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A farewell message from John Halloran Brighton,
December 2017

Dear members and friends of ESN,

As many of you may know, I am stepping down as CEO at the end of this year and would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for who have worked with me to make ESN an effective network for local public social services in Europe.

It has been an honour to have led ESN since the very first conference I organised in Ashford in Kent in 1993, four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and just as the Channel Tunnel was about to be opened. With no framework of cooperation for public social services in Europe, Lars-Goran, our first Chair and I set about building our own. Later, eight national member associations came together to create a network whose simple mission is to share knowledge to improve lives.

Getting the funding and building the organisation however,was quite another story. The daily struggle to survive, can be hard but with the right people you can do anything and as more became involved, their enthusiasm was infectious and together we could take on the challenges and overcome them.

When I welcomed new staff to our secretariat, I told them that the best thing about the job is that they would get to work with great people who manage local services, who are professionals, committed to social justice and social care.

As I travelled across Europe these 25 years, I was struck by the impact of history and geography on people’s lives and how we see each other. I learned that you must take the time to listen to and understand people’s experiences and have been often uplifted by the resilience of members working in financially and politically difficult situations, caring for some of the most vulnerable in society.

When we have sat down together, we have seen that our systems are different and whilst we all have experienced that ‘lost in translation’ moment (!), our differences stimulate openness and personal reflection and our shared values will bring the necessary glue.

I salute the wonderful, smart, young people who have worked at our secretariat, in what for many was their first regular job. I could not have done much without their ideas and enthusiasm and they have gone on to work successfully for governments, international agencies, think tanks and social enterprises; an ESN diaspora that still meets up for a wedding or a curry!

Our first project ‘Towards a People’s Europe’ written together with people with disabilities, analysed the early development of personal budgets in 10 countries and I am proud that ESN has continues to put person-centred community-based care at the heart of its work.

Our continent has a troubled past but a rich and vibrant culture and the European Union has been an important force for peace and a significant partner for our growing network and I pay tribute to their support.

As I prepare ESN to relocate to its new address in Brussels, I will hand over to my successor, Alfonso Montero who with the Board of ESN will open a new and exciting chapter for learning and development in Europe.

For me too I look forward to new adventures and I count myself fortunate to have met and worked with so many of you.

Thank you for sharing the journey and stay enthusiastic!