An ending: the ultimate gift.

The decision to end something is in many ways like the decision to start something. You can’t tell exactly when the idea popped into your head. It niggles away and you swing from ‘do it’ to ‘nah it’s not the right time’. You talk about it with other people in the hope that they’ll wade through your confusion for you, hoping they’ll give you some sort of permission to do what you know deep down you’re ready to do. Then, like the decision had been there all along, you arrive at a point of clarity.

This has certainly been my experience over the last 12 months as I have decided to finish up my time as CEO of YFM. It’s a big, thrilling and meaningful decision to make, and one that couldn’t be rushed.

Making room

Often leaving is far less celebrated than it’s shinier counterpart – beginning. Leaving can bring with it discomfort, often underpinned by an assumption that something is wrong.

In my time at YFM there have been many endings. The first, and most uncomfortable was when YFM’s founding volunteers were ready to move on to other things. I distinctly remember the panic of wondering how, and if, our work would continue when the very people who made it left. The second was when Jo finished up as Co-Director. To share something for 5 years and then have this heart and head absent from the day to day, felt like what I imagine mild amnesia to feel like. Temporarily, I lost confidence in myself and I took time to make decisions that once I would power through.

However the beauty of each of those endings was the gift it offered to others. The incoming group of volunteers pushed YFM to new heights, with fresh ideas and fresh blood. It was only through the first group of volunteers stepping aside that allowed space for newbies to step in and kick arse. Similarly, when Jo finished, I could step into the role of CEO, the first for YFM, make it my own, and lead the organisation in a way that may not have been possible as a duo.

Looking back – This is what gives me the gooseys.

I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve done and of what we have achieved in my time with YFM as CEO. YFM successfully ran its first food waste campaign, getting over 1000 people in the kitchen saving food from landfill working with 5 leading councils across Sydney (watch out for national Cookluck Club roll out in 2018!). We started a national conversation about the decline in young people cooking at home and what we can do about it, speaking with Tom Tilley from Hack on Triple J, among others. And we had our 6 years of work recognised and heralded by the NSW Government at the Green Globe awards!

It’s an incredible responsibility to be the steward of a thing like the Youth Food movement. Quite frankly, it has been the greatest gift I have given myself, and the most testing and humbling gift others have given me. Because we are an organisation that is all about the amazing people who work together to make it happen. I fundamentally believe that change happens through groups, teams and communities. This fact is one of YFM’s most significant attributes and approaches to change.

There is none who believes and embodies this more than Thea Soutar, YFM’s next CEO.

Introducing our new CEO, Thea Soutar

For those of you who have met Thea, the thing you’ll notice immediately is the ease you have about yourself when you’re with her. She has an uncanny ability to welcome friend, stranger, those who are strong minded, and those who are open-minded alike into her presence. I see this being a powerful asset to have in the food world as she steps into the role as YFM’s next steward.

Thea is the female equivalent of the man in the green shirt from that “dancing guy” video we’ve all seen at any “how to be a leader” workshop. She is the first follower so to speak, and has been a part of many firsts at YFM. Thea was one of our first Sydney Co-Leaders (the young guns who head our volunteer teams) and she was our first employee. She is the brains behind Upstart, our flagship leadership program, and is directly responsible for empowering each change-maker that has been through YFM’s doors.

Behind the scenes she led our work articulating our organisational values, which have given YFM the framework to grow up and become the fully fledged non-profit it is today. In a nutshell, the Youth Food Movement is what it is today because of Thea, and we are in no better hands than hers.


Where one door closes…

As I close this door as YFM’s steward I’m opening two others: the first is taking a seat on YFM’s board, and the second is taking a long holiday and break in Croatia with my family.

It has been a life-changing experience growing and leading YFM, and what makes it all worth it is our wonderful co-leaders and volunteers. It has been the definition of a purposeful job where on a regular basis I see young people step up, be generous in their opinions and invest their time in doing something worthwhile for the world. The value that young people bring to social problems is unquestionable. There is something unique about entering the world, seeing things fresh and offering the gift of how we could do things better. It’s the second pair of eyes the world sometimes forgets it has access to.

Signing off one last time, Alex, CEO.


Alexandra Iljadica


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