Spotlight on: Tom Lewis Reynier
I’m the Director of Strategic Engagement at WRAP – a leading circular economy and sustainability charity operating through the UK and with global programmes. I’ve worked in the private sector, with local and national governments and in all corners of the social sector as well – so you could say my career has been a bit ‘squiggly’ to coin a phrase. That’s the way I’ve liked it though – because although it hasn’t always been planned, I’ve always been drawn to change, to challenge, and to opportunity. There’s been plenty of it in the past decade or two as we go through technological, social and climate change – and I’ve relished the chance to help organisations reconfigure themselves to address the roles they can play and the impact they can have in this picture.
WRAP has an established history, but is a ‘new’ charity – and so I’m here to help it build its profile, and diversify its income, and base of partnerships. The space of sustainability and climate change is right at the cutting edge of global interest and change right now and so the chance I have to learn about the issues, and bring what impact I can to it is a real privilege. Roles like this do not come around very often and so when I got the call from Starfish to look at it I jumped at the chance – and realised it would need a real blend of experiences and backgrounds to fill it well – and so was delighted to be appointed.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Obviously working in climate change I have a really global focus. One place that is really seen at the moment is in the space of responsible investing (ESG). I’ve always been fascinated with the transformational impact that different uses of capital can have, and have long been involved in social investment projects. It’s amazing to see the traction and scale that asset managers are picking up in how they use their influence to affect business decisions relating to carbon emissions, land use and poverty alleviation. It would be great to think that we in the social sector can continue to build on that and work very much hand in hand with the financial sector to get to this brighter, cleaner and more sustainable future. They are joining the space that we as charities have long been creating and so we need to harness their resources to make sure that it delivers the right sort of impact.
What personal philosophy do you aspire to live by? I guess I live by the philosophy that there is room for a broad range of views, opinions and approaches. And we should leave space for that. Of course we need to choose action and be decisive but I find the most impactful, creative and energetic organisations across sectors are those that allow people to express themselves. I find too often in life, in business and especially in the charity sector we’re too quick to cut each other off and we lose sight of what is going on around us. The strongest organisations are those that bring together the most diverse sources of people and experience, work hard to foster that and really work hard at it.
Who has inspired you the most on your own career journey? My first job out of university was in printing – screen printing, and specifically t-shirts and clothing . I worked with a growing business for 10 years and was really influenced by the entrepreneur who had set this up. My whole approach to opportunity, business development, innovation and my attitude to just getting on with what needs to be done came from that. It’s really been a strong driver for the work I’ve done through all the roles I’ve had in the charity sector. Too often we come up with reasons why we shouldn’t do something, or why we can’t and I’ve always tried to shift that mindset. That was borne of my time building a small, innovative and creative business and I guess it’s with me for good now!
What advice would you give to others who are following a similar path? I guess I’d encourage people to be bold, go for it – and to not doubt. If you really believe something is a good idea, is the right thing to do or will work – then don’t be discouraged or dissuaded by your fears that you, or it won’t fit in. Group think and going with the flow can be such a strong force of extinguishing your enthusiasm and energy and it’s really important to keep things in perspective and stick with your convictions. In addition – if you are working in any change role then never forget that this is what they have brought you in for!
Leadership journeys, expertly navigated
It’s time for revival not simply survival
Like many industries, the charity sector is having a tough time; it is not exempt from making redundancies.
Dramatic loss of funding coupled with ongoing restrictions on the workforce means that organisations are having to deliver significant change internally and at pace.
Change has, in fact, become part of everyone’s life: many have had to embrace the reality of remote working since March and this or a hybrid office-and-home model looms in the future. While some have adjusted, others endured isolation and missed the social interactions with colleagues.
Without the clear-cut change of location and defined office hours, many find it harder to divide their personal and professional time.
And Covid-19 is not just a six-month blip, that much is clear. Organisations need to be agile when the normal rules do not apply. Many charities are under huge financial pressures and are tweaking their internal models to pool resources in the right areas.
Keeping on top of change
Organisations need more responsive structures to get through these times as traditional operating models are changing forever. Chief executives must embrace this change; they need to tilt the axis of the organisation so that innovation and fresh thinking thrive at every level. They will have to take risks and do things differently.
Janina Vallance is an experienced Change Manager who has worked at board level for over 10 years delivering strategic change and transformation programmes across Retail, Consumer, Finance and most recently the Charity Sector. We discussed her experiences of delivering change across multiple industries and what charities can do to continue their change journeys. It is time to ‘Revive not Survive’.
“There is no point doing more of the same, hoping the world returns to normal at some point. Your people, culture and processes have adapted and modified during lockdown; continue with the momentUill to embrace the many opportunities”
We discussed areas where investment in change and transformation can not only revive, but can also establish a firm foundation for growth, when services may be more in demand. Here’s Vallance’s key piece of advice:
Further investment in digital transformation. Having one strategic digital lead can make a significant difference to your organisation – digital is changing so quickly and you need one person who tunes into this and takes advantage of new technologies, leap frogging expensive, complex and outdated solutions.
This helps access new communities to expand reach, fuelling your profile, brand engagement and fundraising. With the use of AI and chatbots on the rise, many charities have moved to delivering help and support services online, especially during lockdown.
Face to face and events fundraising is on pause and many have turned to digital events for income – there has been huge amounts of innovation around engagement with existing supporters. What is more challenging is increasing income from new supporter audiences digitally.
The National Theatre’s online programme of events is a fantastic example of pushing activity online. They streamed 16 of their shows for free over four months. Nine million households tuned in across 173 countries – this was globally supported, and theatre became accessible to a diverse and wider audience.
Now not everyone can stream their shows, but what inspiration can you take from other markets? A fantastic collaboration for fundraising that has just taken place is the ‘Massive Get Together’ – an evening of live music and comedy where funds raised split between 10 charities. The pandemic has produced unique collaborations as people and organisations do things differently.
Internal innovation encourages cultural change and helps create new ideas, improvements and solutions. Are you encouraging diversity of thought by engaging with your wider workforce? Are you asking your organisation what changes needed to happen? Does your culture support inclusion, challenge and feedback so that you can build on that left field opinion? Change must come from within but can lack ownership. Consider hiring an interim manager as an expert to support organisational change.
The call to action for volunteers during the height of the pandemic was phenomenal and in the early days, British Red Cross and NHS were overwhelmed with support. We need to develop this community spirit further so we harness the power of our communities for social change.
If you get this right, you will bring in new supporters, who give their time and financial support. There is a vast talent pool of individuals who are job-hunting and want to stay active while they look for their next role; people may have more time to volunteer but these must be accessible and flexible opportunities.
How are you funded? Can you diversify this and develop commercial opportunities? Can you provide more services to a broader range of beneficiaries? Can you provide training? Can you collaborate and build partnerships with others?
Many organisations have operated with leaner structures for the past six months and plan to change old structures. We are likely to see an increase in mergers and consolidation in many sectors, including charities.
Consider using external support to shape this thinking, interim transformation/change managers will help you secure new opportunities and uncover solutions.
Strategic intervention can add significant value. You may not have the expertise internally, so providing the organisation with support and acting quickly will pay dividends.
Interim managers are uniquely equipped to join senior teams at short notice and provide essential support with their trademark resilience. As we move deeper into the next phase of Covid-19 and with the furlough scheme being extended, we would encourage organisations to think laterally about the solutions they need, and to consider the benefits that this Interim Management community offers.
Survival is a valid goal, revival an even better one. Achieve more from your change.
Leadership journeys, expertly navigated
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