Finding resilience in times of change

Finding resilience in times of change

Over the last few months we have seen further changes across the UK, tier systems introduced, closure of high street brands and curfews at 10pm. Since our last update back in April the Martin James Network has also been adapting to changes, and it’s been a busy few months.

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement made us stop, reflect and change. We made a stance to support the fight against any injustice both inside and outside the workplace. Not only did we talk candidly about Black Lives Matter on our blog, we also created a new diversity charter, ensuring that all our colleagues are treated fairly and without prejudice or discrimination.

During this period we have welcomed to the network Cliff Faulder and his business ‘About Face’. A new anti-racism training business that provides a safe space to ask the hard questions about diversity and equality in the workplace. Cliff recently created a blog for Black History Month where he discusses his dreams, diversity and more. Read his blog here.

VR and being a disruptive business

We expanded our business with the acquisition of a VR company – VR Simulation System which forms part of the TalkOut Group. Incorporating VR into our business allows us to expand our mental health services, offer alternative learning and support through VR and allow us to reach more people than ever before through collaboration.

In June, Martin James Network were successfully nominated and announced as runners up to Disruptive HR’s ‘Better Normal’ Awards. The awards recognised our leaders’ response to the Coronavirus pandemic – we were congratulated for our innovative and disruptive initiatives during lockdown.

Say hello to CoLAB – we welcome the Mayor of the West Midlands

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands officially opened our creative incubation centre ‘CoLAB’ in October.

The CoLAB will serve EPIC Youth, which is part of the Martin James Foundation. EPIC Youth allows access to mentoring, finance, marketing, and business advice. This collaborative, safe space allows them to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset, with access to laptops, camera and video equipment, plus a photo and podcast studio. 

The space has also been utilised by our colleagues when we hosted a ‘Festival of Learning’, offering workshops on creative storytelling, photography and video editing. CoLAB will be a cross functional space for everyone to use and gives our EPIC entrepreneurs direct access to mentoring from MJN talent.

Graffiti trail across the Midlands to celebrate National Poetry Day through founder’s COVID experience

To celebrate National Poetry Day, we decided to take over key areas around Birmingham to raise awareness of the poet ‘Basic Existential Boy’ – also known as our founder Jim Cockburn.

During the 1st lockdown, Jim launched a collection of COVID-19 poetry the month before after falling ill with symptoms of the virus at the start of the year. Showcasing parts of his work across the city, the ‘clean’ graffiti could be found in areas such as Moseley, Harborne, Digbeth, New Street, Moor Street and Snow Hill.

Supporting our colleagues for World Mental Health Day

At the network, we have a variety of initiatives to help support our colleagues’ mental health. Throughout this period we have offered access to our TalkOut app – allowing all colleagues to connect and speak with each other, access resources including mental health, employee rewards, and internal company updates all in one place.

We also increased online webinars to cover topics such as mental health, wellbeing and fitness. And we encouraged colleagues to join virtual hangouts, quizzes and celebrate birthdays online. We understood the pressure on working parents – juggling work life and family life as it merged into one. Everyone was offered flexible working, access to additional support online and more check ins with their managers to discuss any issues they had.

Welcome new businesses and a new vision

Even though it’s been a rocky year we have been fortunate to have a strong, resilient business which has allowed us to grow and welcome new leaders and businesses into the Network.

Cliff Faulder has joined as CEO of AboutFace a new diversity training business which will help educate around equality and diversity. We also welcomed Richard Morcombe who has taken lead at UK Fire Training – both new businesses to the network.

Paul Putman will now head up Talkout Group as their new CEO with Daniel Croft joining us as CEO for our Fostertalk brand.

This period has also given us time to step back and solidify our network vision and mission. A vision of a ‘society’ in which every individual is valued and where all dreams can be realised without fear, limitation or prejudice.’ As we move toward the end of the year, we take comfort in the the work that we have achieved over the past few months, despite the global uncertainity.

Black History Month at the Martin James Network

Black History Month at the Martin James Network

At the Martin James Network, diversity and inclusivity has always been a priority. But this year in particular, we’ve been educating our employees around race, culture and the importance of diversity in the workplace.

In October, we supported and celebrated Black History Month. We had events, workshops and support going on throughout the month, as well as encouraging colleagues across the business to talk about their experiences. In this blog post, we take a look at some of the projects that have taken place and the initiatives taking shape within the network.

Going back to the classroom

There’s no denying that school curriculums are failing at teaching us the very basics when it comes to black history. In fact, according to The Black Curriculum, 73% of people in the UK learnt about the Great Fire of London, but only 10% learnt about the role of slavery in the British Industrial Revolution.

We believe that knowledge leads to understanding and change. So, to mark Black History Month, we’ve been taking employees back to the classroom (virtually, of course) to give them the opportunities to learn more.

We held an Inclusive Webinar Series with sessions around understanding white privilege, exploring black culture, and using mentoring and reverse mentoring to drive inclusive cultures. We’ve also shared resources and links to events taking place in Birmingham on our internal engagement app, TalkOut.

Progressing our diversity charter

Our diversity charter has been in development for some time but has really evolved over the last six months. The charter demonstrates our commitment to leading the way when it comes to diversity, equality, and anti-discriminatory practices within the workplace. It outlines both our business commitments and the personal commitments we want our employees to adopt to support diversity.

