If I could be remembered for one thing in my life? Being remembered is enough.
As International Women's Day is upon us, we celebrate the 'Emmeline Pankhursts' of our society, the #RealLifeRoleModels that are leading the way to driving positive social change and a more equitable society. Today we speak to our real life role model Alice Sparks, founder of Invisible Cities Manchester who is working to change societies' perceptions of homelessness and empower people affected by homelessness to become more integrated in the community.
Why is diversity so important?
Diversity allows for progress, how would real change ever be achieved if we were all homogenized little people designed to be the same? Equality within knowledge transfer and experience sharing is vital in making the world a better place.
What inspired you to set up Invisible Cities Manchester?
There is a lot of charity out there that doesn't necessarily tackle the root, simply placates and cushions the issue. Instead, it needs to change opinions of homelessness and the view that they can function within society. Invisible Cities Manchester is a social enterprise where people who are homeless, or have been affected by homelessness, are trained to give tours of their city . The tours they give are unique as they have the opportunity to talk about themselves and their experiences of being homeless, as well as about Manchester’s history.
What is the best advice you have been given?
Try everything once - just give it a go if you don’t like it don’t do it again.
What drives you?
The purpose of Invisible Manchester is to use the city as a creative backdrop to encourage conversations around homelessness led by the voices of the most marginalised in society. I am constantly questioning whether I am doing enough? I feel people may scoff at this, but given the insight I have of the devastation on the streets I do feel a tremendous sense of guilt and determination to do more. I know only one person can do so much, but I am driven to empower others as much as I can.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Grappling with my multitude of self-limiting beliefs has been a challenge. Some mornings I can feel an overwhelming sense of pride and disbelief that THIS really is my life!! On a less positive note I can trick myself into doubting everything I am doing because of my lack of experience, young age and naivety. Apparently this is called imposter syndrome?! Ultimately what matters is good intentions and the determination to follow these through in a sensitive and empathetic manner that caters to the needs of the community you are in.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
The following are four of my biggest inspirations, each for a different reason.
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? Nothing ever stays the same, everything changes - be it good or bad, thrive in it!
Have you ever failed? And what got you through?
Times in which I have experienced failure, and along with it feelings of heartache, regret and pain, I am comforted in the knowledge that whatever it is; it can’t be so terrible. I have been incredibly lucky to have an easy breezy life thus far. A little of dose of failure is necessary to use as contrast, you need to experience pain to feel the privilege of resilience and strength. My biggest failure is totally flopping my final IB grades for university, but what a success it is to even complete IB and have the option to apply to university. A little bit of perspective is useful.
What is your favourite quote?
Danny, our Manchester tour guide, said to me the other “You know the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’? Well it’s wrong, because I have learnt so much in the last few months.” So my new favourite quote is Danny’s adaption of the this quote now being ‘You can teach an old dog new tricks.’
If you could choose a soundtrack to your life, what would it be?I have two! Low Rider by War - such a FUN song, love listening to this whilst walking/cycling places. And Vienna by Billy Joel - was tempted not to disclose this, but the lyrics are embarrassingly relevant and certainly has some very fitting advice.
A little of dose of failure is necessary to use as contrast, you need to experience pain to feel the privilege of resilience and strength. My biggest failure is totally flopping my final IB grades for university, but what a success it is to even complete IB and have the option to apply to university. A little bit of perspective is useful.
Is 'success' a destination or a journey?
In the eyes of others I am a success, most recently and hilariously I was introduced as “the girl off the tv” and obviously my grandparents think I am going to be prime minister. So I am constantly being validated by others that I have arrived at the destination named 'success' *in big dazzling bright lights*. Although this endorsement of others feels good, it does not mean I can now proclaim myself a success. Instead, it is an absolute rollercoaster of a journey constantly undergoing renovation and redefinition on a daily basis. At the beginning receiving the logo for Invisible Manchester was my mark of success (I could not sleep that night I was so excited), whereas now my benchmark of success has evolved to bigger goals and hopefully this will continue to grow.
How do you measure 'success'?
Numbers and spreadsheets feel good, they quantify success in a neat and efficient manner. This is the physical representation I need. But the emotional validation is also vital, particularly the feeling of contentment within yourself and your work.
If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
Being remembered is enough.
Get in touch with Alice Sparks to find out how you as a business or individual can get involved, or visit Invisible Cities Manchester to see the city from a new perspective.