Category Archives: Business Economics and Informatics

Introducing Birkbeck’s Professional Doctorate in Evidence-Based Human Resource Management

Julie Gore, Programme Director, shares the rationale behind the Professional Doctorate in Evidence-based HRM.

Advancing metacognition – the process of knowing, understanding and learning are central features of doctoral education. Deciding how to decide is central to successful leadership and management. The challenges of Human Resource management (HRM) in times of uncertainty have never been more apparent, with sociotechnical advancement and change being pervasive features of our working lives. Bringing together our advanced understanding of cognitive decision making processes and expertise, alongside a scientifically informed process of deciding how to decide, is where evidence based HRM meets informed HR practice.

In short, evidence-based HR refers to adopting a decision making process in which the organization consciously evaluates any decision against multiple sources of data, experience, expert opinions, and other types of information to ensure the decision’s most successful outcome.

Notably, examining multiple sources of data is also completed deliberatively, with a critical eye, and questioning the value of the data is part of the method. It takes constant effort to seek multiple sources of evidence to aid decision making and Evidence-based HR aims to actively do this.

Birkbeck’s new doctorate in Evidence Based Human Resource Management provides advanced research skills, a critical approach to thinking and deciding, the opportunity to tackle challenging work based problems and paradoxes, and a vibrant network of opportunities for discussion and reflection with HR professionals.

I anticipate that practitioner and academic discussions will be lively and insightful.

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How to get your Birkbeck studies off to a flying start

Student Engagement Officer Rebecca Slegg offers top tips to new students, to help you settle into Birkbeck, get your studies off to a flying start and help you make sure you get the most out of your time here.

  1. Set up a study space at home. If possible, decide on one place where you will be able to study. Keep it free from clutter and other distractions as much as possible and make sure that your family/flatmates know that when you’re there they should avoid interrupting you if they can.
  2. Talk to your friends and family about your course. If the people in your life know why studying is important to you and what it involves, they will be able to better support you throughout your course. They’ll understand why you might not be able to go out every weekend at exam or assignment time. They’ll also be interested to hear about the new ideas and topics you’re now an expert on!
  3. Attend Orientation and the Students’ Union Fresher’s Fayre in September. This is a great opportunity to meet fellow students, find out about life at Birkbeck and join some of the many clubs and societies open to students.
  4. Create a wall planner and use it to map out your first term. Plot on your term dates, exam dates and assignment deadlines. This will help you to know when the pressure points are so that you can plan ahead in other areas of your life to accommodate your study needs and be well prepared to meet all of your course requirements comfortably.
  5. Set up a WhatsApp group/Facebook group with your classmates. This will enable you to share tips and information between lectures and seminars and help you get to know each other quickly. You will probably find that your classmates quickly become a source of support and encouragement.
  6. Sign up to academic skills workshops. Birkbeck offers a wide-range of resources for students to brush up on their academic skills, whether you need a refresher on essay writing or an introduction to academic referencing – get ahead with these skills now so you’re not trying to master them at the same time as researching and writing your first assignment.

  7. Explore the campus. Get to know Bloomsbury. There is a wide range of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, indie bookshops and cultural facilities close to our campus.
  8. Arrange to meet your personal tutor. Your tutor is there to offer advice and support on issues that may affect your academic progress. Some of the topics you might discuss with your tutor include module choices; exam revision; meeting deadlines; any personal or professional issues that are affecting your studies.

  9. Buy some nice stationery. Investing in some nice paper and pens is a subtle reminder to yourself of the investment you have made in coming to Birkbeck and that this is something that you believe is worth doing and will help you to move ahead with your life goals.
  10. Find out about Birkbeck Talent (the in-house recruitment agency) and the Careers and Employability Service. These two services can offer advice on CV writing, interview techniques, setting up your own business and can suggest suitable short- and long-term positions to match your skills and interests.
  11. Make sure you’ve ticked off all the items in our new student checklist, which includes all the practical details you need to have covered like enrolling on the course, paying your fees and setting up library and WIFI access.

At our graduation ceremony we asked those who had made it what advice they would give new students:

If you’re a current student, why not add your own advice for those just starting out in the comments section?

 

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Retirement and Pensions: Creative Solutions Required to an Age-Old Problem

This article was contributed by MSc Governance, Economics and Public Policy student Thomas Boulton. He argues that increases to the State Pension age are sensible, but daring solutions are needed to safeguard pensioners’ living standards and address fiscal deficit.

