OPINION: I recognise the thirteenth as a day in a million

Geraldine Peacock, a charity commissioner and a civil service commissioner

Monday 13 October was, for me, one amazing day. And if you will indulge me, I want to share the three unusual things that happened to me that day and how they relate, for me, to the bigger order of things.

I arrived back on the 'red eye' from Boston still high from the experience of teaching MBA students at Harvard Business School. It felt a long way removed from my early days as a junior lecturer at Teesside Poly. But what was important was the recognition from our American peers in the not-for-profit sector that we all have a lot to learn from each other.

It opens up exciting opportunities. By exchanging ideas, case studies and professional development we can grow so much more quickly in our ventures and work across traditional sector and global boundaries.

Later that day, I was proud to be invited to the Queen's reception for "Pioneers to the life of the Nation". This was another break with tradition where volunteers, young entrepreneurs, and community regenerators mingled with designers, scientists, and stars of sport, pop, stage and screen.

Of course, there was the curiosity factor of seeing inside the Palace, rubbing shoulders with a rich variety of people, but most importantly we were being thanked and encouraged to recognise each other's contribution to civil society. We all felt proud to be part of an energy and enthusiasm that provides a powerful force to move society forward.

Finally, I attended the reception hosted by Third Sector and Barclays Plc to receive an award for my work as a CEO. This brought a lump to my throat and was simply the nicest thing that has ever happened to me. To be voted for by my peers made even Harvard and royalty fade into insignificance.

So, OK, for me it was the most amazing day, but it pulled together so many things. In particular the importance of saying thank you at all levels of our organisations and showcasing people's contributions in ways that are not necessarily about money but about recognition and public celebration of success. Altruism is fine, but reciprocity is the driving force for motivating people in successful civic action. If we can provide a framework within which we learn to recognise and give our own talents, while also recognising what others offer, we discover both a new kind of freedom and a true sense of belonging.

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