Big Things Grow From Small Ideas!

In 2011, I felt frustrated with what was being accepted as appropriate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practice.

My frustration was based on what I was seeing within the private sector in particular – in previous posts, I have alluded to the societal acceptance of corporate staff doing what i can ‘one-hit wonders’ of CSR Activity.

Charity walks, painting school fences, picking up rubbish in a park etc which are all noble activities, but ones where I always find myself questioning their true relevance, if they are not created as part of the board level strategic plan for growth, and therefore given more importance than just a community engagement initiative!

Also, it was becoming more and more acceptable for companies to benefit from positive publicity from a brand awareness and PR perspective, but internally, not being able to demonstrate the return on investment to the company, in order to have an internal benchmark that will encourage them to increase their contribution to society.

In my experience, I feel that the majority of social impact measurement tools, are not designed to measure the impact in key financial metrics that C-Suite executives are looking for i.e What is the benefit of our social investment, on the bottom-line of our business? What much value does CSR create for our business per £ spent? What is the benchmark that we need to achieve, in order to increase our social contributions and to help more people in society?

So I decided to do something about it..

At Cultiv8 Solutions, we license bespoke Social Impact technology software to our clients that:

  • measures their social impact as a % of their companies overall net worth.
  • measures their ROI on CSR Spend.
  • benchmarks their social impact against their competitors.

In regards to the wider context, I asked myself two key questions:

  • What would happen if I was to put the leading Corporate Social Responsibility professionals from the Midlands, across the public, private and third sectors in a room, to share best practices, knowledge, skills and experience?
  • How can I identify and access all these CSR professionals, all at once?

After a little research, I contacted the Chairman of Thrive, a voluntary collective of like-minded business and community professionals in the city.

Over a chat at the wonderful Urban Coffee, I spelled out my vision to him – he understood that my focus was on driving sustainable change in our region for the benefit of all our citizens, but to also helping companies embrace the wider strategic benefits of social investment.

I also stated that I’m not here to beg for his support and I will achieve this with or without his help!

Over that coffee, I became the founder of the Annual Birmingham CSR Summit – my simple idea that has now become the regions leading think-tank conference on Corporate Social Responsibility!

After a year of collaborative working between Cultiv8 Solutions and other business leaders within the Thrive Network and Aston Business School, we launched the first Annual Birmingham CSR Summit with 75 of the Top 100 CSR Professionals in attendance.

In 2013, we ran the second Annual Birmingham CSR Summit with 85 in attendance.

On Friday 6th June 2014, we will have run our third Annual Birmingham CSR Summit.

Here are the 4 key personal learning  points that I wish to share from this journey, so far:

1) Create the frame, but empower others to paint the picture – Giving others a sense of ownership, often leads to more innovation of the original idea.

2) Stand up for what you believe in – the passion for what you do and why, will see you through the negativity, hurdles and challenges that you will encounter on the way.

3) Nip things in the bud quickly and move on – leaving things to fester will only undermine what you all are trying to achieve.

4) Share the success – Be proud of what you started, but give equal praise to those who helped you on the way. They deserve it and it is only fair.

Whilst I am so proud of what has been achieved, It has not been easy – there have been times when the summit was seen as the property of other organisations, times when I have had to defend partner organisations when people wanted to rubbish their name, and even times when I have felt that my involvement was being phased out, even though I am the Founder of the Annual Birmingham CSR Summit!

But I have accepted that if the idea is achieving its goal, then it is ok to let go!

To achieve success, there must be a balance between recognition and evolution and that sometimes means allowing others to take the original idea and evolve it further than you could by yourself – that does not mean that the core reason must be lost and that is something that I will always and you should always fight for!

Till the next time, J




3 Reasons Why Change Is Good For You

There will always be times in your life when you have to deal with change, whether you are ready for it or not.

What you have always known becomes your past knowledge, a page in the book of your life and you write a new chapter based on the new things that you learn about yourself through change.

Charles Darwin was correct when he stated that the most strongest are those who are adaptable to change, because change will enable you to evolve through your experiences, through knowledge and give you the confidence and belief to achieve more, if you choose to harness the changes you face, to your advantage.

I know that I have changed as an individual, based on some key life changing moments – ranging from being beaten up once because I apparently ‘was not allowed have friends outside of my own race’ (which was SO narrow-minded and ludicrous), early business failures based on a lack of experience, losing more than 10 family members in the last 15 years, saved by a stranger whilst trying to commit suicide at my lowest ever point…


winning business awards, speaking in front of crowds of more than 3000 people, having personally trained over 600 people as corporate and community mentors, sharing social impact leadership opportunities with International business leaders, I would say that I have both experienced some s**t and have had positive things happen, that have made me stronger!

Every good or bad experience in your life, has the potential to elevate your own level of self-awareness. Negativity can become your motivator for positive change, and being around and learning from other positive people with like-minds can literally change your world, and the world at large.

Maturity has truly helped me to harness and channel my experiences into the world of business – I still have a rebel mentality that likes to disrupt the status quo of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), but I genuinely believe that the results of what i do are much better for all who i encounter, both in the boardroom and in wider society.

My company advises corporates on how to measure their financial return on CSR and benefit from integrating social impact into the commercial growth strategies of their business. I have always viewed business as a way of helping to develop society and I was elated to hear Sir Ronald Cohen reiterate this very point, earlier this week by stating the importance of linking social performance with financial returns.

Whether it is in your own life or in business, how things are done will always change – when it does, it makes you much wiser and more equipped to deal with the future.

That being said, managing change is not easy.

But I hope my 3 steps on how I have used change in my own life, may help you:

1) Embrace change as it happens: Fear is a state of mind that can stop you from learning the wonderful lessons that change can teach you. If you choose to embrace change rather than fear it, then fear becomes a benchmark of progress, helping you to acknowledge that fact that you now have new experiences to encounter based on reality.

2) Learn to adapt with change: The lessons you learn from embracing change, will ultimately help you progress through life positively, in an emotional, spiritual and physical way. But you must be prepared to make the sacrifices that you need, to reap the rewards whenever they do decide to appear.

3) Implement a positive action immediately: Change will never make sense to you, if you don’t put it into a positive context and give it the meaning that you feel is both appropriate and beneficial to you and others. Be clear on why you are implementing the positive action and ensure that you are able to communicate the benefit for others effectively, for that provides a foundation for inspiration, motivation and legacy.

We are all different, yet change happens to us all.

So face it, learn from it, then do something new because of it.

Till the next time, J.