In 2017, Theresa May attempted to introduce legislation that would have meant the value of an elderly person’s house was taken into account when measuring their eligibility for state funded care. This would have meant many more people having to pay for their own care. The backlash and subsequent backtracking almost cost May the position of Prime Minister. These events serve as an excellent foreshadowing of the likely problems policy makers will face this century. Data on public finances, forecasts in the UK dependency ratio and declining birth rates globally illustrate the emergent need to recognise the threat that demographic aging poses, and that traditional solutions will not be available.

Why we may have to work longer

Put simply, we are living longer, and old age is expensive to the exchequer. Over the last 40 years, life expectancy has increased at a faster rate than the average working life. As a result, the average number of years of retirement a person enjoys has almost tripled, from 5 years 10 months in 1980, to a peak of 16 years in 2014, and 15 years and 5 months in 2018, which comprises almost 25% of their adult life. Whilst nobody would want to begrudge someone a long and happy retirement, the impact retirement has on public finances cannot be ignored. With longer life expectancy, the length of a person’s life at which they are a net contributor to overall public finances begins to diminish.

Source: ONS

At the age of 68, the average person ceases to be a net contributor as a result of retiring and paying less tax, compounded by increased health and welfare spending when they reach their 70s.

Hard choices

Increasing the retirement age alone will not plug the gap. Life expectancy is forecast to continue rising in the UK. More significantly, demographic aging trends suggest increasing the retirement age may not have a significant impact, even if the electorate were to regard the idea of working longer as tolerable.

Source: OECD

Whether we choose to stick to a retirement period of just over 15 years, as in 2018, or maintain that a quarter of our adult lives be spent in retirement, people born in 1990 could still expect to be working in 2060. However, this would only leave public finances a little better off than they are now, given the forecast in the old-age dependency ratio.

Source: ONS

Birth rates and net migration

One straightforward solution to the dependency ratio is to increase the number of people in the country between the ages of 22-68. Easier said than done. Birth rates are in decline both in the UK and in all of the countries where the UK’s migrant workers have historically originated. This should leave today’s policy makers wondering where tomorrow’s migrant workers will come from.

Source: World Bank

Private pensions and productivity

One recent policy success has been the institution and uptake of workplace pensions, which will mean many fewer people will be reliant on the state pension. The possibility of withdrawing the state pension for those with large private pensions, and other benefits such as free TV licences may be politically tolerable, if framed in a redistributive way. Other than that, policy makers will have to find ways of ensuring tax receipts can increase, while also enabling higher birth rates. Given the further deterioration of public finances post pandemic, the solutions will have to be creative, and implemented more urgently than foreseen by Theresa May. Above all, they will have to be put forward to the public much more convincingly.

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The Emerald Isle: where only grass grows

This post was contributed by MSc Politics, Philosophy and Economics student Andrew Ó Murchú and was originally written as an assignment for the module ‘Economics: Theory, Policy and Institutions’. Andrew argues that Ireland’s dairy expansion is setting off environmental indicators.

By far the most grass covered country in Europe at ca. 56% of total land area, Ireland’s particular success with milk production can be attributed to its extensive green landscape. Today this is made possible by an inordinate amount of fertilisers and cow manure – the latter now the cause of a shrinking dairy industry in the Netherlands which, like Ireland, benefitted (albeit briefly) from the lifting of EU milk quotas in 2015.

Ireland now has its eyes on the historical growth patterns of the New Zealand dairy industry. Prior to the introduction of quotas in 1984, the two countries then had similar levels of output: annual production stood at almost six and seven billion litres of milk respectively. While Irish production has increased on average almost 6% per annum since 2015, the industry produced just over eight billion litres of milk in 2020 in comparison to 21 billion litres in New Zealand. This exponential growth is now seen as a model for the Irish dairy industry’s expansion in a game of catchup that is causing tensions between government, industry, and environmental NGOs.

A case taken by An Taisce (Ireland’s National Trust) against the successful planning application for a new cheese production facility in Kilkenny has recently been dismissed by the High Court in Dublin. Now the NGO has applied for leave to appeal this decision to ensure the construction of the facility – which would increase Ireland’s annual milk output by over 5% – does not go ahead. The group is concerned that the joint venture between Ireland’s largest dairy processor, Glanbia, and the Dutch dairy producer, Royal A-ware, will set bad precedent for the expansion of an industry with an already poor environmental record.

