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Promoting Quaker values in Business and the Workplace

News Update - June 2011

Hello there from a warm and sunny East Midlands.

The main focus of this News Update is a report on the Q&B Annual Gathering of NxDs at Woodbrooke, which was held over Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th June 2011. Paul Gibson contributes this section and does a good job of reflecting a challenging and educational event.

I’ll start though with a section talking about some other Q&B and non-Q&B events, then with a section on other news and requests for support, and then we’re onto Paul and his report.


Do you have a subject you think would be suitable for a future event: Something that really interests you and would be good to share with others in the group? The Events Working Group is currently looking for subjects for next year’s events. Are you inspired by Paul’s words on this year’s NxD Gathering? If you were leading next year’s NxD Gathering what would you like it to focus on and discuss? Please share your thoughts and ideas with Eoin This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Beyond Belief Conference at Bradford University

You will remember from a previous News Update that our Q&B member Mark Read was asking for some help with his studying for a PhD in Quaker Studies, and in particular on answering the question ‘What do we mean by religious belief? And how is this belief realised in the everyday world of professional work?’

Mark will be presenting a paper on his work at the Beyond Belief conference at Bradford University on the 7th and 8th September 2011. The event is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and further details can be found at

Spiritual Activism Course with Alastair McIntosh

The ‘Schumacher North Networked College For Sustainability’ are holding a weekend residential course presented by our Friend Alastair McIntosh from Friday 15th July to Sunday 17th July 2011 at Calderdale Yoga Centre, Hebden Bridge, W. Yorks.

The course is described as ‘a rare opportunity to work intensively with one of the leading figures of the international ecological movement, and is recommended to anyone who feels they have a serious commitment to confronting these challenges, either through inner spiritual work or outward campaigning or a combination of the two.’ For further information contact the collage at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Q&B Annual Business Conference

And finally don’t forget that our Annual Business Conference is on Wednesday 16th November 2011 at Friends Meeting House. The title is Building Responsible Businesses. Our two speakers in the morning will be Deborah Cadbury, writer of the best selling Chocolate Wars book, and Mark Reckitt, Group Strategy Director for the Smiths Group who until earlier this year had spent 21 years at Cadbury, including Green and Black’s and latterly Kraft. In the afternoon there will be a choice from four interactive workshops on different aspects of running businesses along Quaker principles.

Other News

Financial Times Non-exec Directors Club

Eoin draws our attention to this channel for finding non-executive director vacancies.

As Eoin says ‘In late March 2011, after having attended an impressive workshop arranged by the club, I paid a £85 joining fee and £60 annual fee. Their website gives an opportunity to put up relevant details from your C.V. I did this. Since then I have been receiving vacancy notices at the rate of about one per day for non-exec roles. Most of these are from the 3rd sector and on an expenses only basis. Some have offered fees, one of £23,000. Most roles are for 3 to 5 days per month. Many are London based.’

Q&B Outreach Speakers Programme

One of the suggestions that came from the Strategy Day back on the 9th March was that we take up opportunities to provide speakers to organisations who would like to hear about Quakers and their involvement in ethical business. Would you like to be one of our speakers? Do you have ideas about what can be included in the standard presentation currently being developed? Please contact Eoin if you do. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Also, who could we present to? There are our own Quaker Local and Area Meetings, schools and clubs: Do you have contacts with organisations who welcome this type of speaker?

Q&B Annual Gathering of NxDs

A report by Paul Gibson, Quakers and Business Group

Nearly 20 Friends gathered at Woodbrooke with the theme of Organisational Structures for the Big Society. The weather was kind and we tried to find time to enjoy the garden, with the rhododendrons in glorious flower. You can find the minute for this event on the group’s website: Q&B members can also download the speakers' presentations from Documents|Conferences|NXD. Andrew Radford has asked that his presentation and notes are not distributed beyond Q&B members as they contain confidential information.

Big Society agenda

After dinner on the 6th June, Steve Wyler, CEO of LOCALITY spoke and introduced a lively discussion. LOCALITY is a newly merged organisation of the Development Trusts Association and ‘bassac’, to address and deliver the Big Society agenda. Steve explained the history of the movement, from settlements through development trusts and social action centres to community enterprises.

Toynbee Hall and Oxford House were the first two settlements, both in East London. A Church of England curate, Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta opened Toynbee Hall in 1874 as a centre for social reform. Oxford House was set up in 1884 by Keble College, Oxford to provide a centre for religious and social work.

Steve spoke about the Brynmawr Experiment between the people of Brynmawr in South Wales and Worthing Quaker Meeting in 1928. The people of Brynmawr were facing dreadful economic hardship after the closure of several mines. People hadn’t enough money to keep pets or to sow seeds in their gardens and allotments. Worthing Quakers provided seeds and manure for the allotments. The Experiment helped local people to find alternative employment to working in the mines. Two new companies were formed, Brynmawr Furniture Makers and Brynmawr Bootmakers. Soon, these companies were producing high quality goods, paying a living wage to staff and offering training in new skills.

Steve gave some current examples of successful community enterprises, including:

  • Galeri in Caernarfon, led by Bryn Terfel. Galeri is a development of the Victoria Dock area of Caernarfon. There is a 400-seat theatre/cinema with state of the art conference facilities. The space is shared with 16 creative companies
  • Westway Development Trust in West London. This is a community organisation led by Martin Freeman, Chief Executive. It occupies the land under the A40 motorway as this cuts through West London. There is a community centre and a range of community activities, all made possible by the transfer of land from the public sector to the voluntary sector
  • Coin Street Builders in Waterloo, London. This is perhaps the best known social enterprise, transforming a derelict 13 acre site into a thriving neighbourhood run for the benefit of those who live and work there. There are over 50 shops and restaurants, galleries, co-operative homes, a park and a river walkway
  • Community Links in Newham, East London, one of the poorest boroughs. Led by David Robinson, the charity delivers services for over 30,000 people each year. Service users have become volunteers, staff and trustees as lives have been changed and transformed.

