New Year. New resolutions. A common occurrence for many of us. We, as business owners, do this, every year. And yet ….. 2021 is proving slightly different for Deborah, and perhaps for all of us. In this short article, read Deborah Valentine’s thoughts and reflections on the process of setting new goals and making plans for the new year. She reflects not just on her work as Director at ACCESS, but also on how she is personally facing this New Year.

Looking back, in order to look forward

What can we use from the past, to inform the future? What have we learnt in the past year that will be of value to us moving forward? Should we use lessons of ways of working and conducting our business or should we simply set ‘new’ goals, in the absence of what we have learnt? The truth is, 2020 taught all of us something – even if we are still struggling with knowing what that was. Many of us have had unexpected life lessons. We have lost friends, family, and acquaintances. Many are still struggling; being far from ‘home’ and not knowing when they can embrace those they desperately miss.

Understandably, many are feeling a bit desperate, not sure what to do, or which direction to head in. Whilst struggling with understanding what we have learnt, it’s difficult to face the regular ‘new year, new resolutions’.

The past, as guideline for the future

For me, 2020 is the year that guides the focus for 2021, and it is up to me and the team I work with to see how we take the lessons from a year of challenge, and translate them into guidelines for a year of opportunity. Yes, 2021 is one of opportunity for me – personally, and for ACCESS.

Moving our work online has taught me three, essential things: although it was difficult, it can be done, and changes will be required. Our teams have worked online tremendously well. However, as we take this month of January to reflect on the changes to our work method over 2020, there is still an opportunity to look at what needs to change: our management; our tools; our way of organising and our way of supporting the greater community. Once we have reflected and discussed we will be confident in finding the right tool and format for the evolution of our ‘new normal’. As I have said before, we have two missions at ACCESS: one towards the 120+ volunteers who make us possible, and the other for the public we serve. Finding that balance after a year of change will be challenging, but by starting internally, we can then focus confidently on the external.

My own lesson curve

I struggle with the virtual world. Yes, meetings etc. etc. can be easily done online – but the informal information sharing which takes place over a coffee machine or lunch? That, I miss, and am still struggling with finding a solution. I have missed several steps in the process, and find myself apologising to team members and overlooked colleagues. Those apologies though, are serving me (and I hope them as well). They are bringing home the fact that information sharing – in this new world – where coffee breaks, and laughter around the lunch table are fewer than we would like – also needs a new approach. An approach not only reliant on ‘tech’ gadgets, but rather, how things are done, and how things are shared.

At ACCESS, We are not setting goals for the year just yet. . We are taking January to reflect on 2020, and in February hope to have greater clarity on what our priorities will be and where our efforts will be made. And, for me? Well, I have decided to keep my ears open, to listen as intently as I can and accept that some decisions for 2021 may well have to be adjusted as we carry on this year.

‘Charlene’s bubble’
by Deborah Valentine
Executive Director ACCESS (not-for-profit Stichting)


The WBII theme for 2021 is ACTION!


Photo of Deborah Valentine credit Vinita Salomé
Cover Photo credit Inja Pavlić