MENTORING RELATIONSHIP HAS IMMEDIATE EFFECT FOR RE-USE CHARITY
The Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) is a national body which supports, assists and develops charitable re-use organisations across the UK. It aims to reduce poverty by helping households in need to access furniture, white goods and other household items at affordable prices. In addition, it is able to provide training and work placement opportunities for people who are socially excluded from education, training and employment. The work extends far beyond that which can easily be quantified, for example, rebuilding someone's confidence and self-esteem, or turning the shell of a property into a home.
At the suggestion of The Dulverton Trust, Craig Anderson, Chief Executive of FRN, first approached The Cranfield Trust for business support, as he felt the emphasis of future work was to raise the profile of the sector and market the value and services of to the charity’s member organisations. Trust Project Manager, Campbell McKee, discussed Craig’s requirements and secured the services of volunteer Duncan Munro, whom he felt would be a good match for the project, as he had relevant experience as head of a both a trade association (the British Stainless Association), and a large national voluntary sector organisation (The Robertson Trust). Both were relevant in contributing to Duncan’s understanding of the issues facing Craig.
As Craig explains: “Upon first meeting it became apparent that the FRN had all the requirements and foundation of building such a strategy, and that the main issue to tackle was internal and external relationships for future leadership and influence, and how I could be mentored to prepare and build FRN to operate as a UK trade association/network.”
The Mentoring Process
Over a series of meetings, Duncan guided Craig through various areas where he felt he could gain from additional support. The first priority was an objective look at the governance and leadership of the organisation with new externally focused strategies. This was then followed by an evaluation of the best methods to influence and market FRN and the sector, looking at public policy agenda and impact at European, national and local level. This resulted in targeted strategies, building on good relations with both the retail and commercial sector to influence other sectors, mapping supportive elements and establishing people, motives and agendas to influence, with high profile speaking engagements and events to profile the issues and stature of the FRN.
As the project developed, Craig commented: “The mentoring relationship has had an immediate effect, giving confidence and independent scrutiny that cannot be gained from inside the sector let alone the organisation. The whole organisation has been reviewed and strategies set for the team and the Board of Trustees.”
The full impact of this approach became apparent when Craig was awarded an OBE in the 2014 Honours List, providing well-deserved recognition for his work at the start of the charity’s 25th Anniversary year. Duncan was delighted with the news, commenting that “Craig is enormously committed to his role and to the sector. The ideas, direction and passion to lead the sector were already there, and it has been great to see the momentum building over the course of the past year”.
FRN were then interviewed and filmed by the BBC Breakfast team for a nationwide piece, as a result of the Local Government Association’s Reuse Report, with which Craig was involved. Further national coverage was then achieved with an article in the Guardian which focused on FRN’s concern and position relating to the impact on support for low income households due to the abolition of the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme.
A Successful Project
Summing up the success of the project, Craig says: “FRN would not be in the position we are in today without Duncan’s support over the last year. Duncan has helped me focus the direction, offered up with fresh thinking, and questioned my position, direction and ideas – all these issues were tested before I moved forward with them. Reuse activity and our sector as a whole appears to be flavour of the month in some people’s eyes and we have needed to respond to many hurdles and opportunities thrown our way.
“Duncan’s support happened at a fortuitous time, we were making a profile push, and the Board of FRN needed a rethink on leadership strategy and direction, plus a few cases of recognition or honours happened along the way. So we had a lot to do, so much opportunity, which could have been quite bewildering if I did not have the independent support of Duncan.
“If Cranfield Trust could offer more people this type of mentoring support it would prove to be a major boost to the charity sector and those who receive such support.”