“I think you’re on mute” – a 2020 roundup

As we find ourselves on the last few pages of chapter 2020, I think we can all agree that this has been a year like no other. The world stood still as the pandemic brought us both indoors and online, pyjamas permeated the realm of acceptable work attire and offices were replaced with zoom meetings where “I think you’re on mute” is uttered at least once a day. Rather fittingly Spotify decided to inform me last week that I spent just over 2,000 minutes listening to Taylor Swift this year (lockdown was an emotional time, ok?) and it got me thinking that despite the time that was spent drowning out the chaos of the world, it's important to take time to reflect on what was going on in the midst of that noise: what else did we unmute?

Like many, the most exotic place I found myself this year was on my sofa watching tigers on Netflix. The interlude between graduating from university and starting my job here at Sussex Innovation left a lot of time to take a step back and reflect (when I wasn’t listening to Taylor Swift, of course). With many plans derailing and human interaction kept to the bare minimum, finding good amongst the bad became more important than ever. So, aside from COVID tests, let’s take a moment now to reflect on the positive things that came out of 2020.

As their Catalyst experience came to a close, team 6 all left with jobs lined up:

· Sian started to work for Blackthorne

· Kel joined Capgemini

· Leya returned to University whilst also working with Brighton Chamber

· Arthur secured his dream job at Salix Finance

· Eleanor and Jamie-Lee took on internal positions here at Sussex Innovation

Team 6 have set a great example to us here at team 7, and we wish them the best of luck in the next steps on their professional journeys!

By September team 7 was complete and we have now all settled into our roles as Business Support Executives. It has been a challenging yet rewarding experience to help businesses grow in this turbulent time. We have provided both specific project support to many companies or helped them pivot in response to the climate COVID created – one example being Hepworth Brewery. Successful crowdfunding campaigns helped both Good Koffee and The Climate App reach their goal! Despite the pandemic, Suss Ventures have had a very busy year. Through creating a bespoke matching model, they have been able to match the right investors with the right fundraisers and create an active and growing community.

Although there is no doubt that progress and changes still need to be made, 2020 has been transformative for the Black Lives Matter movement. The reality of the black experience that has been muted by a history of oppression and systemic racism could no longer be ignored. Anti-racist protests were seen across the globe and black voices were amplified. Sussex Innovation made a commitment to respond constructively to the Black Lives Matter movement through aiming to become more diverse, more inclusive and support more Black-owned businesses. 100 Stories, our new video and podcast series, aims to provide an accessible platform for people of colour to share their experiences of prejudice and journeys to success. We do this in a bid to keep the conversation alive and continue to help people understand what it’s like when you don’t have a seat at the table with no option to unmute.

Team 7 are all very excited to expand their skills by listening to and learning from others. We have a range of diverse training sessions coming up, kicking off with Sam Knowles this week. In the new year, we look forward to training with Social Brighton as well as welcoming new clients to our community. All of us remember the feeling of exhilaration and relief when we received the email to say we got the job here, and we are excited for the new members of team 8 to feel the same thing! Many people are grateful to have a job right now, but we are happy to have this job.

To seek positivity is not to take away from the fact that this has been, for too many, a year of exceptional loss and the brutal realities cannot and should not be ignored. Instead, it is simply to acknowledge that in the midst of chaos positives can be found. This year we found new ways to connect, to learn and educate ourselves, to find pleasure in simplicity. We have used our voices to begin to tackle important societal issues and show how powerful people are when they come together. Lockdown saw air pollution drop and conversations around climate change rise, and the changes in the White House have shown that sometimes good can trump evil. Although this has been a year of silent stadiums, desolate dancefloors and baren bars, humanity has never been so loud.

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