The Martin James Foundation; fearless champions for reforming alternative care

The Martin James Foundation; fearless champions for reforming alternative care

By Justin Rogers, CEO of Martin James Foundation

I have been reflecting on some of the experiences I have had, witnessing the lived realities of children who are growing up in institutions.

Many of you know about the research I have been undertaking in childcare institutions in South East Asia. Some of the homes I have visited have 500 children residing, where they often grow up in isolation from both their families and communities.

It is estimated that 80% of the children in these orphanages have family members. Their placement may be driven by poverty and the parents’ desire for their children to be educated, giving them better life chances. The staff often seem kind enough to the children and they are doing their best, but they are caring for large numbers of children, and often the staff to children ratios are too low.

One state orphanage I visited had two members of staff on twelve-hour shifts, caring for thirty infants under the age of 12 months. Some of the babies were clamouring for attention whilst others looked distant, resigned to the reality that attention will not be forthcoming.

Whenever I am confronted with these types of experiences, I always end up questioning: is this good enough for these children? I then employ the test I used to assess and support foster carers in the UK: would I leave a member of my family here? And would I feel safe in the knowledge that they were being cared for?

Unfortunately, most of the large-scale residential homes I have witnessed would not pass that test. The experience of witnessing these harsh realities has provided the motivation for me to commit fearlessly to promoting the reform of alternative care for children. Because these children that through no fault of their own, find themselves in these situations, need fearless champions.

I find myself ‘feeling the fear’ when I am chairing meetings with Government ministers or presenting talks to networks of NGOs. But as the saying goes, I feel that fear and do it anyway because children in those institutions don’t have the power or opportunities to make change.

Being part of the Martin James Network has afforded me the opportunity to work with colleagues that are doing this for some of the world’s most vulnerable children on a daily basis. Recently, the MJF team were on a call with UNICEF and the Government, developing a foster care handbook in Madagascar. On the same day, our colleagues from Key Assets Canada were training practitioners in Colombia on the value of family-based care.

If you reflect on what goes on in our teams and across our network, it’s clear that we are a group of people committed to making a positive social impact. We are fearless!

Creating A Life Worth Living – Loubna Bouarfa

Creating A Life Worth Living – Loubna Bouarfa

I want to share with you my journey as a women entrepreneur, explaining the challenges that I faced while driving the implementation of AI in healthcare.

I was born and grew up in Morocco. At the age of 17, I moved to the Netherlands to study Electrical Engineering and Informational Technology at Delft University of Technology.

My journey in artificial intelligence started 13 years ago, when I embarked on a PhD project. I was assigned to build a cockpit for surgeons in the operating room, using AI to predict surgical workflow and detect anomalies in real time.

Back then, the only surgeon I could find that was not intimidated by an AI cockpit monitoring his operating room was in Germany, Prof. Feussner. All the other surgeons I spoke to in the Netherlands, the US and Nordics, felt that their work could not be automatically interpreted definitely not by machines and perhaps nor by women, that what they did was “art” and no machine could help to make it better.

But that didn’t stop me from my goal of saving and improving human lives with artificial intelligence.

I believe AI holds huge potential across healthcare. We are facing unprecedented challenges from a population growing to 10 billion by 2050. The impact of AI to sustain a healthy population of 10 billion is enormous. As an entrepreneur I’ve always looked at how this impact can be maximised with technology.

With this goal in mind, I founded OKRA Technologies in 2015.

As CEO, I have tried to build OKRA’s reputation to become a leading AI company for life sciences, supporting the industry in bringing the right drug to the right patient at speed. OKRA now works with top Pharmaceutical clients across Europe, using AI to empower decision making and bridge the communication between stakeholders in the ecosystem.

Diversity at the heart of technology

Only 25% of European businesses are using AI at the moment, and I am trying to raise that percentage significantly, specifically in pharma.

In starting my business, I’ve experienced some negative bias for being an academic and scientist rather than a seasoned entrepreneur, and for being a woman in the male-dominated technology and corporate environment, but that has never stopped me from reaching to my ambition. I feel different in many ways to many people, and that is ok.