In their appeal, An Taisce draws attention to a report by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency in 2020, which showed that phosphate levels in 25% of Irish rivers were found to be increasing in line with the dairy herd, while consumption of other inorganic fertilisers has also increased since 2015 in attempts to increase grass utilisation. The Irish landscape has been described as a ‘duoculture’ of dairy cows and grass by ecologist Pádraic Fogarty, with hedge and woodland cover in Ireland already amongst the lowest in Europe even before quota abolition. The blame for the compounding biodiversity crisis is being pointed firmly at the fast-paced expansion of the dairy industry, but political appetite to challenge it is in short supply.

In an unprecedented intervention this month, the Irish Prime Minister, Micheál Martin, appealed in the Irish parliament for An Taisce to stand down in pursuit of the successful planning application. From a short-term political perspective, this may make sense. The multiplier effect of the dairy industry in Ireland is significant, with every €1 of dairy goods exported representing 90 cent spending within the Irish economy, and in 2020 the dairy industry was valued to generate output of €11.3 billion in the country (3.5% of GDP). But as Ireland’s food policy prioritises growing sales to emerging economies for sustainable food, pursuing environmentally destructive practices is unlikely a sustainable position.

Irish annual milk production stands at 1,623 Kg/capita in comparison to 862 Kg/capita in the Netherlands. This may indicate the central position of the dairy industry within Ireland’s economy – but considering the state of the Irish environment, catching up with New Zealand’s annual milk output of 4,671 Kg/capita appears less and less appropriate, or even desirable. The Irish government needs to reconsider its policy of dairy expansion which has become radicalised around the trope that Ireland is only fit for growing grass and its image of grazing cows on pasture. The pursuit of this productivist policy is crippling biodiversity and other environmental indicators. While companies from the Netherlands are moving in on Ireland as a source of overflow from a stunted dairy industry at home, the Irish government need only look to the Dutch food system itself to discover the possibilities diversification has to offer.

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“We were really challenged to think for ourselves.” 

Pierre-Yves Rahari is a Partner at AlgoMe Consulting and alumnus of the Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching. This is his Birkbeck story.

Pierre-Yves smiling against a white background.

Why did you apply for the Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching Psychology? 

I started my career in Finance, working for investment managers, and was looking for a way to bridge working in a corporate setting to becoming a consultant and executive coach. I did this at work by taking on mentoring and leadership development assignments and decided that the best way to complement my training would be to study psychology. 

After completing a foundation course in psychotherapy, I began to look for an executive coaching course, but the typical format you see of learning then following a single methodology didn’t resonate with me. Birkbeck’s programme appealed as it seemed to be looking to go more in depth with students, plus the course leaders were from a psychodynamic background and active coaches themselves. 

Birkbeck’s London location was ideal for me and I liked the format of weekly classes, which meant we were fully immersed in the course for the duration of the year. 

What have been some of the highlights of the programme? 

During the course, we were really challenged to think for ourselves. The team didn’t give out a manual or tell us how to do it, but they had a magical way of getting us to think about our practice and by the end of the course we had a real understanding of what it meant to have a contract with a coaching client. I don’t think it’s an overnight thing, but gradually you find yourself listening differently when you speak to people. The framework that I use in coaching now is an extension of what we did in the course. It has prepared me well for running my own business and surviving during the pandemic. 

As a French person, I also really enjoyed being on an Anglo-Saxon style campus, surrounded by other university campuses and with coffee and book stores all around. My experience at Birkbeck was very nurturing and I look back on my time there very fondly. 

Can you tell us more about what you do now? 

I run a management consulting company called AlgoMe Consulting, which specialises in asset management. We aim to influence strategic and sustainable change in the investment management industry by helping executive boards and boards of directors strategise and successfully implement transformational projects in their firms, while improving transparency, integrity, inclusion and engagement. A lot of the work we do is with leaders and change management and people are fundamental to this process, both at an individual and team level.

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Rainbow washing: what should we think when every brand seems to support Pride Month?

