but before I knew it I went through training and then was posted down in Weymouth for the sailing, scanning Ben Ainslie in most days.
If you were a biscuit… which, would you be?
Debbie – Oh, I love those… chocolate leibniz biscuits. SO much chocolate, delicious.
Theo – Milk chocolate hobnob.
If they made a movie about your life, who would you want to play the lead role?
Debbie – I would choose Julia Roberts (she is one of my favourite actresses). Featuring alongside David Beckham who would of course play my husband. I just love Julia, when she laughs, she lights up the whole room.
Theo – Huge difference between who they probably would cast, and who I’d want cast.
What 3 items would you take to a desert island?
Debbie – Okay, something that plays music and wouldn’t run out of batteries, my dog. I’d leave my husband and take David Beckham hahaha! Just joking, it should be something practical, like a knife. I could cut things down.
Theo – Piano, penknife, pillow.
Anything to recommend – whether it’s a good podcast, book, film, or app you’ve loved recently?
Debbie – I recently watched Kate Winslet in I Am Ruth. I thought it was really, really, powerful. The conations of the peril of social media, I could understand the struggles from both sides. Well worth a watch. Earlier this year, the singular episode and Kate won BAFTAs. If you are looking for a summer read, then The Seven Sisters is worth a read, the whole series is brilliant.
Theo – In a surprise to absolutely no one they are mushroom-based. Book wise it is Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, and documentary wise it is Fantastic Fungi on Netflix.
How do you keep active?
Debbie – Walking! Walking! And more walking!
Theo – I play football as a right-back for an 11-a-side team which I really enjoy. It’s good for keeping my fitness up.