New Beginnings – Fun and Stressful at the Same Time

packinglargeThis month is full of new beginnings for JPO and for me. JPO is packing up and cleaning out, preparing for an office reconfiguration. We’ve grown and changed over the last two years and so have our needs. We’re losing our library and conference room to create more office space to house our growing team of experts and leaders—but isn’t everything online now, anyway, and, really, who meets in person anymore?

In all seriousness, the way Americans work is changing and JPO is following suit. For me nothing can replace an in-person meeting, but we are doing less of them, so bye, bye conference room. The team will be teleworking for a few weeks while the new offices are added. At the same time, my house is under construction, and my daughter, Claire, and I are in friend’s basement. I wasn’t planning on managing two construction projects at the same time, and at times managing them both feels stressful.  When the stress sneaks in, I just close my eyes and imagine both finished products and the stress becomes excitement! To add another new beginning, Claire just started middle school in a new building with mostly new classmates. I’m super impressed with her teachers and with how technology has changed since I was in school; the teachers text me and use apps to send reminders and for homework!

The most anticipated new beginning this month, as many of you know, is the promise of new grants and initiatives through federal funding. I know many of our partners and peer organizations are waiting like we are to find out what new projects they will be embarking on this year. We got our first new grant last week and the excitement was palpable in the office.

As the old saying by Seneca goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” which is how I think about Right to Counsel (R2C) National Campaign. This month will see the end of our federal grant for R2C. And though the grant is ending, the initiative is beginning anew for me. I dreamt up the campaign when I was at the Department of Justice and am proud of my part in turning it from a dream into reality, but I have been limited in my role in R2C since I came to JPO because of rules surrounding the grant. With the grant coming to a close, I will be able to focus on it again. I’m excited about the opportunities we’ve developed to continue R2C and to be part of those next steps, which JPO will be rolling out in the coming months.

I’ve been at JPO now for two years, developing a new strategic plan, reorganizing JPO’s internal structure, and recruiting critical new staff and a new leadership team, which concluded this summer when we hired Dr. Julie Baldwin as JPO’s research director. I want to give a shout out to Preeti Menon, my dear friend and colleague, who was instrumental in making JPO’s internal reorganization a success. We start this fall with the team I envisioned when I joined JPO. We have four divisions—Operations, Communications, Research, and Programs—and a team of 13 exceptional staff supported by six fantastic student associates. I’m so proud of the team we’ve put together, and, for me, finalizing the org chart and knowing I have the right team in place to take JPO in its new direction is the best new beginning I could have.

Kim Ball is the executive director of the Justice Programs Office