I love the month of June. It’s the official month of summer. The sun comes out, the days are warm and long, but also, June is a wonderfully satisfying benchmark for the year. It’s the halfway point, 6 months in. What better time to look back on the goals we set in our New Year resolution-focused minds and where we’ve come along the way. What’s our vision for the next 6 months left in the year?
Naturally, I find this a great time to apply any personal growth goals to businesses ones. While BA has been running as a privately funded programme that helps startups and SMEs grow for 6 years now, we’re technically an early stage startup ourselves thanks to our recent growth. It’s been especially exciting to be a fresh-faced newcomer to an established charitable world (a place of learning and discovery for me and my team, and one in which there is so much scope for commercial best practice to apply to third sector strategies like fundraising and partnerships.) The past 6 months has been a period of evolution of our business model and our brand voice, and of course of applying our #BraveBranding BA insights and curriculum directly back in to our own growth as a charitable business.
Those of you that regularly follow us will know that in early 2014 BA was one of the UK’s first privately funded initiatives to receive Charitable Incorporated Organisation status (a charity that trades services like a business in addition to receiving grants). This new CIO model is arguably the biggest innovation within the UK third sector in recent memory, with a view to help boost the survival rates, effectiveness and appeal of charitable organisations by encouraging them to operate with a commercial mindset and business plan.
We were also specifically recognised as an educational charity due to our track record in delivering high-impact business and brand training for SMEs over the years. And this leads me to our latest major milestone in our charity’s growth in the past 6 months. We’ve just added our fourth Trustee to the team, a hugely inspirational mentor and pioneer in the UK’s educational system, Liz Robinson.
This is exactly what we aspired to in BA’s Q1 Trustee meeting back in January, when we voted on our conviction that we needed someone with a specific expertise in Education to help further our ongoing success and even make it accessible to new, younger or higher education audiences.
Over one of our many recent brainstorm lunches, Liz explained what drew her to BA as a Trustee, despite her very busy schedule on various boards that promote education. Here’s a brief snapshot of our most recent chat.
JP: I know I’ve said it so many times already, but on behalf of all the BA team, we are really pleased to welcome you to our Board of Trustees. For the benefit of our readers, could you give us a brief snapshot on your background in both education and the non-profit worlds?
LR: Well, it’s great to be on board with an educational body that’s so fresh and innovative! It certainly is my belief that education can and should be exciting and getting under people’s skin to make a difference and uplift communities.
In fact, education as a form of social uplift is my passion. I was appointed Headteacher of Surrey Square almost a decade ago – apparently I was the youngest Headteacher in the UK. It was a challenging offer being a very deprived catchment, however, I was invigorated by the possibility for those kids’ school to be a turning point in their lives. 3 years into the role, we received an Outstanding ranking by Ofsted which led to an offer to merge with the linked Infant School, so now for the past 6 years I’ve been head of the whole Primary school.
JP: When setting up BA years ago, I envisaged curating a network of like-minded experts and mentors that understand the value they can bring to SMEs by volunteering their time and expertise to our beneficiaries. Today, BA has a mentor network of +150 experts and alumni success stories and we’ve trained +200 beneficiaries in #BraveBranding. What type of expertise do you most want to bring to the table, both for the growth of BA and for our alumni?
LR: I am deeply committed to a values-based approach to education, and deliver extensive training and workshops for aspiring heads through the Future Leaders programme in this area, which is a natural fit for the #BraveBranding curriculum BA teaches on its Editions and Masterclasses.
When you and I first spoke about BA, what really came through to me was how many of our values aligned, and I particularly share BA’s philosophy of giving as you go and certainly giving back when you’ve been believed in by others. I am an outspoke supporter of models of empowerment and coaching that makes real, tangible differences and inspire positive growth. It’s important because it is about actively building capacity in others for the future, so that they can not only help themselves but also help others to help themselves in the future. I think of this idea as ‘exponential leadership’, the impact and reach of the work gets multiplied.
Part of my belief in this is because it’s so close to home for me. I was selected at an early age to join the ‘Fast-Track’ accelerated leadership programme, a programme dedicated to developing educational leaders, which (with lots of hard work) was a critical boost to my career and vision. Today, I give back to Future Leaders as a Consultant Director, and was delighted to be approached by BA to bring an educational expertise to the board – but also intrigued by the opportunity to learn from the various areas of expertise that are already around that table!
JP: You already sit on quite a few boards and go above and beyond to promote innovation in the education sector in the UK. What made you decide to get involved with another educational charity, and become a BA Trustee?
LR: Yes, I do sit on quite a few, plus juggling a career and two young daughters! Which makes me very selective about how I do invest what extra time I have. I really believe in what BA does for SMEs of all shapes and sizes. The programme just works, whether helping people craft a viable career, find an employment solution or catapult their young or established enterprise into a new phase of growth. I find that exciting and something I really want to be a part of.
You can follow Liz on Twitter @LizzieRobinson3