Networking in the New Year

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Towards the end of the year one of my good friends Mayur Gupta, a fellow Enactus UK Alumnus, asked me to go along with him to a networking event for sixth form students at Ark Global Academy.It was my first experience in a while at a pure networking event and it brought back to me many of the lessons that I have been fortunate to either be taught or have observed in people I really admire. I thought I would share a couple of my key takeaways:
1) Always respect the person you are talking to – it’s amazing how often in that initial conversation you can misjudge someone and blow them off – everyone has some unique value to add and if you don’t find it that’s your issue, not theirs. 
2) Whilst you can learn techniques to “work rooms faster” and “harvest contacts” they are only applicable if you actually strike off enough of a relationship to actually contact the person! 
3) Always seek to help or provide people you meet a win – whenever you meet someone new the quicker you can offer someone something they really need the quicker trust begins to build – also if everyone gave a little more wouldn’t it be a better more connected world.
4) Follow up – so simple – if you promise something, follow it through. Sometimes it’s actually really hard to remember everything you have promised but that quick message or LinkedIn connection could become something really valuable. 
5) Be genuine – it’s easy sometimes to try and take on little techniques to try and make someone like you. There are some great tools in NLP but if you aren’t genuine in the conversation how can you build a lasting and real relationship.
6) Detail can go a huge way to making you stand out from the crowd! It doesn’t matter what method you use to collect information (my personal preference is LinkedIn notes next to the contact name or notes on my phone which I email to myself) just make sure you do collect it.
A short personal example below:
“I met Tripp at an Enactus Networking event in my first year of university. He was working at Enterprise Rent a Car at the time and, whilst it was too early for me to know where I wanted to work, I really got on with him so we kept in touch via social media (Twitter & LinkedIn). Over the next two years we bumped into each other a number of times at events including Undergraduate of the Year 2011, Loughborough university careers events and other Enactus events. Through this relationship over the years I was involved in supporting Enterprise Rent a Car in getting access to a number of candidates interested in them from our university. In return they supported me through the charitable arm of Enterprise Rent a car to take a small group of people on a research trip to Finland as well as kindly offering me a job when my personal circumstances meant I no longer wanted to leave the country for my placement year. When Tripp moved on from Enterprise Rent a Car we kept in touch and I got involved in supporting Aston University Enactus team, where Tripp was university adviser at the time. I feel very fortunate to have someone with his experience that I can reach out to.”
If you are a part of Enactus I would really encourage you to come along to our professional development events and socials. The next one is coming up soon, you can sign up for more information here or if you want to find out more feel free to drop me a message – students, alumni or advisers (I have worn all the hats at some point!) This is World Cup year after all!
Even if you are not part of Enactus, please feel free to comment below or drop me a message and share your thoughts / experiences on networking, I am always interested to hear more stories/learning on the topic!

Enterprise for all…

This morning I have been engrossed in reading Lord Young’s report “Enterprise for all”. This comes off the back of being fortunate enough to be invited to join Julie Holland (Director of the Glendonbrook Centre for Enterprise in Loughborough), Professor Angus Laing (Dean of Loughborough School of Business and Economics) and Stuart Miller (Entrepreneur in residence of Glendonbrook centre for enterprise – although I am not sure if he was their in that capacity or in another of his many roles) for the Small Business Charter awards  in which Loughborough received a Silver award.

Professor Angus Laing At 10 Downing Street collecting a silver accreditation for the Small Business Charter Awards
At Downing Street for the Small Business Charter Awards

So back to Lord Young’s report. The report carries 10 core recommendations that look at how we can create captive, continuous and coherent enterprise education. Here they are:

1) The publication of a Future Employment and Earnings Record after leaving education – Allowing potential university and college students to make more informed decisions about courses they should study. It’s an interesting proposal, I think it is extremely valuable to know more about university degree programmes potential for future earning whilst I also recognise that money is not the only factor that should and/or is considered. Although I do recognise that from my point of view, as someone who didn’t want to come to uni and was nudged by parents, it wouldn’t have been a factor. For me, Universities need to continue to develop outreach programmes using engaging students and recent grads to entice and invigorate college students that university is the right option. Further, I would echo the thoughts of Dave Jarman (Enterprise Educator) in the essence of although in principle it is a great idea it is so important not to rush/ hash the implementation (That only takes a small element of the blog – would recommend a read on some of the other thoughts) without looking at the current market. In summary this whole sector of entrepreneurship and data collection is so busy and to be honest it just feels at times that everyone is falling over everyone else in terms of help, support and surveys which is certainly a better situation than no one talking about it but lets be lean and utilise technology to make it better!

