Disclaimer: i don’t know where i want to be in five years

MAY 2022

Lucy Hart, Coordinator of Research and Capacity-Building

I didn’t know my current job existed until I had it. Genuinely, I am being serious.

I did my BA in Human Geography at University College London, then my MSc in Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics, squeezing in a yoga teacher certification in-between. I only go places with three letter acronyms, you see (except for TRIBE Yoga School come to think of it, but I digress). My degrees taught me much, I did good work, but they weren’t designed to prepare me for a vocation.

Doesn’t everyone dread the question “where do you want to be in five years?” The truth: I don’t know where I will be in five years, but I am taking things as they come, and living in the moment. I love my job and am playing my part in making the world an ever so slightly more socially justice place. Rewind three years……

As a chronic planner, I had my future sketched out:

I would find a gender-based role in a non-profit, perhaps even work for the United Nations. Even better: I would work for UN Women. I was deeply inspired by my professors and peers at the LSE, where I was surrounded by the wonderful, creative minds of people who would change the world for the better. I knew I wanted to have a great impact, be a part of driving this change. Gender equality for all? Give me a day. So, for someone that loves plans, predictability, and, importantly, purpose, it was quite a surprise when I finished my master’s at the beginning of a global pandemic and found myself behind the closed doors of my flat, unable to do what I do best: talk (sometimes to closed ears). I distinctly remember sitting in a Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights seminar with Professor Ernestina Coast when a domino of BBC “breaking news” sounded. It was quite clear: COVID-19 wasn’t going away, and it most certainly wasn’t afraid of London. LSE swiftly moved all lectures online, and that was the sultry end of my MSc. I graduated, but not in person.
I applied for more jobs than I wish to recall and spent more time in tears than I wish to recount. But I was lucky to connect with James Newell, Executive Director of Groundwork East, who put me in touch with “the best networker he knew”, Robin Heller. I don’t discount my active role in this introduction. I am, as both James and Robin would say, tenacious. But meeting Robin was a fortuitous encounter. I remember James calling me in transit to meet a friend, taking the time to listen about my painful endeavours shooting in the dark with charities who weren’t hiring. I promptly burst into tears when we ended the call. I owe thanks to James not just for making the introduction to Robin, but for lending an ear.

Meanwhile, I was volunteering with a charity, one doing great work for women and girls, but, as is so often the case, with an imposing bureaucracy and a long professional ladder to climb to have a real impact. I quickly realised that I would have far more influence at The Athena Advisors, an organisation where age doesn’t dictate responsibility.

As a non-profit consultant, I have the privilege of contributing towards the success of not just one, but many, many non-profits.

And, with the added priority of community-building through collaboration. In my role at The Athena Advisors, I wear many hats. One hat involves scoping out great partners: we are fortunate to partner with the Financial Times for their 2022 London and D.C. FT Weekend ideas festivals (where we have a booth, do come and see us!) and Alliance Magazine. We are judicious about our affiliations with partners and clients alike, and if you didn’t see my blog post on client selection, you should read it. Only last week, I sat with James Macdonald of The Beacon Collaborative, an organisation with the honourable mission of doubling the amount of philanthropic giving in the UK. No small task. We reflected on the importance of collaboration, something central to their work and ours. Faster progress would surely be made if we put all these brilliant minds into a melting pot and laid our cards on the table. James and I think big, clearly.
If you want to have an impact and work in the non-profit world, consider non-profit consulting. You will find my email below and I am always available to chat. This role has taken me to Tallahassee to staff a non-profit board retreat, I have rubbed shoulders with Former Prime Minister John Major in the VIP tent at the Financial Times festival and, most vitally, I have the flexibility to include work in my life, rather than life in my work. That’s exactly what I’m doing, and I love it.
Lucy Hart is the Coordinator of Research and Capacity-Building at The Athena Advisors.
You can reach her at: