A blog from working with Refugee Support Network

This blog has been reposted - it was authored by Refugee Support Network.

Three Youth Leadership Course alumni with Hannah and Carolyn (RSN Staff)

Three Youth Leadership Course alumni with Hannah and Carolyn (RSN Staff)

Last week a group of young people from Refugee Support Network’s Autumn 2018 Youth Leadership Course had the privilege of attending a roundtable discussion with fellows from the Forward Institute. The Forward Institute is an 18 month long leadership programme, aiming to cultivate thoughtful and responsible leadership across the public, private and social sectors in the UK.

Our young people, as well as a number of young people from other youth organisations, were invited to share their thoughts and perspectives on major questions of leadership and the future with the Forward Institute Fellows, in the hope that Fellows will hear and appreciate the views of young people on major issues, as they move towards greater influence and leadership on a national level.

Each young person was placed in a small discussion group with a number of Fellows and discussed themes such as climate change, mental health, education and social media. It was wonderful to see some of our young people eloquently and confidently sharing their ideas, concerns and thoughts with a room full of leaders. Not only were they able to add to the discussions with their unique experiences and perspectives, but it was also clear that the experience was transformative for them as they witnessed leaders of major institutions and organisations sit and listen to them. Simply being heard, and feeling that their opinions were being valued, was a powerful experience. One young person commented that:

What I found really interesting was that there were a lot of people who are leaders and who are going to be leaders and they actually listened to our thoughts and our ideas and our plans for the future, and they found it interesting!

The young people also remarked afterwards that they too had learned a lot from speaking with and listening to people they usually would not have the opportunity to discuss these issues with. One of them told us that:

“it was interesting to me that there were people who have different ideas and different perspectives and views, and I learnt a lot from them. I hope I will use it in my life.”

And another that:

It was a good experience to meet new people and learn from them, and also share my ideas, especially about the environment, and lots of other stuff. It’s really opening my eyes to the world and the people I met, they were from big organisations, and that was a good experience.”

We would like to thank the Forward Institute for the opportunity to highlight and give attention to the voices of young refugees and asylum seekers, which is an aim that we at Refugee Support Network believe passionately in.

It was inspiring to see national leaders intentionally involving and prioritising the perspectives of young people in discussions about the future. We know that it will also inspire our young people to listen carefully to the perspectives of others, and handle leadership and influence with responsibility and thoughtfulness.

Community Dinner with George Bloor

Lisa, Venetia, George & Nick.

Lisa, Venetia, George & Nick.

Arriving in central Manchester it was impossible not to be struck and shocked by the very obvious homelessness challenge that the city faces. I found myself repeatedly commenting on the scale of the issue but not reflecting on what one might, as an individual, be able to contribute to its mitigation. In truth, I was content to point out the problem, make a donation to a homelessness charity and return to my comfortable home.

Enter George Bloor who I was fortunate enough to meet at a community dinner. At the age of 23, moving to Manchester to take up a graduate position, George was similarly impacted by the plight of Manchester’s homeless. Instead, however, of becoming inured to the situation or hoping someone else would do something, George decided to take action, establishing “Social Quo” a technology-based social enterprise that matches homeless people wishing to work, with Manchester businesses that have specific tasks available for completion. Completed tasks earn credits that can be exchanged for food and shelter and the process supports the creation of an organic CV and ultimately access to paid employment. The enterprise continues to evolve through a pilot phase and app, and has great potential. Moreover, as a scalable model, Social Quo could, over time, provide much needed support to the homeless far beyond Manchester.

Hearing what George has achieved with Social Quo; given the limited support over the last couple of years, is utterly inspiring and ultimately gives one hope that things can be improved through the leadership, drive and belief of one individual.

For me, George’s actions epitomise responsible leadership and should be an inspiration to us all.

- Written by Cohort 2018 Fellow Nick Sacre Hardy.

We're an accredited B Corporation

We are excited to share news that the Forward Institute has become a B Corp, joining a rapidly growing global movement of companies who are doing business responsibly.

By becoming a B Corp, we have joined 2,500 other B Corp certified companies globally. Companies such as Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry's and Patagonia are all B Corps, along with smaller social enterprises like Divine Chocolate and Toast Ale.

All B Corps share a purpose - to harness the power of business for good.

