Wednesday, 7 August 2013

End of the beginning

Winston Churchill when asked about a particularly difficult campaign during the Second World War remarked, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps the end of the beginning”. So with a little artistic licence, this is how I view my year with Business in the Community.

The Business Connector programme has grown from humble beginnings, but with stellar support from Lloyds Banking Group, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Post Office, Greggs, Fujitsu, Waitrose and others, we are starting to build a national programme which is different than anything that has ever been attempted before. 

The challenge should you choose to accept it, is to get involved. Giving money and sponsoring people is great so please don’t stop. What I am asking is for you to think about what else you could give. Your experience is what sets you apart and how you deploy it is what will make a difference in the communities in which we live.

From a Lloyds Bank perspective, it has been gratifying to see so many colleagues asking to help and their knowledge being harnessed to help in some rather tough situations. One colleague in our Leeds office approached me and asked how she could get involved. After a brief discussion about her interests and looking to make the best use of time, we looked at community organisations local to where she lived. I am really proud to say that she and her daughter are now working with an older people’s charity at weekends and from the discussion we have had, I think it is fair to say they are both getting an awful lot from it. Go on, give it a go!

By Royal Appointment

On the 12 July I attended Business in the Community’s inaugural “Big Connect”. There were 800 charities, community groups, social enterprises and companies in one large exhibition centre in London. When I entered, the scale of what was possible was not immediately apparent so I along with my community guests from Leeds found our table and awaited instructions.

Before too long we were all networking and trying to find out who was there that could help us with our projects, or were something that was already operational in one part of the country could help us achieve our goals. 

In between we were visited by BITC’s President, HRH the Prince of Wales. I do appreciate that he has had a little practice at meeting people; but to see and hear how engaged he was with the attendees was extremely refreshing and also helped so many people engaged in their communities understand the support the Business Connector programme has.

My favourite MP Nick Hurd was also in attendance (not a political comment, before you ask) and he very kindly agreed to help Sporting Memories Network with their funding journey. Follow up meetings have been arranged and my fingers are firmly crossed for positive news.

Finally, after 7 hours we headed for our train back “up North” and I sat in the carriage and marveled at the 10 people I had taken down in the morning, many of whom were meeting for the first time talking about what they had learned and how they could help each other, very powerful.

Measuring success

This isn’t the forum to talk about the monetary value of connections (though if Lisa Cunningham from BITC is reading, yes I have updated “Connect”) as I will mention some of the specific projects a little later, but it is important we have some measures to gauge what works and why. I have learned so much from fellow Business Connectors and many of those I have worked along side, all of which I feel will make me more effective in my future career. 

So the positives:-

  • Strong personal development – you don’t get many 52 week management programmes!
  • Opportunity to showcase what the corporate world can bring to the community
  • Community engagement – it is all too easy to forget about others when we lead such busy lives.
  • You can make a real difference – my wife reflected on how excited I was when we secured some funding for a community paint charity. I think that is because I have seen what can be done by dynamic, driven people who are determined to help others make a difference.

The negatives:-

  • The bureaucracy surrounding almost everything we do – Leeds is a big city with a very pro-active council, but we can all get better. One vision, one purpose = positive outcomes for all.

The list is long, but yet distinguished!

This is the part were when you win an award and walk on stage you try and deliver a witty monologue capturing the journey and those who have helped you along the way, well I don’t intend to list each and every person who has helped and supported me (there really are so many) but you do have my deepest gratitude and respect. 

There are though a number of key projects which I am very proud of and which have the potential to make a huge difference to people’s lives. In terms of Education the Turnaround Foundation’s backing of the David Young Community Academy is amazing and reflects in particular on their MD Chris Clegg. Thanks for your perseverance. 

Not forgetting Arcadia and DHL getting behind the Co-op Academy of Leeds, with both cash and practical support of the curriculum. Tony Warren from Arcadia is a real find and hopefully with the work he has commenced with the Federation of Small Businesses, we will strengthen the enterprise links with other local business people.

The Canal project I have long championed continues apace and Trevor will make this work. As an aside, if you have not been on a barge before then I would encourage you to. Somehow you forget about everyday issues and time! Not only that but we only utilise 5% of the waterways, with our roads so clogged surely it is time for us to make use of this amazing resource?

