We are here to support, promote and develop voluntary and community action in Middlesbrough

A Day in the Life of... Lesley Spaven

This is a series of Day in the Life of blogs we're running to give an insight into the team here at MVDA.

Lesley Spaven is our Head of Community & Service Development.

How long have you been at MVDA?
I took voluntary redundancy and early retirement from Middlesbrough Council and spent a few months contemplating what I would do with my time. Then an offer came from MVDA to spend 18 months writing a business case for Social Prescribing and eight years later I am still here wondering whatever happened to my plans for retirement!

What's your role?
I am responsible for Community and Service Development which involves identifying opportunities to improve and increase our service offer to the sector in line with our key principles.  I am also responsible for the volunteering arm of the organisation and manage a number of staff working on volunteering and community action.  I am also a key link and member of a number of multi-agency strategic boards and partnerships representing the interests of the VCS.

What did you do before you worked here?
Prior to working at MVDA I had spent over 30 years at Middlesbrough Council doing a variety of jobs mostly in social housing, however my last years with the Council were spent in Children’s Social Care as the Children’s Trust Manager.  As much as I loved most of my time working in a local authority it has certainly been an eye opener working in the voluntary sector and seeing things from a completely different perspective and given me a real appreciation of just how important and valuable the sector is in terms of supporting local communities and residents.

What time do you normally get up?
I am usually up at 6 a.m. each morning.

What’s your morning routine before leaving the house?
My morning routine is either the gym (trying to keep fit but failing miserably!!) or until very recently was walking my dog Jess (yellow lab) who we sadly said goodbye to at 14 years old. 

Describe a typical morning at MVDA
I don’t think there is a typical working day for me at MVDA it varies from day to day and week to week.  It usually includes a mix of reading and responding to emails, attending strategic partnership meetings, working on new development ideas including research and exploring potential opportunities for collaboration, staff and management meetings.  It is so good to actually meet people face to face and I, like many people I have missed that contact and interaction with others.  I only work four days a week usually spending two in the office and two working from home.  I often wonder where the week has gone by the time it gets to Thursday, but I am usually ready for my long weekend before getting back to it on a Monday (this is prep for my actual retirement which isn’t that far away!!).  

What do you do for lunch? Got any favourite dishes or recommended cafes you go to?
Lunch tends to be whatever I have brought with me if I am in the office (I like to think my packed lunch is quite healthy until I get tempted by the biscuits and chocolate in the office). Lunch is usually eaten at my desk, I must start to get out for a walk at lunchtime but as we all know sometimes this is easier said than done.  If I am meeting friends or colleagues for lunch, it will usually be at Mannequins supporting one of our local CICs.

How do you wind down in the evening? What happens after hours (keep it clean!)
Winding down will usually involve TV, watching a good crime drama, documentary, or football.  Living in a house with football fanatics means I have no choice but to enjoy the glorious game although I find myself consoling the Arsenal fan in our house on many occasions, hopefully they will have a better season in 2022.

What’s the best part of your job?
Looking for new ideas on how we can improve our offer and services to the sector and wherever possible exploring opportunities to collaborate with others. I really enjoy identifying a problem or an area for improvement then finding solutions to this and bouncing ideas off others.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Since the opening up after the pandemic it feels like we have gone from 0-100 mph in a short space of time. Simply trying to keep up with everything that is happening locally, regionally, and nationally and where the VCS fits, the impact on the sector and making sure we are connected where appropriate to represent the interests of the sector is probably the most challenging part of my job at the minute.

What’s your biggest work achievement/something you’re most proud of that’s happened in the last 12 months?
Probably the work I have done on proposals to improve our volunteering offer in Middlesbrough which has taken a while to get to the point where we feel we have some good ideas on a future service offer for both Volunteering Involving Organisations and volunteers.  As an organisation we have done lots of research, reflected on our own learning and that of others, talked to organisations, undertaken some process mapping and got our proposals down on paper. The challenge now is how we move this forward and make it happen.

Thanks Lesley! You can reach her at lesley.spaven@mvdauk.org.uk

Lesley Spaven


Head of Community and Service Development

Email: lesley.spaven@mvdauk.org.uk