Changemakers

If you can’t beat them, change them: Meet the people taking on corporations from the inside

 
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We talk to the individuals who choose to dedicate themselves to driving change in organisations, often at great personal sacrifice and for little reward. We’ll find out what motivates them, and if they’re wired differently or if could anyone learn the secrets to their success?

 
 

“The UK is home to a small but powerful cohort of entrepreneurial people who specialise in effecting massive change within large organisations.”

 

When Jenny Burns took a job at British Gas 10 years ago, she knew it would be a tough gig. “The company was on Watchdog every week for cutting off old people’s gas and electric in the middle of winter,” she says. “People were dying.” Turning around the business was a daunting task but where most people saw only trouble, she saw opportunity. Two years later, she had pulled the utility back from the brink.

Burns is not alone: the UK is home to a small but powerful cohort of entrepreneurial people who specialise in effecting massive change within large organisations. Business innovation agency Albion has become fascinated by this elite group, dubbing them "changemakers".

 “At RSA insurance, I was working for a company that is more than 300 years old, the thrill of thinking I can impact something that big and established is incredible.” - Jenny Burns

“At RSA insurance, I was working for a company that is more than 300 years old, the thrill of thinking I can impact something that big and established is incredible.” - Jenny Burns

 
 

Over the coming months, KBS Albion will talk to a range of changemakers from across the UK, finding out what drives them, and shining a spotlight on the incredible achievements of these - often unsung - entrepreneurial heroes. Throughout the course of its investigations, Albion hopes to understand why some individuals choose to dedicate themselves to driving change in large organisations, often at great personal sacrifice and for little reward. Do changemakers demonstrate common characteristics? What motivates them? Are they wired differently or could anyone learn the secrets to their success? These are the questions this campaign is keen to answer.

Burns, who is now reinventing retirement income for the modern age at Just, is one of five people who took part in Albion's maiden changemaker event, held recently in London. Albion also selected fellow changemaker Julia Groves to take part in their research. This proven intrapreneur co-founded BritishAirways.com in 1994 and is the former boss of Trillion Fund, a crowdfunding platform for renewable energy projects. She now leads the crowdfunding business at equity investor Downing. Jonathan Carrier, a veteran from the automotive industry with roles at McLaren, Mazda and Fiat, and the man behind Jaguar Land Rover’s innovative InMotion business accelerator, also joins the ranks. The final changemaker among this group is Jesper With-Fogstrup, who has made his name executing turnarounds at Laterooms.com and travel wholesaler GTA, and is now chief operating officer at the CompareTheMarket.com. Chef turned restaurateur James Lowe, who is the entrepreneur behind award-winning eatery Lyles – which provided the food for the event -  completes the changemaker pack.

 
 “When people start working for me, I typically say, ‘Part of your job is to tell me where I’m going wrong and to constantly question if we’re doing the right thing’” -  Jesper With-Forstrup

“When people start working for me, I typically say, ‘Part of your job is to tell me where I’m going wrong and to constantly question if we’re doing the right thing’” - Jesper With-Forstrup

 


All of these changemakers seem to come from very different backgrounds yet all are united by one common trait: they are all driven by an irresistible urge to make things better. “I was always that annoying child in lessons asking, ‘Why? Why?’, says Groves. “I’m also incredibly lucky.  I’ve got good health, I’ve had a decent education, and I have a lot of confidence. I feel it is my duty to do what I can to improve other people’s lives.” “Trying to effect change is never easy but drives a huge sense of satisfaction, which overrides every other purpose,” adds Carrier. “In large corporates, every day becomes the norm very quickly. It’s a challenge to go against that and sacrifice a little bit of yourself in pursuit of change.”

 

“They are all driven by an irresistible urge to make things better.”

 

When Jenny Burns took a job at British Gas 10 years ago, she knew it would be a tough gig. “The company was on Watchdog every week for cutting off old people’s gas and electric in the middle of winter,” she says. “People were dying.” Turning around the business was a daunting task but where most people saw only trouble, she saw opportunity. Two years later, she had pulled the utility back from the brink.

Burns is not alone: the UK is home to a small but powerful cohort of entrepreneurial people who specialise in effecting massive change within large organisations. Business innovation agency Albion has become fascinated by this elite group, dubbing them "changemakers".