Talking Mats celebrates Lois Cameron
Moving on, stepping down, retiring; none of these are phrases the Talking Mats team were allowed to use over the past few months as Lois Cameron (outgoing Director of Talking Mats) edged closer to the 31st of March 2023. Instead, Lois termed her switch from Director as ‘changing gear’; a chance to go at a pace that would let her take in a bit more of life’s scenery. Lois has been with Talking Mats since the very early days with Joan Murphy and moved from research in the University of Stirling’s Psychology Department to the ‘incubator’ set up for new businesses on the University’s Enterprise Park. Here she reflects on some aspects of her time at Talking Mats, her hopes for the Enterprise and her plans for all that spare time.
What was it about Speech and Language Therapy that appealed to you?
I think it was the mix of language and psychology and medicine , the fact that it drew on different strands of learning and that it was with people. At 18 you never really know what you’re getting into, I was just really lucky that I chose something that I have really loved all my life.
Moving away from the NHS was a big step, what excited you about being part of Talking Mats?
I found a shocking statistic that it takes on average 17years for an idea that had been proved in health research to get put into practise. That’s a long time. Through our research on Talking Mats we knew we had a really effective way of getting people to express their views and be included. We investigated different (business) modes and a Social Enterprise was really going to allow us to focus on knowledge transfer. It would give us the flexibility to work across other sectors because this wasn’t just about health, supporting effective communication is important in all sectors e.g social services, education , other 3rd sector organisations, and we needed a business model that could be much more fleet of foot than you ever could be in a statutory organisation.. Setting up Talking Mats as a social enterprise was the vehicle for getting the research into practise.
Are there any stand-out moments for you from your time at Talking Mats?
The Scottish Enterprise Edge Award – we were the first Social Enterprise to win this award. It was developed to support businesses in Scotland, not specifically Social Enterprises, but as a Social Enterprise we won it and on a number of levels that had a huge impact on me. It said that Talking Mats as a business was taken seriously and it said ‘you’re not a therapist anymore, you’re a business woman’, it also said to me that they were taking Social Enterprise seriously as a way of doing business. So that was special.
My standout training stories are when I’ve worked with people with Learning Disabilities. There is something empowering about enabling people to grow and I feel my work with the National Involvement Network did that, training people with Learning Disabilities to become Talking Mats listeners and going on to support them to put Talking Mats into practise.
If you had a magic wand, what resource would you like to create?
I’ve always used Talking Mats in my business planning so the whole area of business development is one that interests me because communication is often the problem in businesses. If you analyse what goes wrong in business at the heart it is often communication and getting people to articulate that safely is hard, so I think that’s the resource that I’ve never had the time to create. I am doing some business mentoring with people running social enterprises now and using the framework and it is really powerful.
What do you wish for Talking Mats moving forward?
Stability, growth, a team that continues to work together with a variety of skills so that it still draws from different viewpoints and I wish it fab ways of getting the message across that actually using TM makes a difference and has a huge impact on peoples’ lives.
What plans do you have to fill all your spare time?
Walking, tennis, writing, learning Spanish, my singing group, yoga, spending time with friends and family . I’ve discovered I can make fabulous chocolate and tahini brownies which went down well at a tennis match recently. May is my month to walk the John Muir Way.
I’m really delighted Margo is taking over as the new Managing Director and the new team has opportunities to support her and grow Talking Mats.
Thank you to Lois for answering these questions and the team at Talking Mats wish you all the best for the future.