With Pride Month becoming increasingly commercialised, Dr Olivier Sibai, Lecturer in Marketing at Birkbeck, University of London, Dr Mimoun, Lecturer in Marketing at the Business School (formerly Cass), and Dr Achilleas Boukis, Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Sussex discuss how brands are engaging with the month of celebration.

A zoom in on some people's feet with rainbow colours on them

Image credit: Angela Compagnone

It’s June again, the first heatwave has arrived, flowers are blooming, and more and more rainbow avatars appear on your social media feeds! Yes, it’s Pride Month again and brands won’t let you forget it! As everyone celebrates Pride, brands won’t stop showing their surface-level love and support to position themselves as socially progressive and increase their resonance with their younger audience.  From brands’ rainbow LinkedIn profile picture to Google Doodles, every brand and its neighbor are jumping on the occasion to demonstrate their virtue. Yet, people are not so easily fooled and criticism abounds! Between accusations of rainbow-washing, blog posts wondering whether we can escape the commercialisation of Pride, and lists of brand’s “Pride fails,” consumers show their disapproval vocally.

a screen shot of a Disney post showing disney characters walking across a rainbow 'Pride Flag' backgroundOur research recently published in Psychology and Marketing uncovers how consumers interpret brands’ LGBTQ+-related support and decide on whether to condemn or to approve them. We show that consumers are more likely to condemn brands as ‘woke-washers’ if they are unable to prove morally competent. Specifically, media and consumers make up their minds on the biggest corporates by assessing such performative acts of allyship through three moral criteria: sensitivity, vision, and integration.

Moral sensitivity — a brand must recognize the moral content of a situation as failure to do so is likely to damage customer satisfaction, customer-brand relations, and brand equity. For example, by posting straight characters walking over the rainbow flag, Disney has proved morally insensitive to the stigma and discrimination that LGBTQ+ individualsThe Uno game packaging with the tag line 'Play with Pride' on the cover are still experiencing in many instances.

Moral vision — a brand must show a clear moral vision when outlining challenges to free speech that help solve problems for markets and society as failure to do so results in brands being dubbed as ‘conformists’ — those who reproduce the dominant moral judgments about what is acceptable to say publicly. While Mattel still shows a lack of moral vision by mostly reproducing mainstream discourses around gender and diversity, it at least shows some moral integration with the launch of gender-neutral Barbie dolls in 2019 followed by the launch of the UNO Play with Pride edition this year (alongside $50,000 donated to the It Gets Better Project).

A screenshot of a Pfizer Inc. Instagram post with a video still of a woman called Valentina, and 'she/her/hers. The caption reads: "We're celebrating #PrideMonth2021 because everyone deserves to be seen, heard, and respected for who they are. At Pfizer, we affirm every way people may choose to identify. Watch what it means to be Pfizer and proud."

The caption reads: “We’re celebrating #PrideMonth2021 because everyone deserves to be seen, heard, and respected for who they are. At Pfizer, we affirm every way people may choose to identify. Watch what it means to be Pfizer and proud.”

Moral integration — a brand must have the ability to pursue their moral beliefs in all situations as failure to do so results in brands being dubbed as ‘opportunists’ and ‘fame-seekers’ — manipulating the boundaries of free speech to serve personal interest rather than reform morality. For example, despite sharing the positive experience of its LGBTQ+ staff members, Pfizer demonstrates a lack of moral integration by simultaneously funding anti-gay politicians.

But let’s not despair, some brands have understood the point of Pride Month and, in doing so, further the fight for LGBTQ equity and inclusivity. For example, over the last few year (moral integration), Skittles celebrates Pride Month with a limited-edition Skittles Pride Packs (gray packaging and all gray candies) to emphasize the rainbow visual as a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community (moral sensitivity), alongside donation of $1 from each pack to GLAAD.

A black and white skittles packet. The tag line reads: 'During Pride only one rainbow maters #onerainbow."

A Skittles packet with the tag line: ‘During Pride only one rainbow matters #onerainbow

So has Pride Month just become another branded holiday? Well, it’s not for us to settle. But what we can tell you is how to judge the genuineness of branded communication: evaluate the brand’s moral sensitivity, vision, and integration. While we can condemn the over-commercialisation of Pride Month, the good news is that these branded discourses, whatever their values and intent, still raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ cause and normalize and legitimize its presence in public discourse.