As an organisation that seeks to spread responsible leadership practices, becoming B Corp allows us to demonstrate that we are acting responsibly ourselves. Accreditations such as B Corp play a key role in demonstrating responsible behaviour to the outside world and keeping our standards high, it should be noted however, that operating responsibly is not solely about accreditations.

To become certified, we were assessed by an independent body, and had to meet specific standards of social and environmental performance, including our impact on our employees, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. 

The assessment is a publicly available measure of our performance - you can see our score here.

It was great to pass the assessment first time, and in addition, it has given us a benchmark that we can use to continue to find ways to improve our operations as a business.

We look forward to learning from other B Corps in the community and contributing what we are learning as we ensure our policies are progressive.

The B Corp accreditation lasts for two years so in the meantime we are investigating ways to improve our operations (and therefore our score…) in time for our next assessment.

To find out more about the B Corp movement, the link to their website can be found here.

An interview with a Major

Tell us about you, where you've come from in the Army and how you got involved with us…

My name is Tim and I am an officer in the British Army. Last year my commanding officer, a Fellow from Cohort 1, Rob Hedderwick, introduced me to Adam and Ruth and asked them if they would be willing for me to join their Forward Institute family for a few months this summer. I have just finished my secondment and it was utterly extraordinary. Extraordinary!!!

That they were so willing to take an Army officer on-board demonstrates how much they value the relationships they have with their partner organisations, and how willing they are to invest in them to deliver institutional change.

What have you been doing on your placement?

Well, I thought that I would be shadowing and supporting other team members with their work - that I would learn through observing, but as I’ve learnt, this is not the Forward Institute way. From my experience, the Forward Institute believes in taking action, in learning through doing. They immediately made me feel part of the team and put me to work in four areas. The first three roles focused on attaining the company’s certification as a Benefit Corporation (B Corp), delivering improvements where required - namely enhancing the company’s event planning and processes and finally, identifying areas to improve their support to the Army.  The final set of responsibilities I was given were all personal development aims. Despite only being with the team for four months, they were keen to support my longer-term development. It made me feel truly valued.

What did you like about working with us?

The best thing about working with the Forward Institute was the exposure to genuine diversity of thought. I learnt so much from the team and the 25 major organisations that they work with. I also had, for the first time in my professional career, time to genuinely reflect. This combination was potent and I believe that I return to the Army better as a result. Better as a leader, but also better as a person too.

Is there anything you'd want to say to Cohort 2018 given what you’ve seen of the programme since you’ve been with us?

So, to those of you lucky enough to shortly be starting your Forward Institute journey, you are about to join a remarkable family. At the heart of it is a wonderful team of extraordinary people, united by a powerful cause. Kind, generous and caring, they will challenge you, push you and support you to go further. The 18-month programme is only the beginning though – from talking to Fellows from previous cohorts in the Army as well as outside of it, you are likely to continue a relationship with the Forward Institute and the great people you meet on the programme far into the future. I know my relationship will continue too. The impact of external stimulus and diverse thought is increased through prolonged exposure and with this in mind, the team very kindly sent me on my way with a great collection of books.

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I think the range and topics speak for themselves and show the breadth of the types of people in the team and the inspiration that they are.

Interning at the Forward Institute

My name is Tolu and I study chemistry at Warwick University. I heard about the Forward Institute from my sister’s friend and I decided to research the company. I immediately fell in love with what they do. It was so important to me as an 18-year-old, that people in the UK (consumers & customers) had better faith in organisations that have legitimate authority. In addition, as a lover of communication and creativity, it was nice to see an institute that has a structure where people learn from one another to see both similarities and differences, to me, this leads to creative thinking.

In the environment I grew up in, having no faith in organisations is not an uncommon sight and my community constantly complains about the issues they have with organisations across all sectors. So, I’ve been taught to be cautious of organisations, whether that be becoming an employee or being the customer. I knew that eventually I had to challenge my trust issues.

The way the FI challenges people, by asking the right questions, is an amazing way for me to break down the wall I had built up. Their approach to tackling these problems was what resonated with me the most. Changing the way leadership is performed will lead to a more responsible and accountable society, where trust and deliverance is prevalent, and this is more effective when reminding future leaders of what good leadership looks like.

During my summer internship, I have had the pleasure helping Camilla. This has allowed me to get a real feel of what it is like to work for the Forward Institute. Furthermore, it has showed me that creativity and business can co-exist, as I had the joy of completing two big projects.