 

As the CEO of a rising tech company in the life science sector, I have witnessed a general tendency in the industry to value rules and traditional processes, which can of course be crucial when human lives are at stake; but sometimes traditional processes can encourage traditional ways of being. 

To cope with these adversities and build a strong, trustworthy and unbiased technology, the OKRA team has always been committed to diversity. Our team has 15 nationalities and almost 50% of our employees are female. The strength of our unity has resulted in a workplace that is open, transparent and focused on building strong, long-lasting relationships. This has been especially vital during COVID-19, while we kept steadfast to the mission and continually grew the company through innovative initiatives that could help clients respond to the crisis.

I am incredibly proud to say that at OKRA we’re accelerating the growth and value creation for life sciences, making a big shift in the healthcare industry at a large scale.

We have developed 3 successful strong AI products that support life sciences in medical affairs, market access and drug commercialisation. We help our clients with decision making, by providing an AI-driven ecosystem that empowers the healthcare workforce to scale to precision medicine.

The end result of all this effort has been amazing. But I must admit that it has not been an easy journey, not at all. And there’s still so much more that needs to be done, for healthcare, for technology and for women.

This is the reality today, this is what we have to fight against. But how did we get to this point? What happened to “The Computer Girls?”

“Computers are for boys”

There are several factors that influence this dramatic decline since the 1980s. One of these factors was that when kids started to learn how to program, stereotypes began to appear.

At school, girls got this message: “Computers are for boys.” And when computer-science education programs began to expand in the 90s, the coding culture was set. Most of the incoming students were men.

Doors were being shut for women, not only in academia but also in business. Managers began picking coders more on how well they fit a personality type: the quiet, anti-social male.

Lucky for us, that trend didn’t last long and currently software is returning to its roots, with women everywhere. In fact, now is the time for women in AI.

We’re at the inflection point

Women are losing their jobs, especially because they are overrepresented in the industries that have suffered most during COVID-19. It is estimated that 40 per cent of all employed women work in severely damaged sectors – that is 510 million women worldwide.

Women have suffered a lot during this crisis, but let’s not forget about the opportunities that change brings. During this pandemic we have learnt to embrace uncertainty, acknowledging that this is the right time for change.

Let’s take this opportunity, let’s reflect on the lessons learned to reinvent ourselves and our futures.

Failure is part of success

In these situations, I always take inspiration from Australian musician, actor and comedian Tim Minchin and his “9 life lessons” speech.

These 3 that I’m going to talk to you about, are my personal piece of advice to you:

We still have a long way to go

Because even though more and more discussions around diversity, female leaders, gender bias and other topics are certainly taking place across the globe, the progress towards addressing the visible problems of diversity is still slow.

Women and minorities are still significantly underrepresented across Tech.

We need to ensure we are more inclusive as a sector, based on a number factors such as educational background, gender and ethnicity, and encourage individuals from an early age to stand up for what they want.

Let’s use the inspiration from the fantastic women who paved the way for us, and face these challenges with strength and optimism, just like they did.

In life, we need to be fearless. We must follow our strong instincts if we believe they are right, we need to do what is right even if it is terrifying. Many of life’s greatest achievements require going outside of our comfort zone, and the key to success is learning to fail. Failure is an essential tool for building character, it makes us stronger and resilient.

Let’s overcome fear, adversity and thrive against the odds. Because, after all, life is short and we are lucky to be here, so let’s all make it a life worth living.

I will finish by quoting Rumi, one of my favourite poets: “Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”

A Collection of the World’s Most Inspiring Women.

A Collection of the World’s Most Inspiring Women.

From Oprah Winfrey to Greta Thunberg

 

To mark International Women’s Day, the Martin James Network has created the Inspirational Females map that celebrates the women who influenced, shaped, and challenged the norm.

Hover over the map to explore and learn more about the women that have chosen to challenge.

Whether it’s Britain’s Boudica leading an uprising against the conquering Romans, to America’s Rosa Parks starting the civil rights movement by refusing to take a seat at the back of the bus, throughout history, women have challenged the status quo.

Let’s continue to advocate for female rights and champion young women. By amplifying their voices we believe it will create a society in which every individual is valued and where all dreams can be realised without fear, limitation, or prejudice.

At the Martin James Network, we are fearless pioneers with a social conscience and want to create change by challenging the norms. 

