Let’s meet Margo, Managing Director, Talking Mats
‘I want the Talking Mats community to grow so we can thrive as a business and have a greater impact in supporting people who have difficulty communicating.’
Margo MacKay, the new Managing Director of Talking Mats, shares a little bit about her background as well as her plans for the Social Enterprise as she settles into her role.
What was your background before joining Talking Mats?
Before Talking Mats, I practised as a Speech and Language Therapist. I started in Inverness, working with children and young people, then moved to the Southern General Hospital and Neurological Institute in Glasgow working with adults for about 2 ½ years. After that, I moved to Forth Valley where I worked with children and young people of varying ages with Additional Support Needs and I also covered maternity leave in two Forth Valley prisons.
What excited you about moving to Talking Mats?
I worked for both the NHS and Talking Mats for a while and, at that time, TM hadn’t yet been developed for use with children and young people. I was granted some funding for a research project, aimed at involving young people in making decisions about their life and educational goals. It became clear to me that young people are experts in their own lives and that they are well equipped to understand what is best for them. For example, one young person wanted to be able to travel independently on the bus and meet his pals in the town centre. This goal then informed and shaped the content of the curriculum. He was motivated to learn about money, personal and road safety, and planning a journey, all with the end goal of travelling on his own. I started to see the real impact of involving young people more and it seemed like the right time (with Getting It Right For Every Child) to promote Talking Mats within Education.
What do you think is unique about Talking Mats?
Talking Mats is unique because it provides a safe space for individuals to express their views, with the support of visual materials. A lot of people, myself included, are visual learners. Diagrams, and other visual tools, can be powerful because they help people to process different issues in an accessible and clear way. As part of the process, TM listeners create a safe space, a vital reflective space, where they gently guide somebody to think about different aspects of their life in a very neutral and non-judgemental way. We have seen the impact that this has had on children and young people as they feel empowered in their decision-making.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future of Talking Mats?
I am absolutely committed to growing our community, both nationally and internationally. The ability to communicate is a global human right and yet there are many people in the world without a voice. This means that there are lots of opportunities for expansion. We are currently working on translating our resources into other languages, such as French, Swedish, Japanese and German, which is exciting as it adds cultural richness to our work. We are also exploring the use of new technology, incorporating AI into our Digital Talking Mats in order to gain valuable data insights.
I want to continue to promote our inclusive values in all sectors of society, so every voice is heard. I’d like the Talking Mats community to grow so we can thrive as a business and have a greater impact in supporting people who have difficulty communicating. I think our whole sense of wellbeing is related to having some sense of control over our environment. Regardless of age, or ability, everybody has the right to express a view about what is important to them.
Everyone needs a good work / life balance, what do you enjoy away from Talking Mats?
I love the outdoors and some of my passions are wild swimming and cycling. I have a couple of swimming and cycling buddies and we like to find different lochs and routes around Scotland. I also love to potter away in the allotment. It’s a good way to switch off, maybe it’s my Lewis upbringing but I find it therapeutic to do a little bit of manual work at the end of the day.
Thank you Margo. On behalf of the team and the Board I’d like wish you good luck and let you know how excited we are to be working with you for the future of Talking Mats.