Want to know more? ‘Authenticating Brand Activism: Negotiating the Boundaries of Free Speech to Make a Change’ by Dr Olivier Sibai, Lecturer in Marketing at Birkbeck, University of London, Dr Mimoun, Lecturer in Marketing at the Business School (formerly Cass), and Dr Achilleas Boukis, Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Sussex, is published in Psychology & Marketing.

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“The insight I now have about myself has changed my outlook on life.”

Karen Bowden-Brown is an HR leader and coach. She shares her transformative experience on Birkbeck’s Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching Psychology.

Karen sitting outside, smiling.My career to date has been in HR and I considered coaching to be a vital part of my role as an HR leader and an area I wanted to develop further. I considered various learning routes but many of them seemed be very generic, the Birkbeck course was exactly what I was looking for.

We covered such a breadth of topics and theories from psychology and philosophy when considering the coaching approach.  We viewed coaching approaches through various lenses – normative, interpretative and postmodern, which provided a different insight. The latest academic thinking was shared and discussed and we had assignments drawing on these resources.

I particularly enjoyed the presentations from experienced practicing coaches who were invited to provide demonstrations of different styles of coaching approaches.

The course leadership is excellent and Andreas, Susan and Raul who led the Programme at that time have years of experience both academically and practically as Executive Coaches. They also provided great mentorship to our cohort and were always there to provide friendly challenge to stretch our learning.

I have made some excellent friendships during my time on the course and I remain in regular contact with my small work group.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching Psychology gave me the confidence to provide internal leadership coaching as I had all the necessary tools. The course has taught me to approach conversations differently as a thought partner and a consultant – from a place of curiosity and open questioning.

The course has also been of benefit recently when I was reviewing the organisational approach to performance management – coaching by managers is now a core element to support all employee development.

I would go as far as to describe the course as life-changing, as the insight I now have about myself has changed my outlook on life. Additionally, the life skills I have developed on communication have been invaluable to me not just at work but with my family – especially with my children.

If you are considering this course, I would encourage you to invest in yourself! You won’t regret it.

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“If you try and do everything at once, you’ll never get started.”

Neither pregnancy nor a pandemic could keep Francesca Calabrese from completing her degree. She reflects on her experience on the BBA Culinary Industry Management.

Picture of Francesca CalabreseWhen I first moved to London, it was really important to me to be independent and not ask for help from my parents. My friends were all going to university and I would have loved to do the same, but as I was working full-time, I couldn’t see how I would be able to get a degree and support myself.

I was aware of Birkbeck because I was working in a hostel in nearby Russell Square, but I hadn’t realised that it had evening classes until I came across a prospectus that somebody had left in the hostel.

As a supervisor, I’ve always liked management, and my other passion is for cooking, as my dad is a chef. Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to set up my own food business, like a restaurant or bakery, so when I was browsing the Birkbeck website and saw a new course launching with Le Cordon Bleu, BBA Culinary Industry Management, it felt like a sign!

Even after applying and completing my interview, I had my doubts about whether I would be able to manage work and study. However, I decided to give myself this opportunity, so I shifted to working part-time and applied for a student loan to help fund my studies. I’m so glad I did, as the course has been an amazing experience and really important for my future career.

The first year flew by: we had the opportunity to do practical sessions at Le Cordon Bleu, which I found completely fascinating. At Birkbeck, I attended lectures and explored management in more depth through small group seminars.

In the second year, we suddenly found ourselves in the COVID-19 pandemic. Even that felt doable, as our tutors were so understanding and were always available any time we needed help or support.

A global pandemic would have been enough to deal with, but last summer I got pregnant and once again was wondering if I would be able to manage. I can be quite a stubborn person and my friends were sure that I would end up dropping out, but I decided once again to give myself the opportunity to succeed. It was tough: my parents were in Italy and couldn’t come over to help me and the thought of the assessments I needed to do once my son was born was really stressful! At the time, I thought I would never make it, but now I’m writing my dissertation having missed just one class through it all and I’m almost done!

I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved and most of all I’m happy that I didn’t give up. Once things are a bit more normal, I’m interested in exploring food development and eventually opening my own business.

My advice to anyone considering studying at Birkbeck is that it’s really difficult to think in one-year terms: take things slowly, do one thing at a time, one exam at a time and things will get much easier. If you try and do everything all at once, you’ll never get started. Take your time, reflect and do things at your pace.