In Employment the two apprentices that Arcadia and Lorien Resourcing are going to take on will make a huge difference to those young people’s lives. I have talked about destinations before and I know so many of you have agreed with this, it is worth pushing hard for.

Also and this isn’t being biased but I was very proud that Lloyds Bank created 48 new jobs at Lovell Park in Leeds. More importantly they were full time 35 hour contracts, not as we have read of late the mercurial and often unhelpful zero hour’s contracts. Sue Wynne and Alice Winter from Leeds City council helped in getting the message out to the most deprived communities, again another example of working together.

LS14 Trust continues a pace. Nic charging forward and Joanne making sure it all works! This tiny organisation in Seacroft makes a huge difference to a number of people’s lives, from Work Clubs, IT training or just access to a printer, it all matters.  

End of the beginning

It may be a little indulgent of me to quote Winston Churchill at the beginning of this blog, but it really is the right sentiment. My year is done and now Susan Pollard picks up the mantle, new projects and she will build out the Connector programme even further.

I have really enjoyed writing the blogs and cannot believe that so many people have read them. If they have encouraged you to get involved or helped validate what you are already doing then that alone makes it all the more worthwhile.

Very best wishes for the future.


Monday, 17 June 2013

The best things in life really are free!

Well as I hurtle towards the last full month on my secondment, I am reminded about the reasons behind wanting to take up the opportunity in the first place. When I began I was fairly rudderless and smile when thinking about all the wrong turns I made in the first few months.

Having direction, guidance, support call it what you will is so very important and I hope that I have been able to do this for a few people along the way. That said I have met an awful lot of inspirational people who will continue making a difference when I am back talking about loans, deposits and international trade. It will be important to see how I can take my experiences back to my job and look to build a more partnership related approach to activities with our communities.

Junk Play

The title of this blog really encapsulates this one. Following a discussion with one of the school liaison team, Viv Gibbons I was asked if we could get any “junk” items to help with a play scheme at Grimes Dyke Primary School.

After lots of offers, we visited the school with a number of items including old phones. Ok, not that special you may think, but let me tell you an 8 year olds imagination knows no bounds. Within 2 minutes they were not phones but space controllers and robot devices! The power of free thought and nobody telling them that they could not do it was extremely rewarding. The children also demonstrated what you can do with netting, ropes and barrels which were really inventive.

Now what is important here is what they learn, without even realising. They communicate and collaborate extremely effectively, as well as learning the interdependencies they have on each other to be a team success. 

Thank you to Karl Footitt at Grimes Dyke School and Natalie at Lloyds.


In the film Fight Club, the first rule was that you don’t talk about it. Well with Bikefest the first rule is that you do and you try and spread the word to as many people as possible.

Ok, what is Bikefest? Well it is the official Arts and Culture organisation for Welcome to Yorkshire’s (WTY) Leeds events prior to the Tour de France’s Grand Depart in 2014. As part of hosting the Le Grand Depart WTY will provide 100 days of arts and cultural events to celebrate.

I am working with East Street Arts and Space 2 to support them with planning and connections in the run up to its launch, as well as helping them build a programme which we believe will make it the biggest and best Bike related festival in the UK. Now that just does not happen over night and there is a small, but perfectly formed steering committee chaired by Jonathan Riley at Pinsents and supported by Clive Goldstein at Union, Nic Greenan, Jon and Karen Wakeman from East Street Arts, Emma Tregidden from Space 2 and Councillor Roger Harrington.

We launch Bikefest at the Skyride that is taking place in Leeds city centre on the 7 July and if any of you are around please feel free to come along and say hello. I think I am in charge of leaflets, as the artists in the group have rejected by considered musings!

Oh and I nearly forgot. If you are a   Corporate and want to get involved,    please do get in touch with me.

The Big Connect - 12 July
The Big Connect is the first of what we hope will become an annual event, bringing together the growing network of Business Connectors from across the UK, along with the people and the organisations from the communities in which they work.  We are also inviting the companies, national partners and individuals who are supporting the Business Connectors programme and helping to make this network possible.

This high-profile, interactive experience is about sharing learning, building powerful networks and showcasing the great work Business Connectors are doing in our communities, changing people’s perceptions of business by demonstrating that business can be a powerful force for good.

During the event there will be a wealth of learning opportunities to help attendees get the most out of the day, including facilitated learning exchanges, roundtable discussions, plenary sessions, 1:1 learning ‘sofa sessions’, and interactive workshops on how to empower our young people, revitalise our high-streets, find the funding you need to scale up your work and make the most of your social networks.  

I have six organisations attending and will feedback on their thoughts and any lessons we can share.

A Little Extra Help from the Halifax

Recently I was lucky enough to spend some time with Halifax Community Bank and understand the challenges they face and how they are trying to help our community’s prosper. 

From this, local director Damien Greenwood asked how his teams could get more involved in Leeds and the types of areas he felt they could support. After a little thought, we met up with Mark Smith from Leeds Learning and John Smeaton High School.

Mark is responsible for various areas of pastoral work across 3 high schools and 14 primary schools in Leeds and is always looking out for practical long term support. In turn, he wishes to provide businesses the opportunity to get involved and possibly make a difference in our young people’s lives.

Damien and his colleagues are now going to look into a number of areas including work placements, in-branch interview skills training and teacher/pupil coaching and mentoring.
A huge thank you from me to Damien for taking so much time out a very busy diary, but if the last meeting was anything to go by then I know he and his team will benefit greatly.

Could you mentor someone?
Yes? Well if so then UnLtd Social Entrepreneurs could do with your help. They are looking for volunteer mentors to support current and alumni Award Winners on their exciting journey to make the communities we live in a better place.

Mentoring can be a very rewarding experience and they have a number of great opportunities across the UK. The support requests vary greatly, for example: 

·        Writing business plans                            
·        Sounding board/objective viewpoint
·        Sustainability
·        Accounting
·        Sales and forecasting
·        Marketing and branding
·        Routes to market
·        Generating income/funding
·        Import/export
·        Website and IT development
·        Social media
·        Tax/HMRC requirements
·        Legal structures 

If you can offer your time and skills in ANY of these areas to help guide social entrepreneurs through the process then please contact

And finally…
I started off by talking about my secondment shortly coming to an end and making a few wrong turns. Well I am delighted to announce that we will have a new connector Susan Pollard joining me. She is not just any connector but an M&S Connector! Welcome on board and good luck.

Thanks for reading and as always if there is anything I can support you with, please just let me know.

Kind regards


Monday, 22 April 2013

Halifax supports Seagulls Reuse Ltd

I mentioned this in my last blog, but wished to share a photo we took earlier. Thanks to Cat and Kate at Seagulls and Andrew Eastwood of the Halifax.

Photo (L-R) Your truly, Angela Baines, Kate Moree, Andrew Eastwood and Kelly Young.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Air drumming!

Well the clocks have gone forward and the nights are much lighter, so when it stops raining hopefully we will all start to feel that spring really is upon us. This time of year is all about growth and for a fair weather cyclist like me; it is the opportunity to get back on the bike without feeling like Scott of the Antarctic!

So “Air Drumming”. Well I was talking to my youngest daughter about her science revision (impending mocks) and she said “Dad, do you ever do Air Drumming?” “Is it the same as Air guitar, but with drums I asked tentatively?” “Yes”, she replied enthusiastically. Then another brain-teaser. “What do you think of The End by The Beatles, it has a great Drum Solo in it?” Well I had never heard it and it will not be my specialist subject on Mastermind, but she played it to me and kindly played along on the air drums. Very impressive and so much quieter than the real thing!

Having been impressed and educated, I then was intrigued to find out more about the song, as I did not know of many solos by Ringo. Anyway, it turns out the reason for that was that he didn’t like them. But when the song was being produced they muted the guitar and tambourine, so you get this fantastic one-off from Ringo.

What I found more interesting is that he didn’t do them because he didn’t like them, but when he thought he was part of a group he performed fantastically. How many of us work better with encouragement and being part of a team?

This leads me nicely into something I have mentioned before and it is Retail Ready People. I was very pleased to be invited along this week to meet the Leeds team and find out about what they had been doing, what their ideas were and how they are going to make it all work.

They had enjoyed a number of great sessions; including one from Brass which they all agreed was amazing and my thanks go out to John Morgan and his team for their commitment and passion. Also to Paul Clarke of JD Sports who spent the day with them talking about how they merchandise, design and very importantly how they get their stock to where it needs to be. Oh and if you are reading this Paul, all the ladies think you are cool! Whatever that means!!

Tales from the Riverbank

If you read the last blog (Yes Minister) then you will know we had a visit from Nick Hurd MP who came along to support the work being undertaken by Canal Connections, which is slowly building into a very broad based opportunity for the whole community. The backbone of the team Trevor Roberts is also heavily involved with the National Community Boats Association and he kindly invited me along to one of their regional meetings.

There were around 100 attendees and I was overwhelmed by the number of projects that are underway, as well as the positive outcomes of a number including one in Falkirk which was truly spectacular. The waterways offer a considerable amount to the whole community and are well worth having a look into. Try as your first port of call, no pun intended.

Help people to help themselves

The Business Connector role is as I hope you all know by now all about supporting charities, 3rd sector, community groups and schools to interact with business and vice versa, so it is really great to be able to write about two charities working together, following an introduction from your truly.

Lee Griffiths from the Poppy Factory and Alistair Ponton from Viewpoint Research are looking at ways that each charity can benefit from the others experience and I look forward to seeing how this progresses, best of luck.


I started off by saying about the fact that spring had possibly arrived, but the cold weather has also highlighted how important it is to be able to heat your homes accordingly. There are those who because of cost or faulty equipment have struggled. Well across Leeds, B&Q are running a scheme (backed by the Government) to provide free boilers, cavity wall and loft insulation. Of course the offer is limited to only those on absolutely the lowest levels of income, but it is heartening to know that it is possible to get help. If you know someone this might impact, then have a look at

If at first…

This week I was in the envious position of being able to give away money, don’t worry I have not lost my mind, it was sponsorship from the Halifax to a social enterprise called Seagulls Reuse Ltd. I blogged about them some months back and have been trying to find ways to support them. Following a conversation with Matthew Norton at Lloyds Bank, I applied for funding and waited. It took a while but our patience has been rewarded with £5000 and this will support the acquisition of a second van for their expanding operation. They have been supported into new premises on the Arcadia site in Leeds by Laing O’Rourke who have completed an amazing piece of work for them and should be very proud of their efforts.

Big Business delivered locally

The Co operative Academy in Leeds is an inner city academy supported by the Co operative movement and working in a community ranked in the bottom 1% in the UK. There are a total of 77 languages spoken and the population is very transient. I met up with the principal and discussed how this Business Connector could support them and there were two areas. First was help with introducing the right businesses to support the curriculum in a practical fashion and second was with a Literacy club. So off I went to see what I could do.

Following an introduction by Sarah May of Inner East Area team (Leeds council) I met up with Tony Warren of Arcadia. Tony is a great example of living the values and he has been working with me to get the message out. In addition he has engaged others at the site in Leeds, including their distribution partner DHL which just goes to show the power of a good cause. Arcadia and DHL locally are now going to support the school and Tony and Gary (DHL) will be working with the schools Enterprise Manager Claire Passmore to link lessons to real life examples.

The second part was all about literacy and this involves people giving up an hour a week to help 11-16 year olds develop, as many are new to the UK or their learning started much later than most. Step forward Francesco Romano and Natalie Volichenko from Lloyds Bank. Both have expressed a desire to support and now their task is to go and recruit more like minded individuals (could that be you?).

Right that’s enough for now, thanks for reading. If there is anything you want more information on or want to get involved with in your area and don’t know where to start feel free to get in touch.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Harvard Business Review, no less.

Flicking through one of many emails today I came across this 
"Management Tip of the Day" from the Harvard Business Review. 

I am not suggesting changing your job, but Volunteering is a means of getting experience you may not be able to achieve in your current role.

Trust yourself, you have so much more to give.

