No, seriously – I have a dream too!

No, seriously – I have a dream too!

This month the Martin James Network are celebrating and supporting Black History month. We have events, workshops and support going on throughout the month as well key talking points from colleagues around the business. In the latest blog, Cliff discusses what BHM means to him and what having a dream is all about.

Hey, my name is Cliff Faulder and I recently had a dream. In all fairness, I often have dreams.

Some involve world cup winning goals, others involve me eating the world’s largest marshmallow only to awake and find I have nearly devoured my pillow!

But I do have one recurring dream. A dream that feels like a millennial update on the great Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech.

My dream is a little less profound and very simple.

My dream as an entrepreneur, businessman, husband, father, and son is that my attainment in life is not seen as an achievement. But just standard, fair, and well…. just what you’d expect from the average black dude.

Sadly, in 2020, this is still not the case for all sections of society. Every black person you know will understand exactly what I mean when I refer to phrases like, “doing well for a black person”, or ,“it’s not often you meet many people like you in senior positions”.

The uncomfortable truth is that those statements are often true.

So how is it that in today’s day and age successful people of colour are still largely seen as an anomaly? Is it a lack of drive, ambition, or aptitude?

Of course not.

But it has everything to do with how we see and acknowledge what black people and other people of colour are capable of and how they have contributed to the world we all live in.

Are we conditioned to dream big dreams for people of colour and expect great things from them in the same way we do of those with European heritage?

If not, why not?

Who kills those dreams?

As a black child growing up in 70s, 80s and 90s Britain, I was acutely aware that I should treasure my dreams as they were the only thing that the world could not limit.

You see, in my dreams about the life I wanted to live, I could accomplish anything! Become a doctor – yes, no problem. Be an astronaut – easy peasy. In my mind, I only had to conceive the notion and allow my imagination to do the rest.

As I grew throughout my primary school years, something began to change. Adults in a position to influence me, such as teachers or community figures, began to discourage my ambitious dreams and replace them with what they thought was realistic for a black boy.

Gone was the encouragement to attain careers that took skill and academic achievement. What replaced it was throwaway comments like “you’d make a good basketball player” – not due to even a passing interest on my part but more to that fact that I fit a racial profile and was tall enough to evoke a lazy stereotype.

Even as a child I understood that other people’s limited perceptions of who I was or what I could be was down to their own limitations of what they knew.

Afterall, if the only black people they knew were poor or famous athletes/entertainers, telling me I could grow up to be a basketball player was most likely their version of a compliment.

So, I began to think about how I would educate the masses. How could I persuade the world to consider that yes, many young black children may well be gifted sportsmen and women but just as many can lay claim to being exceptional in a variety of industries.

The challenge I set myself as a child is as relevant today as it was then. That challenge was primarily to expose people to more knowledge of exactly what people of colour have contributed to the world in all its facets and forms.

Firstly, I had to upskill myself and supplement the history taught in school curriculums with additional knowledge about how black people also appeared in the narrative. For instance, I like many of you learned about the first and second world wars. I however took special interest in identifying how many black soldiers fought and died in those wars.

Alas my many visits to war museums, such as the Tank Museum in Bovington on the Dorset coast, failed to have even one picture of a black person on display – let alone information of how people of colour have paid the ultimate price in the name of Queen and country.

In this link you may get a sense of how unjust this is.,served%20in%20uniformed%20Labour%20Units.

While there are many examples like the one found in the link below, it is clear that while amazing contributions have been made, they can often go unrecognised.

This is why Black History Month is necessary.

It is necessary because information of this type fuels dreams. It allows people to expand their mind to accept that the advancement of humankind can be found in all men and women of all colours and cultures.

In short, it’s great to recognise what black folks have done in the past and acknowledge what they can do in the future. It’s great to upskill each other through the sharing of knowledge and brave conversations.

I can’t wait to dream a new dream where Black History Month is not necessary because it’s just what we learn about in our everyday lives.

I have a dream that this is the new normal.

Cliff Faulder, Philanthropist, Managing director of AboutFace, Creator of the “Bravery Award”, Liverpool fc supporter and Social commentator. (LinkedIn –


Mayor of West Midlands officially opens ‘CoLAB’ – a creative incubation centre to nurture young talent

Mayor of West Midlands officially opens ‘CoLAB’ – a creative incubation centre to nurture young talent

On Wednesday 6th October, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlandsvisited the Martin James Network offices to officially open CoLAB – a creative incubation centre to mentor and support entrepreneurial talent across the Midlands. 