 

 

 

Key Assets’ role in LGBTQ+ history – Steve Jacques

Key Assets’ role in LGBTQ+ history – Steve Jacques

Happy #LGBTHistoryMonth! This February, the Martin James Network is excited to celebrate the lives, legacies and histories of LGBT people in the UK and abroad. Throughout the month we will be posting information pieces, stories from colleagues across the network, useful links and much more. First up is Key Assets. Steve Jacques, Group Chief Executive Officer at Key Assets, part of the Martin James Foundation, gives us an insight into how they are contributing to the history of LGBT+.

It’s so good to shine a light on this and also to highlight our own role in making history. For example, did you know that Key Assets companies in Australia and Ireland, with board endorsement, were either the only one or one of very few children’s services organisations, to publicly support a ‘yes’ vote in the respective referendum/plebiscite on marriage equality? We have also been instrumental in campaigning for supporting the right for LGBT+ people to foster and adopt in Ireland, the UK, Finland and Japan. In Japan and Finland we partnered with the work of Rainbow Foster Care JPN and Rainbow Families FIN to promote the contribution that LGBT+ families can bring to foster care provision in these countries. In 2017 the Osaka Prefecture approved the first gay couple, as foster carers, in Japan!

We were the first independent children’s services company to be included in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and the Australian Workplace Equality Index for our commitment to LGBT+ inclusion. In fact Key Assets Australia have not only made it on the AWEI, every year since 2015, but were also recipients of the prestigious LGBT ‘Employer of the Year’ Award on three occasions. In Ireland we are the only independent fostering agency to ever be nominated for a GALAS LGBT+ Outstanding Company Award since the award’s inception in 2009. Senior managers across our network have also been recognised by being shortlisted at LGBT and Diversity Award events around the world.

We were one of the first to introduce equal benefits to LGBT+ employees, before the introduction of equality legislation. We also put in place, long before others, a framework for how we would support our Trans colleagues through their transition journey.
Our first Group CEO, Estella Abraham, was identified by Stonewall UK as an LGBT Role Model in 2016 and Steve Jacques, the current Group CEO of our network of companies across Europe has been recognised 3 years running within the Top 100 LGBT+ Executives Role Models lists published by Google, Deloitte, Financial Times & Yahoo Finance.

Did you know that 23% of the senior leaders within Key Assets branded companies identify as Lesbian or gay? Each one of them, along with LGBT+ allies, have actively engaged in campaigning for the civil rights of LGBT+ people. Our people have protested, lobbied, campaigned over issues of legalisation, age of consent, education, equal treatment, marriage equality, conversion therapy, the right to foster and adopt, equality legislation, Trans rights and workplace equality, to name a few.
During LGBT History month we reflect on the progress made, in many places, but we recognise there is still so much to do to ensure a brighter future for our LGBT+ colleagues, friends, family members, foster carers, clients and most of all our children and young people! Companies across the Network have been and will continue to be instrumental in achieving this and continuing to make history!

This is the first of many pieces to come from the Martin James Network as we celebrate and remember LGBT History month. Follow our social media pages to find out more.

MJN launches it’s first Fearless Storytelling Competition

MJN launches it’s first Fearless Storytelling Competition

 

To celebrate National Storytelling week on 29th January, the Martin James Network launched its very first children’s ‘Fearless Voices’ creative writing competition. In a time when home-schooling is the new normal, we want to create a platform for children to be brave with their imaginations and creativity. Fearless Stories will amplify the voices of children, in a year when they have had little opportunity to be heard. 

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

From Friday 29th January children between 5-15 years will have the opportunity to submit a fictional story of 500 words (or less!) about being courageous. The only limits are imagination and creativity!

There will be a bronze, silver and gold winner in each age category: 5 – 7 yrs, 8 – 11 yrs, 12 – 15 yrs.

Prizes:

Gold: One double page spread of your story illustrated by children’s book illustrator

Silver: £50 Waterstone book tokens

Bronze: Creative writing book, notepads, pens and colours (worth £25)

Entries must be made by a parent, guardian or teacher who can submit the story by emailing
Please include the child’s name and age when submitting.

Competition closes on 26th February.