Open Working with Tom Youll

Robyn Barclay

Robyn Barclay

04 July 2023 | Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Tom Youll is a bearded person. He is wearing a baseball cap. On his shoulder sits a black and white dog.

Being open, transparent, and vulnerable

Third Sector Lab is on the hunt for great examples of open working. By sharing our work, it’s possible to self-reflect, attract funding, and learn from the mistakes of others.

We interviewed Tom Youll, a content designer who has worked across the charity and public sectors, and co-admin of We Are Content Club. He writes wonderfully accessible and interesting weeknotes

He started writing them as a way to be more transparent and vulnerable in addition to talking about his work, and he’s found that it’s been a great way to connect with others and learn new things.

“I wanted to use my bearded cis white man privilege to go look, I can be vulnerable and useless. It’s about being open, transparent and showing a bit of vulnerability that we’re not all perfect.”

Youll’s weeknotes are a mix of personal reflections, work updates, and links to interesting things he’s been reading or listening to. He says he doesn’t expect anyone to read them, but he’s been surprised by how many people have found them helpful.

“I’ve had a fair bit of back channel chatter around them,” he says. “And that’s been quite validating and quite interesting. There’s been no bad feedback yet.”

The Writing Process

Tom Youll believes that weeknotes are a great way to share your work and experiences with others. He says that the more people who are open about their work, the better the overall quality of work will be.

“I used to just think no, what’s the point of doing it? No one’s going to read them. And then I thought, no, you do it for yourself. Then somebody else might read it.”

Tom’s process is really interesting. Every Thursday evening, he has a “breathing and writing session” to reflect on the week. However, he chips away at it throughout the week too:

“And during the week I’ll email myself articles I’ve read, and I’ll put an opening line to a paragraph that I want to write. And then it’s literally just working off a template.”

Every week, Tom uses the same headings, which he finds provides a helpful guide for reflecting on the week. 

However, these rules are not set in stone! Tom’s weeknotes are what he makes them, and there’s always room for interesting segments “off the beaten track.”

block tiles saying "who are you"

Use Your Voice

Tom’s biggest piece of advice for getting started is to find your voice. Read your work out loud – does it sound like something you would say? 

Open working is a lot easier when you’re comfortable sharing your authentic self. Tom’s weeknotes are a great example of how showing your personality actually makes your weeknotes more interesting to the reader:

I don’t want the weeknotes to be seen as something professional. I just want them to be seen as me.”

Join the Conversation

If you’re inspired by Tom Youll’s story, I encourage you to start writing your own weeknotes. It’s a great way to be more open, transparent, and vulnerable with your work. 

You can find more information about weeknotes and the Open Working Programme on the Third Sector Lab website.

For more inspiration, make sure to check out Tom’s weeknotes on Substack!


More from our blog

Man with video camera

March 5 2024

Seven Ways AI Can Streamline Your Video Production Process

With so many tools cropping up at once, how can the third sector keep up? Darryl Corner is the Video and Audio Lead at Third Sector Lab, and he's pulled together a list of AI tools which can make video content easier than ever! So, what can AI really do?
United Voices Network members stand together, smiling

October 4 2023

Partnering with United Voices Network to Promote Anti-Racist Youth Work

Third Sector Lab Director, Ross McCulloch, is handing over his twitter account to United Voices Network this Black History Month.
Three children hold hands in a field

September 29 2023

Celebrating Success: Content Design in the Children’s Sector

September's Roundtable event on content design for children was co-hosted by CELCIS and Our Hearings, Our Voices. Read to hear about their innovative work with children and young people.

September 13 2023

Websites Explained: How to Build a House 

Confused about how website design, development and hosting work? And where does your content fit in? We’ve put together a short guide to help explain how it works. 
How are Charities Using Social Media in 2023?

August 11 2023

How are Charities Using Social Media in 2023?

Third Sector Lab has compiled a list of some of our favourite ways charities are using social media this year. This includes specific campaigns, and more general online presence and activity. Get inspired with our round-up of great content in 2023 so far.
What is a Digital Trustee? A Guide for social enterprises, community interest companies and housing associations

July 31 2023

Digital Trustees: A Guide for Third Sector Organisations

Third sector organisations can be structured in all sorts of different ways. Most charities are led by a board of volunteers called trustees, who steer the organisation in the right direction. This may also be referred to as a board of directors. Community Interest Companies (CICs), housing associations and social enterprises have all approached us…