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Pioneer 1.0 Programme 2021: Meet The Finalists

Meet the entrepreneurs who will be pitching their Business Ideas at this year’s virtual Pitch & Awards evening in June, competing for Best Business Pitch and Best Business Idea.

We are delighted to introduce this year’s Pioneer 1.0 finalists who have been shortlisted to pitch their exciting business ideas in front of a virtual audience and judging panel. Now in its fourth year, the programme continues to support and champion early-stage entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, helping to turn them into a reality.

Pioneer 1.0 is an extra-curricular course for Birkbeck students and recent graduates looking to develop the knowledge and skills to excel as an entrepreneur. Over seven monthly weekend sessions, participants learn from a range of entrepreneurs, industry experts and each other to build the skills needed to develop their business idea further.

Representing the best entrepreneurial minds in Birkbeck, the finalists are in with a chance of winning either the Best Business Pitch or Best Business Idea award, each worth a £1500 cash prize to support their business, along with a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and promotion.

This year, over 150 students and recent graduates have participated in the programme and their achievements will be celebrated at the virtual pitch and awards evening on Thursday 17 June, with a panel of independent judges, fellow entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

Meet the Finalists!

Picture of Nicky CarderNicky Carder

Being surrounded by people doesn’t automatically cultivate connection. Gatherism understands that and aims to bring customers and businesses together who seek community and share its mission to reduce loneliness and isolation.

Founder Nicky Carder has worked in community development and events management for 12 years and has experienced first-hand the importance of bringing people together.

Gatherism starts with a podcast to engage listeners through the storytelling of shared experiences and the power of community with the aim to inspire, motivate and connect people to the communities, projects, products and services that matter the most. Gatherism wants to listen to the needs of an evolving, post-pandemic community to help them to thrive better, together. Will you gather with us?

Picture of Lydia CarrickLydia Carrick

Apputee is an app designed to guide new amputees through their hospital stay and subsequent recovery, connecting them to a support network of experts and other amputees. Over 1 million amputations occur globally, and amputees often feel alone and scared.

The app will accompany new amputees through their recovery, using progress trackers and a gamified system to help amputees get the motivation they need. The app will also accumulate knowledge from medical professionals, such as doctors and mental health specialists, as well as interviews with other amputees about their experiences.

Apputee helps ease anxieties around the unknown and creates a roadmap from hospital back to their new “normal” – from understanding medication to navigating their return to work.

Picture of Makeda ColeMakeda L. Cole

At Kho Kho London we’re nuts about delivering eco-friendly, affordable fashion! We specialise in repurposing environmental waste into uniquely bespoke bags, saving landfill and reducing toxic emissions and supporting socio-economic empowerment for disadvantaged communities.

Our coconut-shell pouches are designed by nature making them quite literally one-of-a-kind — for the modern person with enough space for what you cherish –handcrafted with love in West Africa.

The amazing thing about our bags is that they are handmade by artisans meaning that we are actively engaged in improving the socio-economic status and livelihood of our crafters in Sierra Leone.

We hope for a world where you know where your products are made and by who. Well, that’s us in a nutshell. Cashew later!

Picture of Grzegorz JadwiszczakGrzegorz Jadwiszczak

Financial Literacy is an ongoing concern, with research showing that many people struggle with basics of finance and money management. My business’s mission is to tackle this issue with a three stage plan, starting with building an online community providing social media content and podcasts under ‘Finance Preacher’.

I hope to utilise this to setup a platform where like-minded individuals can network and learn from each other as well as local experts. This will hopefully enable locals to help each-other, giving more impactful advice than what is available to date.

This platform will be leveraged with the aim to lower the entry point to financial advice. Developing either an AI Chat Bot or a process for short term meetings with financial advisors.

Picture of Rosie MaggsRosie Maggs

History through theatre offers a unique interactive history experience tailored to the national curriculum and delivered straight to the comfort of the classroom.

From plays to talks, we can tailor the session to the school’s needs as well as making it age appropriate. We are fed up of children not getting the most out of their history lessons and disliking a subject that should be valued.

Our goal is to create unforgettable experiences which will spark a life long interest in history.

Picture of Kate StrivensKate Strivens

Afro Cycle is a black owned business designing helmets for children and adults with afro, black natural and thick curly hair. The helmet combines fashionable aesthetics with ergonomic design to produce a product that provides safety to the cyclist and protection to the hair.