In December, Martin James Network launched EPIC Youth – a charitable project to help young people who have experienced adversity by providing them with pathways to business and entrepreneurial success. Fast forward to today, where it’s opened its doors to CoLAB to further enable the ongoing nurturing and mentoring of those individuals who form part of the project. 

The launch of CoLAB will provide a dedicated safe space to cultivate entrepreneurial mindsets within the Martin James Network, for those involved in EPIC Youth to utilise to further their business, as well as external people such as local schools, local community groups and other business minded groups in the Birmingham area. 

Equipped with all the tools and inspiration that people need to get creative and turn ideas into opportunitiesCoLAB will allow individuals to work collaboratively on projects, express themselves candidly, and pursue new ideas. And what’s more, a series of engaging taster workshops will be hosted over the upcoming months to help people develop skills in disciplines ranging from photography and cinematography to coding and virtual reality. 

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We know young people are most at risk from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, and we must do all we can to support them. 

“The work of The Martin James Network and Epic Youth is a brilliant example of the kind of help that is already available to young people, including mentoring, business advice, and financial support. 

“Their new CoLAB will help to build on this great work, and I was honoured to be asked to officially open the new facility.” 

The Martin James Network strongly believe in supporting young people who have experienced adversity. Its mission is to unlock hidden potential through practices and products which challenge and empower communities to think, act and behave differently, in the pursuit of positive lasting outcomes for everybody. 

Jim Cockburnexecutive chairman at The Martin James Network, comments: “We’re hugely excited about the potential of CoLAB and we can’t wait to see the impact it has for anyone using itNot only will it serve as a creative hub for training and stimulate innovation, it will boost wellbeing by giving our communities the opportunity to get creative, learn new skills and express themselves. 

CoLAB will provide essential hands on experience and specialist skills thanks to the modern-day technology available – we can’t wait to watch individuals grow and prosper! 

World Mental Health Day: helping employees thrive in the workplace

World Mental Health Day: helping employees thrive in the workplace

Here at the Martin James Network, the health and wellbeing of our employees is a key priority. Human beings are the lifeblood of any business and we believe that by connecting people to a purpose, supporting mental health and giving everyone a voice, we can all thrive in the workplace.

So, ahead of World Mental Health Day on this Saturday (10th October), we wanted to take a moment to recognise some of the incredible mental health projects and initiatives happening within the network at the moment.

Unlocking silos with the TalkOut app

Before lockdown, we had been developing and testing an app to help unlock silos, build communities, and keep employees across the globe connected. Lockdown amplified our People team’s existing belief that connecting digitally would boost employee engagement and mental health. We knew that the key to success was to breathe a fresh new approach through our people in the form of a digital solution – and that’s where the TalkOut app was born.

As well as being used to share internal news and company updates, the app allows colleagues to communicate in real time, in a way that is best suited to them. They can chat to groups, individuals, or whole communities all from the one platform.

Crucially, at the heart of the app, is a system that offers employee mental health support through useful resources and advice. And soon, the app will allow individuals to speak to a counsellor via a specialist chat function too.

Campaigning for better workplace mental health

Team members at our mental health organisation, TalkOut Group, have been busy campaigning and urging the government to prioritise employee mental health at this difficult time. According to TalkOut Group’s latest research, over half (56%) of UK workers haven’t received any mental health support or advice from their employer since March.

On top of that, over a third (35%) of employees said that their mental health is worse now compared to before the pandemic. And just over half (51%) of respondents said they have felt uncertain about the future of their job.

The TalkOut Group has been busy speaking to the media – including the BBC and Forbes – and explaining why mental health in the workplace can longer be ignored.

Sharing mental health stories

At a time when supporting employee mental health has been crucial, we’ve increased webinars and online training for managers and employees across the business. We’ve also been sharing mental health resources so people can find out more or get further help if they need it.

Our People team have launched a range of initiatives to boost morale and wellbeing, including Mindful Mondays, and Wellbeing Wednesdays where key people across the business are interviewed and talk openly about their own mental health experiences. To simulate the social aspects of office life as much as possible, we’ve also regularly held virtual hangouts, pub quizzes and birthday celebrations for our employees.

