David Burndred, Chief Financial Officer at Big Society Capital, was a GET INFORMED: Social Investment for Boards mentor for two years, where he advised and built up a great rapport with Mark Davies, Chair at Chance Heritage Trust. As David steps down from the role, both reflect on how mentoring can be an invaluable tool for both parties.
David Burndred: As a relative newcomer to Big Society Capital in 2018, I was excited to hear about the GET INFORMED: Social Investment for Boards programme. Having sat on trustee boards in the past and taken part in mentoring in the education world, GET INFORMED seemed to offer something rather different for organisations trying to navigate their way through social impact investment. It excited me because it also offered something different to a pure governance role for mentors.
I was matched to support Mark Davies, the Chair of Chance Heritage Trust, a highly visionary inner-city regeneration and heritage initiative in Sandwell, in the West Midlands. It is based around the vast derelict site of the Chance Brothers glassworks, which was established in 1824 and was a leading specialist glass producer in the 19th and 20th centuries, supplying lenses for lighthouses around the world, and even the glazing for the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. The Trust is keen to bring this important heritage to life through regenerating the existing buildings and creating a heritage/visitor centre. It also intends to redevelop much of the nine acre site into affordable housing, education and training centres, and a workspace for small enterprises. It sees social impact investment as a key element of making that vision a reality.
Soon after we ‘matched’, I visited Sandwell and met Mark to talk about how he was approaching the initiative’s challenges and opportunities as Chair. Some key issues around local stakeholders, legal structure, the scale of the project and the amount of work Mark himself was shouldering as Chair quickly came to the fore.
Over the next two years Mark and I kept in touch every few months. I hope I was able to offer a different perspective and some constructive challenge in a supportive way. Although some legal hurdles remain, it's encouraging to see that the Trust Board has been significantly strengthened, a business plan is in place and grant finance obtained to further develop the project framework. All of this enables Mark to focus on the broader strategic vision and work on developing key external relationships, which in turn should help to attract much needed investment capital for this fantastic community initiative.
Mentoring is about much more than providing guidance and advice, it’s also an opportunity to learn and develop your own knowledge too. From my experience with Chance Heritage Trust and working with Mark, I definitely feel both aspects have been fulfilled and that this positive experience will enable me to bring fresh perspectives to any future mentoring opportunities.
Mark Davies: I was introduced to David through the GET INFORMED Programme in July 2018 and we met for the first time in August that year. Having the support of someone with a different perspective is always a good thing, but of course with David’s background in social finance he brought an enormous amount of experience to the table. The discussions with David, either by meeting face to face or on the phone were always a welcome opportunity to step back and take a good look at the Trust’s strategic direction, which stakeholders we should engage with and my own personal contribution.
By talking through some of the key issues with David, I was able to take a more strategic view on what the critical issues were and to identify the goals and milestones that were crucial in taking the project forward. An important aspect of the mentoring support is the very act of talking through the challenges, which helps you crystallise your own thinking. There is no question that being mentored brings many benefits, and it is testament to David’s commitment to it that he continued to provide support long after the programme concluded.