When I cycle through London I know I am not safe and my hair is getting damaged beyond repair. This is why I am passionate about using my lived experience to create a helmet for people like me, who want to cycle safely and have products designed with them in mind.

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“When you’re peering over the edge of the precipice, you have to reinvent yourself, adapt to change and innovate.”

It’s been a wild year for Julio Bruno, CEO of Time Out Group. Our MSc International Business alumnus shares his thoughts on leadership, staying relevant and how the pandemic has transformed the way we do business.

Picture of Julio Bruno2020 has been an unprecedented year for business. How did you manage to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and has your approach changed over time?

When external circumstances force you into making changes, your role as leader is to manage that change. In my case, we realised on 12 March [2020] that the world was starting to close down. Our colleagues in Hong Kong and Singapore had already closed, then the team in Barcelona said they were going to have a lockdown – at the time we didn’t even know what a lockdown was!

As a colleague and I were discussing the implications of lockdown, I said ‘well if we cannot be Time Out, we’ll have to be Time In’ – we stopped and looked at each other and knew that we had something. We created the logo that day and decided what it meant for us to be Time In.

As well as transforming the external face of the business, we had to deal with changes happening inside the company. The economic impact has been terrible and we alongside others in the hospitality, leisure and entertainment sector have had to restructure the business and refocus our priorities.  This presented further challenges, how do you motivate teams when everything feels like it is falling apart around them? Defining a clear, common purpose enabled us to take action. When you have a problem to solve, people come together.

Another trend that makes me very reflective is that many  CEOs have really needed to step up and inspire their teams to change, adapt and thrive during the pandemic. In my company, I started sending out regular videos explaining what we’re doing and how it’s going and people kept asking me for more. As a CEO, you have a responsibility to your employees; they look to you for answers and to reassure them that the world is still spinning in the right direction. What you say is being listened to intensely, so you have to be part of that moral compass – taking care of your business economically is not enough: people confide in you more – this is really the time to change up management skills.

Time Out Group has been named one of the Most Innovative Companies for 2020 by Fast Company and Best Brand of the Year by Campaign Publishing Awards – how did you stay relevant at a time when people were closing their doors to their local city?

When your company is called Time Out and overnight, all the cities of the world go into lockdown — when all restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, museums, shops, music venues, hotels and travel stop overnight, how do you survive? As well as ceasing the print production of our magazines globally, we had to close all six of our Time Out Markets. At that point, when you’re peering over the edge of the precipice, you have to reinvent yourself, adapt to change and innovate. There isn’t time to have meeting after meeting – you have to act. Agility became very important.

As the COVID-19 pandemic forced cities into lockdown, Time Out pivoted to help people make the most of Time In.

If Time Out recommends the best things to do in the city, Time In recommends the best things to do from home, whether that’s online theatre, recipes or the best shows on Netflix. Time Out is hyperlocal, but we realised that Time In required a more global outlook, because everybody was feeling the same thing. We had an external enemy and a common misery in COVID-19, so being able to empathise with what people were going through became our reality.

We also had to change our approach: we couldn’t do critical reviews in the same way because a lot of places were closed, and those that were open were putting in heroic efforts to serve customers. We became about the soul of the city instead – what does it mean to be in London, New York or Singapore these days? What does it mean to be working from home? How do you create a community spirit? That little local corner shop that does coffee suddenly becomes a lot more important than it was a year ago.

Do you think the pandemic will cause a permanent change in the way we live our lives?

People say that the pandemic has provoked a ‘new normal’, but in reality every day and month is different to the next. The world has evolved and this terrible pandemic has accelerated a lot of trends that were already there, such as remote working, focusing on health and wellbeing, an awareness of the environment. Conversely, it has also increased the divides in our society, such as key workers who cannot afford the luxury of staying at home versus those who have been able to work from home throughout the crisis, or the fact that the stock market has been going up and up while more and more people find themselves out of a job. Add to that now the problems around vaccine dissemination – what is going to happen in the developing world? We are already having problems in Europe.

Aside from these issues, we miss our old way of life. We have rediscovered nature, but what about all the other endeavours of human beings? We miss it. Now, I can make an incredible banana bread, but I used to have the joy of going somewhere and enjoying something someone else has made – I cannot wait to get back to that.

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