Keeping our teams fighting fit

When the pandemic first hit and we were advised to work from home, a network employee – also a qualified personal trainer – set up a home workout group on Facebook. Created to help keep employees motivated and mentally fit whilst being confined to their homes, the HIIT and cardio workouts were uploaded live each day.

The workouts are still being streamed to this day and people outside of the network are even joining in!

Supporting working parents

With so many working parents having to look after their children during lockdown, another network employee created a Facebook group featuring recommendations and activities to keep kids occupied, home-schooling tips and positive news stories to lift parents’ spirits.

The group, called Mini Tribe Adventures, now has over 4.7k members and the founding employee made it onto local TV talking about why she set up the group.

Riding the wave of a new business landscape

Riding the wave of a new business landscape

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has caused immense disruption to businesses across the globe – and in some cases, irreparable damage. But for The Martin James Group, the clever use of data and digital platforms, alongside unwavering persistence, has meant we have been able to navigate the crisis and ride the bumpy wave.

From charities to leading technology brands, The Martin James Network consists of three groups of companies all with a shared vision of changing futures. Founded by Martin James Cockburn – or Jim, as he’s commonly known – the network ranges from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.

jim cockburn
Chair of the network – Jim Cockburn

Like all businesses, the Martin James Network hasn’t been able to completely avoid the impact and interruption felt by this unprecedented global pandemic. Yet, thanks to its existing innovations and the need for continued support from the markets it operates within, the network has been able to adapt and make the most of a potentially catastrophic situation.

Jim shares the network’s learnings and successes from the last four weeks of this new business landscape:

Accelerating innovation

Over the last 12 months, the Martin James Network has developed and implemented a digital communication and engagement app called JiffyJab, which allows organisations to share information within their own private network. Having already been successfully adopted by a number of businesses, we are now offering the app to the care, charity and health sectors free of charge during the coronavirus crisis.

One of our brands, FosterTalk – a not-for-profit support service for foster carers – has also been working with internal partners to implement a new communication tool. Due to launch soon, the app will allow FosterTalk members to access advice and support, as well as chat in real-time to other foster carers at what is an extremely stressful and challenging time for them.

Responding to market needs

Our brand leaders across the network have been using this crisis to shape new ways of working, whilst responding to market needs. Life sciences company, Okra, is working to offer COVID-19 insights using transformative predictive AI technology. Our workplace mental health organisation, TalkOut, is offering more webinars and online training at a time when managing employee mental health remotely is crucial. Business support and IT brand, Anster, has been busy developing a family support package to help Local Authorities across the UK support more vulnerable families. And Intellect – our foster carer tax advice service – is supporting carers to unpick and understand the massive volume of information regarding self-employment.

Offering a helping hand

Our charity, the Martin James Foundation, supports vulnerable young people around the world and has stepped up during this crisis to launch an emergency appeal. It is also working closely with partners in Birmingham to support more vulnerable families within communities that need it.

Internally, the network’s People team have launched a range of initiatives to boost morale and wellbeing, including wellbeing Wednesday, Sing-a-long Thursday, quiz nights on Friday, daily HIIT workouts on Facebook Live, and a Facebook group for employees needing to keep their kids entertained which has grown to nearly 4,000 members.

We are also hugely proud that we haven’t had to furlough too many staff and any that have been, have had 100% of their salaries covered.

Crisis builds collaboration

In what is an unsettling and stressful time, our people have really stepped up to get employees and themselves through the upheaval. Whilst information and updates were always previously shared between brands, our network leaders are now having weekly virtual meetings so we can share ideas and concerns, as well as identify new ways to collaborate and support each other.

Our staff continue to support each other through candid and authentic communications via our internal communications app, JiffyJab, as well as through Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack.

Jim comments: “It could be very easy to be knocked back by a crisis like this but through collaborative effort and the commitment of each brand within the network, we’ve managed to explore new ways of working and meet market demands.

“Our focus has become sharper during these testing times and our network’s mantra of ‘connecting minds and shaping futures to transform lives’ resonates now more than ever.

“We’ve learned that times of crisis and uncertainty can actually give us more courage and we believe that we will come out the end stronger and more resilient as a network.”

Find out more about the Martin James Network here.