Steve set out the key threats to community enterprise:

  • mission drift
  • bureaucracy and distortion to comply with the terms of grants
  • a command and control culture of local authorities
  • local authority spin outs with only the appearance of social enterprises
  • large corporates masquerading as social enterprises.

Steve concluded that community enterprises are different from the command and control mindset of the public sector and the profit motive of the private sector. Community enterprises will succeed by continuing to be distinctive and different. We ended the evening with a lively debate on how to make the private sector pay a fair contribution for the social capital it benefits from, such as education and transport infrastructure. We were united that large corporations should pay their proper share of tax, but not as to how to make this happen. Our discussions continued informally over a hot drink in the Dining Room, as new and old friendships were forged. As a group, we had gelled.


Challenges facing the third sector

After Meeting for Worship in the Quiet Room, we met up again on the morning of the 7th June and began with a period of silence. Our first speaker was Patrick Andrews, Director of Riversimple. Patrick spoke passionately about the challenges in our lives. If we do nothing and change nothing, we will all face catastrophe. Corporations are efficient, but can be amoral or immoral in what they do and how they do it. In contrast, charities have strong values but can be inefficient and lack transparency – who appoints the board and where is their accountability?

Patrick wondered about there a middle way for third sector organisations to behave differently? Could third sector organisations deliver on large scale projects like utilities and reduce our reliance on industries like arms production? This will require good governance which is accountable and able to serve multiple stakeholders. This needs to be achieved at large scale and through networks rather than hierarchies.

Patrick asked a question. Do people want to be empowered or told what to do? Are we on a transition from being followers to being empowered? We link this to what Steve said last night about ‘fuzzy’ boundaries, where a service user can become a volunteer, staff member or trustee, depending on their life circumstances.

Patrick gave four beacons of good practice:

  • AfriKids working with children in Ghana
  • Cafedirect and its focus on suppliers as well as customers
  • Forest Stewardship Council which is stakeholder owned, with three key governance chambers, economic, environmental and social
  • Riversimple, where Patrick works and which designs a car powered by hydrogen. The six stakeholders are considered to be the owners. There is a compound board, the Custodians, the Stewards’ Council and the Operating Board.

To do just one thing, Patrick said to let go and stop trying to control! His talk led to an animated discussion on accountability, legitimacy and the Quaker spiritual dimension we bring to our NxD work.


Respecting all stakeholders

After coffee, we heard from Andrew Radford on the focus on increasing shareholder value in corporations, where shareholders have rights but not responsibilities. The model is broken and needs to be fixed in terms of structure.

We brainstormed the wide range of stakeholders of an organisation and their responsibilities, discussing these in pairs. Andrew talked about legal structures, private and public companies, Community Interest Companies, Industrial and Provident Societies and Co-operatives. Who owns the company is more important than legal structure. There are some good examples of different models such as Scott Bader and John Lewis.

We heard the visionary story of Cecil Jackson Cole, a Quaker who co-founded Oxfam and founded Action Aid, Help the Aged and Andrews, an estate agency which he gifted to three charities. The estate agency operates with integrity and shares its profit with the charities to support their giving, a total of £5 million over the last 20 years. The embedded values of Andrews resonated with our brainstorming about the responsibilities of stakeholders.

There is another way: Innovating Corporate Social Investment

Finally, Ray Sheath spoke about social business and social investment, starting with the Adventure Capital Fund which began in 2002. Ten years later, the Fund is a manager of a portfolio of 100 social investments.

We now live in a time of austerity and social entrepreneurs find it difficult to access finance. Ray is working on a new Trusteeship Business Model, in which large corporations could invest, alongside social co-investors and the social banks, including Charity Bank, Co-op Bank and Triodos Bank. Ray explained that there will need to be mutual benefit between the investor and the social enterprise. Ray told us that there is a great deal of work to be done in this area. Importantly, there needs to be a mindset for change. This was a good note to close on. We confirmed our support for Ray, Patrick and others in their endeavours and hope to work with them.

In conclusion

We heard about organisational structure and how this needs to be fit for purpose. Beyond structure lies behaviour and spirituality. As Quakers, we believe that our testimonies of honesty, simplicity, integrity and truth need to be embedded and lived in our business values. We talked about vision and values and we looked at detail, debating with passion in a spirit of goodwill and trust. We have been heartened to be in the company of kindred spirits.

We thanked Bob Tilley and all those who organised our Gathering. We ended by reading the minute followed by a period of silent reflection. We look forward to meeting again as Friends at the 2012 NxD Gathering.


That’s it for this News Update; there will be another after the Management Committee Meeting on the 18th July at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, which will include a summary of what happened at the Meeting, and a list of our current active projects and opportunities for you to support.


In Friendship, Elizabeth Redfern, Assistant Clerk - Quakers and Business Group

P.S. If you follow this link and go to just before 2 hours 17 minutes into the programme, you will hear Q&B member Jo Poole talking on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about a subject close to her heart and her pocket, clothes, in her business role as The Dress Doctor Jo does a good job of explaining how her business works and how it helps her customers revitalise their wardrobes and save money by reusing what they have in new ways. An interesting theme Jo uses is how keeping and reusing clothes helps you maintain links with the past and take these items on into the future. (The link may not work after ~8th July)