As part of the charter, we have run several events and webinars to give all employees the chance to explore and discuss diversity in the workplace. As part of the Charter, we have also joined Inclusive Employers giving us access to leading edge resources on diversity and allowing us to benchmark our processes against other organisations.

Encouraging employees to share their dreams

Whether it’s our website, social media or internal engagement tool, we’re always encouraging employees at all levels to share their personal experiences and raise awareness of important issues. In October, network employee Cliff Faulder kindly wrote a blog post discussing what Black History Month means to him and what having a dream is really about.

He talks about growing up as a black child in 70s, 80s and 90s Britain, and explores society’s misconceptions of people of colour and how they’ve contributed to the world we live in. Click here to read Cliff’s blog post in full.

Whilst Black History Month has given us a platform to promote diversity, we know that this isn’t just once a year and we have events planned across the year to promote diversity and to continue the discussion around race and culture.  

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! 

Martin James Network founder marks National Poetry Day with city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his experiences of Covid

Martin James Network founder marks National Poetry Day with city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his experiences of Covid

To mark National Poetry Day (Thursday 1st October), Birmingham poet – Basic Existential Boy – has installed a city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his own experiences of Covid.

Basic Existential Boy, or Jim Cockburn as he’s also known, launched his collection of Covid-19 poetry last month after falling ill with symptoms of the virus back in February.

Now, as we approach National Poetry Day, Jim hopes to inspire others and share his love of the written word with this thought provoking ‘clean graffiti’ art trail.

The trail aims to highlight the importance of art and poetry at times like these but also analyse how the pandemic has radically altered our society, rendering everyday life virtually unrecognisable overnight.

Showcasing excerpts of the poet’s work, the graffiti can be found in a number of locations throughout Birmingham such as Moseley, Harborne, Digbeth, Broad Street and New Street, as well as Moor Street and Snow Hill.

Speaking about his Covid poetry collection, Jim says: “Lockdown created time and space for me to reflect and writing this poetry has been a cathartic experience, helping me to deal with the mixed emotions the pandemic has brought about.

“The Coronavirus has disrupted every part of our lives in profound ways and no one has been immune from the effects. Within the pages of the collection, I have tried to capture some of these momentous times, good and bad.

Available to purchase on Amazon, Jim’s collection – called Covid Spring – features 17 poems reflecting on the world we’ve come to witness during the pandemic.

All proceeds from the collection go to EPIC Youth – a project set up by the Martin James Foundation to help disadvantaged young people with business and entrepreneurial success.

For more information visit www.basicexistentialboy.com or to purchase the Covid Spring anthology, go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/Covid-Spring-Basic-Existential-Boy/dp/1527268446.

Follow @BasicExistentialBoy on Instagram and use the hashtag #BEBTHEPOET if you spot his work across the city.

Martin James Network founder publishes Covid-inspired poetry book for charity

Martin James Network founder publishes Covid-inspired poetry book for charity

Martin James Network founder and chairperson, Jim Cockburn, has launched a collection of Covid-19 inspired poetry after falling ill with symptoms of the virus back in February.

Jim is usually known for his candid, straight-talking approach in business but he also has a surprising love for the arts, theatre and literature.

Like many of us during lockdown, Jim re-evaluated the things that brought him joy and he started to express himself through poetry.

It was here that Jim’s pseudonym, Basic Existential Boy, was born. He was inspired to write Covid Spring – a collection of 17 poems reflecting on the world we’ve come to witness during the pandemic.

The collection features pieces such as The Covid Singalong, Kick It Out Covid, and Covid the Crow, and analyses how the pandemic has radically altered British society, rendering everyday life virtually unrecognisable overnight.

The anthology is available to purchase on Amazon, with proceeds going to EPIC Youth – a project set up by the Martin James Foundation to help disadvantaged young people with business and entrepreneurial success.

Jim comments: “Lockdown created time and space for me to reflect and writing this poetry has been a cathartic experience, helping me to deal with the mixed emotions the pandemic has brought about.

“The Coronavirus has disrupted every part of our lives in profound ways and no one has been immune from the effects.

“Within the pages of the collection, I have tried to capture some of these momentous times, good and bad, with my verse as the drama unfolds.”

Fellow Brummie and renowned spoken word artist, Amerah Saleh, has brought a selection of the poems to life in a series of short performances on Basic Existential Boy’s YouTube and social media channels.

Amerah says: “It’s really important for me to connect with any work I take on, to feel the story and to be able to relate it to my life. These poems are a glimpse into what a lot of people are thinking and feeling around the world. The writing is poignant and raw, and that is the kind of thing I have always loved to read. To bring it to life feels like I’m able to share these important words into voice.

“Writing like this really hits home with life right now and allows you to reflect on the world as a whole rather than our micro-society. Basic Existential Boy looks at the bigger picture and how Covid-19 is impacting everyone’s lives.”

To watch Amerah’s performance of Covid App, visit https://youtu.be/EdbHyZFvI80, or to buy the Covid Spring anthology, go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/Covid-Spring-Basic-Existential-Boy/dp/1527268446.