Inspirational Woman: Marianne Moore | Founder, Justice Studio

Marianne MooreI am an entrepreneur and international human rights consultant.

I founded the social justice consultancy Justice Studio eleven years ago and I’m now navigating my next steps. Having begun it as a one-woman-band I have been gradually stepping back, my current role in the organisation is as Chair.  

My background was in management consultancy, I started out as a project coordinator in an international development consultancy and then moved on to work for a number of UK consultancy firms focusing on the public and charitable sector. I was incredibly passionate about youth justice – and the treatment of young people in prison – so early on I started specialising in child and criminal justice work. In order to specialise I did a masters degree in youth justice and criminology and gradually manoeuvring myself into projects that meant I could focus and specialise on those subjects. I ended up designing and leading a number of evaluations of the youth secure estate for the Youth Justice Board, and then, when I set up Justice Studio, expanded my work internationally.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Maybe a bit. I have always been clear about where my passions lie and so I have always had a clear sense of what I wanted to do, but I guess, it hasn’t always been clear to me how to make what I wanted, happen. I remember being at university and thinking that I wanted to be a child justice expert who floated around and made a difference to the world, but had absolutely no idea how on earth to actually get there at the time. Once I had my first job, which basically entailed sending experts to countries do different exciting projects, I started to understand what I needed to do to be one of them myself. And then, once I knew the path I needed to take, I did plan. I basically jumped from project to project, gradually specialising, until I was ready to set out on my own.

I’m at a new crossroads in my career now, and there are many ideas that I have and roads I could go down. I am planning my next steps to a certain extent but there is only so much you can plan. I like to think that there are two types of strategy: the type where you set your goal and then develop a clear action plan as to how you will forge ahead to get there, and another type of strategy where you set your goal but then just try and clear space in your life to receive what needs to come to you. I think at the moment I am using a bit of both of these two strategies. It’s good to have a general sense of direction, but not to put too much pressure on that plan happening in a specific way by a certain time. As I have learnt the hard way – you have to enjoy the journey!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

So many challenges! Sometimes it feels like my career is a computer game whereby as you get to the end of each level you encounter a big boss at the end which you have to defeat in order to reach the next level! Generally, it has been a sharp up-hill ride. It has been challenging working in the environments I have worked in and it is especially challenging setting up and running a small business on your own. Running a small company requires a massive amount resilience, hard-work and determination which can be exhilarating but also takes its toll over the long haul. Running an organisation in the human rights sector adds another layer of intensity. The majority of topics we are dealing with on a day to day basis are some of the most difficult subjects: child abuse, people in prison, racism, and those unable to access basic human rights. None of it is light stuff! I constantly thrown myself in at the deep end but luckily each time I have been able to swim, – beat the big boss -and get to the next level!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Undoubtedly getting my organisation Justice Studio to where it is today. My mission for a long time had been to create an organisation that would survive and thrive without me. We are very almost there. It now has a great leadership time who are taking it on its next phase, and I have plotted my gradual exit. It feels amazing to have created something that now other people care about and are proud of. I get a kick out of seeing my colleagues working together and enjoying their jobs.  Right now we are the closest we have been to realising my vision for the organisation, and that is really exciting.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

A real strong commitment to my purpose and vision for what I wanted to create. Whenever I am going through a very difficult time in my career I try to remember why I set out to do what I’m doing. Even when things get hard it’s important to look to the reasons why started on that path in the first place, and know that you will eventually get to where you want to be. It takes a lot of determination and a lot of resilience.

But also, and this is something I’ve only really grappled with properly recently, we need to make sure we are not a slave to the idea of what is “success”. So much of our modern world requires things of us that may be laudable on the face of it, but are not good for us personally. It’s important to keep checking in with yourself about whether you are on the right road and if it is still lighting you up. Sometimes we need to say no to what is deemed by society to be “success” in order to be true to ourselves. Getting the balance between knowing when to push on and knowing when to stop is very difficult but very important, it’s something I’ve been particularly focused on in the last couple of years.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I love mentoring. I mentored a 16 year old boy in the criminal justice system when I was in my twenties and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It wasn’t smooth sailing, and he had a really really tough start in life, everything was stacked against him. But during that year I think we ended up having a real bond. I remember that he used to love reading, he used to read everything – in much detail and with deep deliberation. Apart from that formal experience I haven’t officially mentored anyone else, although I guess in an informal way I provide support and guidance for anyone who wants it, and who I think I can help.

Most of my career I did not seek anyone to mentor me. I was very independent, and actually not very good at asking for help, so I soldiered on a lot on my own when it could have helped to have someone to talk to. But in the last couple of years I have started to reach out to more senior people for help and advice, and it has been invaluable.  I realised it really helps to be able to talk your career issues through with someone who has been there before and who understands. Someone who can give you a bit of empathy and wisdom – I feel silly that I wasn’t able to do this earlier, but I’m very glad I can do it now.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

If I could click my fingers and have every woman on this earth suddenly know how powerful she was, I think it could change everything. It would wipe away any doubts about how attractive she is, how intelligent she is, and how worthy she is. If, in this moment, all women could shake off the conditioning we have been given to be small and fit in, and instead connect with what we truly want and deserve and just insist on it, then it would create miracles.

If this could happen then achieving gender equality wouldn’t be about the need to prove ourselves or fight for things that we have been denied. I think when we have done this sometimes we have been trying to prove more to ourselves than men that we are worthy of them. If we had more of a deep internal knowing of our power we would just gently and calmly reclaim what has been withheld from us, together, and have a sort of quiet revolution. The rest would follow. 

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

As I mentioned my younger self was extremely independent and, especially as I set up Justice Studio, I felt that I had to do everything myself. I would want to tell her that working with people, even though it can be difficult, is a better than trying to do everything on your own. I know she probably wouldn’t have listened and would have needed to gradually come to that realisation by herself in her own time, but if I had accepted that earlier I think I would have saved myself some loneliness and hardship along the way.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge is addressing some of what I set out in the question about gender equality. I think we need a fundamental values shift in our world and I want to write about that and talk about that. I am writing a book about justice right now which encapsulates everything that I have learned in my years as a criminal justice expert. I want to get that out into the world and then pursue my other book ideas, other business ideas, and the millions of other ideas and things that I want to explore as part my career going forward.

Please follow Marianne on Linkedin and on Instagram. Justice Studio’s website can be found here.

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