"It's impossible to know if you'll really like a career direction until you try it. To avoid costly mistakes — and wasting your energy — take a test-drive. If you can spare nights or weekends, or afford to go without a paycheck for a short period, try volunteering. Offer to help out at an organization or assist an entrepreneur who's working in the field you think you want to get into. It will allow you to network with people in your target career, build new skills, and enhance your resume — all of which will make you an attractive candidate if you eventually decide to apply for jobs in that field. You can even volunteer in your current job. Step up for committees and cross-functional projects that allow you to build connections in different departments. It might feel strange at first to work for another part of your company, but you'll be compensated with a broader internal network and added experience."

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Yes Minister!

I have delayed my latest update to allow for the inclusion of an event I supported last week, attended by Nick Hurd MP, Cabinet Office Minister. During the visit Nick met one of my current connections appropriately entitled "Canal Connections", more about that enterprise later.
Nick is rather involved in the programme, as his office funded the initial pilot for Business Connectors and so is very proud of how it is growing and developing. Not only that but he is supporting Business in the Community's drive to recruit more connectors.
You can read more about the visit at

For anyone from Lloyds reading this then you can find out more at, otherwise, have a look at to understand how to get involved and/or support the local connector.

Retail Ready People is a programme run via The Retail Trust and provides a skills development programme for young people aged 16-25 from all backgrounds with a bespoke training programme, which culminates in them running their own shop for a month. The next two are in Leeds and Rochdale and I am working with them to support some of their needs around Marketing and Merchandising.
From the marketing angle, we are being supported by Brass Agency are based in Headingley and have such a broad range of experience that the young people will be able to understand how brands are created, supported and they get their message across.
The Merchandising support is coming from one of the UK's main youth brands JD Sports Fashion, which includes the likes of Scotts, Bank, Nicholas Deakin and many more. Paul Clarke the Head of Visual Merchandising has personally agreed to lead this and will showcase his background, how JD "do it" and help support and challenge the young people with their projects.

Canal Connections
I mentioned Canal Connections above and Nick Hurd's visit helped us showcase an awful lot of work by some very dedicated people. I am very proud of what they are building and the potential vision is to "enable young people to achieve their true potential using the waterways". To make this a reality we need to develop a robust and meaningful plan and that is where I have spent a lot of time with the principal behind the social enterprise Trevor Roberts. So many of our towns and cities are close to waterways and Trevor and others are seeking to capitalise on this.
Earlier today I met up with Hilton Hotels, who are interested in how they can support Trevor and it is another example of a business trying to do the right thing. This could be something we could link throughout the UK, but let's make it work in Leeds first!

A presentation entitled "Building the Social Economy through the Waterways" will be taking place at the Moyes Centre in Seacroft, Leeds on the 19 March and for anyone interested in finding out more then please click the following link

Staying Connected
Access to the Internet is so important and for some this is not straight forward. This could be that they don't have access to the right equipment, cannot afford the cost of the service or are not confident to use the hardware.
LS14 Digital Lounge offers a friendly drop in service in Seacroft and Nic and Jo who run the lounge, really do engage and make a difference in their community. So when I found out that 3 of their machines had broken and could not be repaired, I made a request for replacements. Within no time David Clugston from Clugston Group came up trumps and has donated a number of second hand PC's that will help maintain the service Nic and Jo provide. Thanks to all at Clugstons.

We have now agreed a framework with the primary schools involved and the retailer to provide a small range for boys and girls (5-11) to ensure that none of the children should have to go to school without the right footwear. Thank you to Michael Ziff from Barratts for his support and Louise Walker from the Seacroft and Manston Resource Team, who will be administering the scheme.

School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE)
I have mentioned the SSE before but the next round of applications closes in April, so if you have an idea that can help your community then have a look. Best of all, it is free.

Apprentice Training Agency
This is new to Leeds and backed by the council and City Region. I have started to try and connect them, but if you are a business that would be interested in a new approach to Apprenticeships, then you should consider the ATA.
The ATA is all about getting the right apprentice for you, but they will take care of the HR and payroll, as well as the apprentice being on their headcount until the end of their programme or when you have a permanent role for them. More information can be found at

And finally...
No two days are ever the same in this role and with respect to Gary Larson's genius I have included this cartoon of his, but whilst sometimes we know just how the dinosaur feels we can all make so much difference in our communities. 

