An interview with Josiah Lockhart - CEO, Firstport Group
Question 1: From your day to day work, what project, situation, Firstport client or person have you found inspiring?
Answer: This is a really hard question. I’m in a privileged position where the work I do with Firstport, the Sottish Land Fund, and some of my travels lets me see a plethora of people working on social and environmental issues. What I find really inspirational are those people working hard in their community on some of the most innovative projects that very few people have heard of. Some of the examples that I’ve learned loads from in the past couple of years are Chris and Claire from Well Fed in Whiteinch who have one of the most enterprising approaches to food poverty around, Minginish Community Hall Association’s fairy pools car park on the Isle of Skye who have taken community resilience into their own hands, Jake and Amy from Bampoo who have created a landfill ready biodegradable nappy, and the ACRE team in rural Australia who have converted a former prison into a centre for rural Entrepreneurship. Whilst it is not an exhaustive list, they are each enterprising organisations who have each taught me something that I can pass on to others.
Question 2: What trends do you see over the horizon that will impact on the sector?
Answer: If you had asked me this question 6 weeks ago, I might have had a detailed answer, but the horizon is very hard to see over right now. The best way for me to break down a couple of differing approaches organisations are taking to the current situation and try to unpack what each might mean for a social and/or community enterprises when we begin to emerge into a post lockdown world. The big decision all organisations face right now is navigating the tension between wanting to respond to new and evolved social needs as a result of the crisis we find ourselves in and pausing all work to ensure we still have capacity, energy, and resources at the end of the crisis to rebuild.
We all are extremely passionate about our communities and when a need arises, and many of us are making the choice to respond to those new needs we identify. But, evolving into that response, when we don’t have time to plan, can cost us time, force us to burn resources, and leave us in a place where we are winding up our organisations in 4 months. On the other hand, if we just hunker down and wait for the rebuilding, we risk not addressing unmet need.
Whilst most of us have been in crisis mode for the past few weeks, we need to begin developing strategies and plans for how we rebuild this community and sector . We will all emerge changed, as will the needs. Both routes above are valid options. We have to remember that we are all experts in certain things, but not in everything. Our big decision has to be about our specific circumstances and the communities we support. Only then can we begin to plan for over the horizon.
Question 3: Why and how did you decide to join this sector?
Answer: I sort of fell into it. Having started my career in entertainment business and transitioned into community education in the mid 2000’s, I found myself in a transitionary role working with a team to create and manage the early years of what is now the Grassmarket Community Project. For me, the creation of that, and its subsequent legacy, showed me the importance and value in bringing together approaches from both business and community activism. For me it was not a choice per se, but the lessons I learned along the way that showed me that business can be a force for good, and keeping people, and communities at the heart are key.
Question 4: Outside of work, what interests you?
Answer: Those of you who know me well would likely tell me I have 3 main (non-work) passions. Bicycling, food systems, and emerging clean tech (e.g. solar, electric car infrastructure, etc…). Saying that out loud sounds like an odd mix, but somehow it makes sense. And if you get me started on one of those topics, be warned, it is hard to get me to stop.