Practitioner spotlight: Dollywood Foundation UK Regional Director

The first practitioner to be highlighted in the new #becauseofCLD practitioner spotlight is Kirsteen Watson, Regional Director of Dollywood Foundation UK which helps communities, across the UK, replicate Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL); a monthly book gifting programme for children aged 0-5.

Kirsteen Watson Regional Director of Dollywood Foundation UK

What’s your current role?

Regional Director for the Dollywood Foundation UK

Where did you begin your #becauseofCLD journey?

I volunteered at my local Youth Club; Tyrie Youth Club/Aberdeenshire (1992-94) so it’s always been there (in my heart) but my journey didn’t really begin until The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award employed me as an Admin/Communications Officer (2001).  It was there that I truly caught the ‘youth work’ bug.  I got tired of sitting behind a desk administering/writing about the youth work and wanted to get more involved in delivery.  That’s when I applied for a job as a Trainee Development Worker, with Youthlink Scotland, via their Route 98 programme.  They supported me to study a Postgraduate Diploma in Community Education (Distance Learning) at the University of Dundee while I helped YouthBank UK expand across Scotland.

What are the key CLD values and principles that have been your anchor in your various posts?

  • Self-determination; my belief is that an individual cannot be truly happy until they realise their own potential.  Once they do, their own capacity for self-determination brings about all sorts of change in their life and ultimately control.  I always try to place individuals and communities that I work with at the centre of my work, listen to their views and adapt my practice to suit.
  • Empowerment; I try to make sure that individuals and groups involved in projects are valued stakeholders whose voices are listened to and acted upon through individual and/or collaborative action.  I work hard to be inclusive and involve the wider community as much as I can.

If you had to pick one of the Ethics, which would it be and why?

Self-care; this hasn’t always been at the top of my list on my mission to change the world and make a difference to people’s lives.  I’ve often put others needs before my own in the past.  However, through developing my own self-awareness I’ve learned to be kinder to myself.  This has involved taking responsibility for my own health and well-being and being clear on when I need help or advice.

How do you make time for professional development and who supports you in this?

I’m committed to lifelong learning so I’m always looking for inspiration.  It can be busy when I’m running full steam ahead at work, however, I usually make time to find inspiration from something as little as a motivational quote, on twitter for example, during a coffee break or while I’m travelling between meetings.  These often lead me to lengthier articles which I read travelling home on the train, especially if it’s a long journey.  I also like to listen to podcasts while I’m travelling or Ted Talks and have downloaded the app, so that I can save my favourite talks and listen to them again later.  When I’m working from home, I often read in the morning over breakfast and during lunch; I read for pleasure and professional development in my own time.

As I’ve become more self-aware and more caring towards myself, I’ve sought out professional development learning opportunities at work and personally.  I am a reflective learner and try to use my knowledge and understanding to better serve the people and communities that I work with.  I am not precious about my work and share learning with colleagues, other practitioners and stakeholders.

Describe CLD in one word.


What’s the best thing that’s happened this month?

I’ve attended some fabulous meetings with many fantastic people/agencies this last month, so this is a hard one!  Given that this is about CLD work in Scotland, then I’d have to say it’s been meeting with folks at Scottish Book Trust (SBT) to look at how we can grow the partnership that we’ve had with them for 7 years; working on the Scotland Looked After Children Programme which gifts DPIL books to all of Scotland’s under 5s children who are in care with help from every local authority across Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government.  I’ve also introduced SBT to Beanstalk; our national partner in England to look at potential collaboration in Scotland. This is on the back of a People’s Postcode Lottery funded early years programme ‘Story Starters’ that we’re delivering together across England from Sept. this year.

If you would like to be in the spotlight – get in touch !