By going the extra mile we can and do make a huge difference. If you have done something to help or will be doing so shortly you have earned the right to feel good about it. Tell as many people as you can and encourage them to think about getting involved. Someone somewhere will be really grateful.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

I love it when a plan comes together!

Some time back I mentioned LS14 Trust and Well it has all culminated in a TV appearance. Don't worry not me, but a really inspiring young man called Curtis Boyian.

Its on air on ITV News Calendar from 6pm on the 7 February. More information can also be reviewed at

Really pleased for Curtis, LS14 trust and well done to Kate Vaks at

Monday, 21 January 2013

Ladders, not snakes!

Business in the Community 

Ladders, not snakes!

Well the last of the turkey recipes have been exhausted, the family get-togethers are complete and consigned to fond memories, so we all move on with the realities of everyday life in 2013.

For many in the business world the race was hard run in 2012, hopefully it was positive for you but you would have to be rather myopic not to have noticed some of the ongoing issues many faced. The “knock on effect” is felt far from the factory gate’s and as we move quickly through January we must action what we say we will do or they become another unwelcome addition to what “could have been”.

From a Business Connector perspective it has all begun reasonably well. The Turnaround Foundation confirmed their support for the David Young Community Academy and will be funding a sport/employment program, which we hope in due course will become a fixture. In addition by working closely with the council leisure services, we are hopeful of announcing a key program for the same area which will show how public/private partnerships can benefit all. Watch this space.

Lorien plc has agreed to work with the council, East North East Homes and West Yorkshire Police to take on a new apprentice and we hope this model can be expanded to further companies in Leeds. A special thank you on this goes to Claire Middleton and Ruth Gorman for supporting this very worthy and hopefully productive initiative. From the council side Rory, Clare and Sarah have ensured this will become a reality.

We have also had success with Paperworks a charity I have mentioned previously, where a request for specialist support was responded to by John Watmough and we are hoping his expertise and passion will help the charity attain more work to continue and extend their services.

 Localism Act

Does anyone know what it is? I didn’t, but it turns out to be one of those unheralded pieces of legislation that could impact on your community in some really positive ways. 

Of real interest is the “Community Right to Bid” where every town, village or neighbourhood is home to buildings or amenities that play a vital role in local life. They might include community centres, libraries, swimming pools, village shops, markets or pubs. Local life would not be the same without them, and if they are closed or sold into private use, it can be a real loss to the community.

In many places across the country, when local amenities have been threatened with sale or closure, community groups have taken them over. In some cases, however, community groups who have attempted to take assets over have faced significant challenges. They often need more time to organise a bid and raise money than the private enterprises bidding against them. The Localism Act requires local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Act then gives community groups the time to develop a bid and raise the money to bid to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life.

Passing on your experience

In my numerous meetings there are often common themes running through them which are broadly jobs, job training and interview skills. In an ideal world there would be easy answer to the first but sadly there isn’t. The second and third however we can do a bit more about.

I am reaching out to anyone who thinks they could help me set up an Interview skills workshop. There are several community groups who have already shown interest and I have a few willing and very able HR Managers from Lloyds willing to get involved, but I would like you to think about if you can help or who you know and ask them.

The complaint from a prominent politician was that “they should get on their bike”, well if we can support the learning and provide a little direction then they may well find the destination far quicker.

Please do let me know if you think you could help in any way.

Speed dating or was it networking?

I would like to say a huge thank you to Mark Goldstone of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce for looking after me at their latest “Pure Networking” event at Elland Road. Great spread of businesses and rest assured entrepreneurship is alive and well if this lot are anything to go by.

Printers, Jewellers, Telecoms, Social Media, Lawyers, Accountants, Security, Design, and Furniture to name just a few of the areas covered.

If you need a job doing price and reputation are always key, but ask yourself could you use a local company to help? They are often in the same price bracket, very reputable and as they are local you are helping the local community.

Thanks for reading and if there is anything you would like me to consider including next time, then please get in touch.