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! 

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.

OKRA launches COVID-19 Status for Field Teams

OKRA launches COVID-19 Status for Field Teams

OKRA Technologies, a leading provider of Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven analytics for global life sciences, which is part of the Martin James Network today announced they have introduced a COVID-19 status within their FieldFocus system to further support life sciences sales representatives. The status allows sales representatives to understand how the outbreak has affected access to individual Hospitals and GP practices and their preferred method of contact.

Key insights

  • HCPs are limiting their interactions with sales representatives from life sciences due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The new FieldFocus feature enables sales reps to communicate in real time the changing accessibility and preferred method of contact for Hospitals and GP practices across the country.
  • This new feature also allows sales representatives to feedback directly into the system, using a “traffic light” system providing a real-time understanding of the changing access environment caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The COVID-19 status function truly embraces the human-machine relationship. We are connecting user feedback to provide more accuracy in the predictions, suggestions and explanations for future actions.

“Our goal is to empower strategic and operational teams across life sciences to take action. The integrated COVID-19 solution will aim to support sales teams across the business to focus engagement decisions on areas where access is still available. Our primary objective is to provide AI solutions that place the user at the centre and enable individuals to execute their vision through explainable AI. This is another example of how we can evolve our FieldFocus solution at speed to meet the changing needs of the life science industry during these unprecedented times,” said Dr Loubna Bouarfa, Founder and CEO of OKRA Technologies.

Find out more about OKRA Technologies here.

Martin James Network continues partnership with FoodCycle during COVID19

Martin James Network continues partnership with FoodCycle during COVID19

A few weeks back, our Birmingham-based restaurant, Holy Moly – home of the ‘Proper Mac’, headed up by Paul Elliott teamed up with national charity, FoodCycle, to help support vulnerable people in the local community each week with hot meals.

FoodCycle combines surplus food, spare kitchen spaces and volunteers to create three-course meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation, whilst helping those who may not be able to afford to feed themselves or their children.

Holy Moly donated its first selection of its vegetarian cheesy ‘Proper Mac’ to the UK charity in January and has provided hot meals on a weekly basis since, until the restaurant was forced to close due to the COVID19 outbreak.

We’re pleased to announce, we will donate essential food on a weekly basis, during lockdown. Throughout this uncertain time, it is now more important than ever, that those who are most exposed are not left hungry or lonely, and we support the mission and determination of this incredible national charity, and ensure our community is fully nourished.

Different parts of the network have been involved in ensuring this goes ahead including –

Martin James Foundation who have provided the donation through their EPIC programme. Agility Group – kindly provided the van to transport the goods between wholesaler and FoodCycle. Martin James Group – some of our colleagues helped arrange collection and drop off and Tribera who continue to raise awareness of FoodCycle and promote the partnership.

Paul Elliott, Head of Business at Holy Moly which is part of the Martin James Network, added: “FoodCycle do some incredible work supporting the local community. The charity is made up of amazing volunteers who provide so much to those in need and being able to play a small part in helping, especially during this time, means a lot to us all here.”

You can find out more about FoodCycle by clicking here. Find out the latest news from Holy Moly by clicking here.