Changing lives… one person at a time

A successful Milton-Keynes-based consultancy, along with its not-for-profit sister foundation, are on a mission to build more inclusive and caring communities, nationwide.

Local leadership and change consultancy, The Red Thread Partnership, is increasingly making a difference to communities through its unique community initiative, The Award Winning Red Thread Fellowship. Launched in 2016, and now operating as a stand-alone, not-for-profit venture, the Fellowship brings together middle leaders from local employers with charities from the local area, and supports them in developing projects that make a real difference to local people.

Each of the leaders-in-training (Fellows) who joins the programme commits to giving an hour a week of their time to a specific project for a charity partner, while also making a commitment to raise at least £500 for the organisation. In return, they receive world-class leadership education free of charge – along with the great feeling of knowing they’re making a difference.

The Fellowship benefits communities in three ways. First, people who live and work locally receive top-class training, with instruction accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). And, more importantly, the programme gives participants the opportunity to apply what they have learned.

Naturally, their employers also reap the rewards. Not only do participants return to their everyday roles with better skills, but also with renewed energy and fresh perspectives.

Thirdly, the charities benefit from the real, long-term commitment of the Fellows. This is quite different from the usual ‘work experience’ scenario, with charities having to find tasks for well-meaning volunteers. The Fellowship’s approach encourages the charity to think about projects that really need doing, and provides the skilled people and the support they need to complete them successfully.

The fact that many of the Fellows choose to extend their partnerships with their charities beyond their year of official commitment shows how well the programme works. As former participant Dan Brown, Channel Development Manager at AFL Hyperscale, put it: “I’ve taken a lot of skills and positive steps from the Fellowship. I also now feel very much part of MK Snap and will continue my work with them far into the future.”

Employers also feel the benefits of the programme – one typical comment comes from Mark Walker, Director, Ashridge Group: “The programme has contributed greatly to the personal development of our team, and it has challenged us to enhance our collaboration with the local community.”

It’s hard to overstate the difference this is making to local charities and the communities they serve. So far, 65 Fellows have been involved in the initiative, collectively raising more than £46,000 for 25 good causes – but it’s not just about hard cash.

As Angie Novell, CEO of charity partner MK Snap, comments: “Working with Fellows from The Red Thread Partnership was a real eye-opener; it opened up a whole new world of possibilities and connections that we didn’t realise existed! This year’s Fellow was outstanding and made such a difference to our work throughout the year; he has become a trusted supporter and ambassador for our charity.”

The Fellowship now has its fourth cohort of 13 participants within Milton Keynes, working with Milton Keynes charities Ride High, Spinal Injuries Association, Transition UK, The Safety Centre and The Bus Shelter, plus the Bedfordshire Puzzle Centre.

Following the successful establishment of the programme in Milton Keynes, the concept has been extended to other communities. With the help of key sponsors Freeths Solicitors and the University of Northampton, programmes are now up and running in Oxford, Cambridge and Northampton, with initiatives for Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire due to launch soon. The company has an ambition to establish the Fellowship nationally by 2025.

As well as supporting the work of the Fellowship, the commercial company, The Red Thread Partnership, continues to make a difference to businesses small and large, local and global. Long-term clients include MK-based companies Ashridge Security, Suzuki, Lohmann and working globally major multi-nationals like Arla Foods, Siemens and AstraZeneca. Red Thread Managing Director Freddie Guilmard explains: “Our focus is on helping businesses to develop leaders, grow high-performing teams and excite whole organisations. To that end, we offer a range of services, including training programmes, conferences, or a full communications review.”

Freddie emphasises that the Partnership and its not-for-profit sister share common values – of honesty, efficacy, generosity, thoughtfulness, tenacity and passion – and a common goal, of helping to build more inclusive and caring communities nationwide.

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