The best thing about working at the institute is the environment. It can be quite daunting to work in an office called the FORWARD INSTITUTE, it has so much gravitas. I couldn’t help but think that I was going to mess something up or that I had to carry myself in a particular way, even if that meant feeling uncomfortable. But to my surprise, the team is so welcoming, and the general vibe is relaxed, which was not what I expected. I feel like I can totally be myself without the fear of judgement.

Tolu putting together welcome packs 

Tolu putting together welcome packs 

I chose this photo because it is authentic. It shows my excitement welcoming the new cohort and shows my enjoyment of working with the FI, I know that this year is going to be amazing for both the fellows and the FI team. I can’t wait to see what it brings!

I would officially like to welcome cohort 2018 to the Programme. From what I understand from reading Fellows’ accounts is that it’s going to be a fun, interesting and challenging ride and that in the end you will feel renewed, accomplished and more determined than you have ever felt before. Welcome to the ever-growing FI family!!


Experimental Leadership Exchange

This week is a big one for us: the first pairs in our experimental Leadership Exchange will visit each others’ workplaces.

We usually run the Leadership Exchange as a core part of the Fellowship programme - it’s one of the most popular and effective aspects of what we do. 

Now at the request of Fellows from Cohorts 2016 and 2017, we’re trying out a stand-alone version for some of their colleagues. In July, Cleo and Ruth briefed 20 team members from the Army, the Met Police, Tesco, Barclays, the Wellcome Trust and IHG at Sandhurst. 

This week a Barclays HQ communications chief will visit an Army regiment; and a police lead on continuous improvement will visit Tesco’s online division. Return visits will follow soon and the remaining pairs will do their exchanges in the coming weeks. We’ll do the debrief all together in October.

It’ll be interesting to see how it goes. No doubt they’ll all have a lot to learn from each other. But without the intensive experience of the programme, will the pairs have built enough trust and strong enough relationships to be really open with each other? Will the support and mentorship of the Fellows who sponsored them back at work make the difference? Over the coming year we’ll be working with all cohorts of Fellows to try out other ways of extending the impact of the programme to their colleagues - to both improve and broaden the experience of the Fellowship programme. 

Fellows' team members on the briefing day when we kicked off the experimental Leadership Exchanges.

Fellows' team members on the briefing day when we kicked off the experimental Leadership Exchanges.

Reflecting in the sunshine

Ruth proving Charterhouse benches are as good a place as any to work

Ruth proving Charterhouse benches are as good a place as any to work

We’re big advocates of taking time to reflect, even on the busiest of days. It can help you get perspective and make clearer decisions. Even better if you can leave your desk, board table or screen and get outside. Luckily for me, the wifi just about stretches to the benches outside Charterhouse Square office...


So I decided to take a break from reading application forms for Cohort 2018, to read the summer reflections from Fellows on the current programme. We asked them to think about what had changed for them since they wrote their applications a year ago. 


Some things jumped out: “It’s now clear to me that things need to change not just for my organisation but the profession itself” said one. “A break-through was understanding my most limiting factor isn’t lack of time or capacity but energy", said another. “Being able to ask important questions, discuss and reflect without fear or judgement or reprisal is novel enough. To have programmed time to do it is a revelation.” 

One woman had advice for colleagues about to join the programme: 

“The Forward Institute has given us a backstage pass into other people’s worlds - as well as the motivation to question our own. Use it! - I intend to.”
— Fellow from Cohort 2017


I wonder what the next 12 months will hold for the new Fellows?

First Fellows are accepted onto the 2018 programme

The selection committee has met for the first round of reviews, applications carefully considered, decisions made. We have the first round of names for the 2018 programme. It all happened in the boardroom (see picture above), last week. 

The first round of names have now been revealed to the team. So over to us: we’ll be cracking on with letting those lucky Fellows and their organisations know they're joining our merry (and ever-growing) band of Fellows.

Soon we'll have 70 new Fellows to add to the 180 Fellows who've joined us previously. 

We have much (70x to be exact) to get done as a team - welcome packs to mail, enrolment information to collect, names and faces to learn... 

Really looking forward to meeting everyone in person before long.

Welcome to the first round of people. Cohort 4 (2018) begins!

The welcome pack when it was still a work in progress...

The welcome pack when it was still a work in progress...