2) Developing an Enterprise passport – Essentially a digital approved record of activities outside of curriculum undertaken by students (Crudely speaking essentially LinkedIn projects with recommendations for young people) This is a concept I really like, although I recognise it would be difficult I would be fascinated to learn more about Young Enterprises thoughts on how they see it being implemented as one of the developers of the idea. I also love the data potential for this, if you could collect meaningful information (i.e. not just someone saying they have been involved in something without really engaging) it would allow potential for employers to decide between candidates but also provide potential businesses a route into understanding customers interests better… (I imagine this will make many squirm around the concept of more data being available, especially for young people, but we need to just get over it … sorry potential rant on not understanding social media … another blog post I feel) I do wonder whether platforms like LinkedIn will move into the younger generations, as a feeder for their main platform and with the opportunity to link to employers (in particular recruiters) already on the platform, with a slightly altered offering that can capture the information and verification in an innovative manner that government cannot compete with.

My challenge as a recent graduate with a genuine interest and passion in the sector is how do I stay involved…

I will tackle the next recommendations and my thoughts in follow on blogs on the particular topic areas of enterprise in school, further education and in higher education… 

Engage, Network, Action, Count, Take notes, Up your game and Steal ideas – Last minute tips for Enactus UK nationals… #weallwin

we all win

So as my fourth national competition closes in I thought I would share some last minute tips for all those newbies around…

Engage in the presentations– When you are watching the teams, as tempting as it is to compare to your own team,  open your minds… It is so easy to spend your time looking critically rather than seeing how you could apply their thinking or angle for your own teams benefit. You can’t change what you have done now anyway so just enjoy!

Network – utilise the opportunity to get great contacts (phone numbers, linkedin, emails, facebook) with the businesses but also remember the incredible value of having other teams and alumni that you can pick up the phone and speak to during the year or in the rest of your life… Genuinely one of the best assets you can have is awesome people to understand your situation and give you advice who have been there and done it or are doing it!

Action – Apply your thoughts and findings within your Enactus team. It is so easy to give excuses or reasons why you can’t do something.. or its in preparation for next year! I did it many times… Don’t… You have one shot at Enactus – have no regrets and do everything you can to make good things happen.

Count the annual reports– The annuals reports are a great asset to collect from other teams. They provide insight that you simply would not get from just the presentations or websites… So get entrepreneurial and work out how you are going to get as many as possible.

Take Notes … You will leave nationals will a million awesome ideas but as soon as the adrenaline and after party hangover come over you… You won’t remember them! It really is as simple as writing down links to  presentations and websites or just key ideas. Also get out your diary now….. yes now…. and put in a time next week when you WILL review them. (Remember no excuses)

Up your game – Nationals is the inspiration but really the only person that can make the most of it is YOU. You are the lucky ones who have been selected from your teams so use this experience and get the most for your team… When you get back you will be changed from the experience, don’t forget the knowledge and experience you are gaining is extremely valuable.

Steal ideas – no really do it… don’t be afraid to take the best parts of other teams ideas… It is not all about coming up with a new way of thinking sometimes it is simply about adapting other peoples into your situation and network to make them better. We are a social enterprise based organisation at the end of the day! #weallwin


Over the next two days you have the opportunity to transform yourselves, your teams and your potential future career. Make the most of it.

In regards to N, to get you started teams feel free to get in touch if you think I can help or would like to chat. @peterwb1 Linkedin

Here’s another awesome post Enactus UK Blog


Fail Forward

I am so excited by this project. Fail Forward is a concept that I along with a number of other people have been working on for over a year now.

The inspiration came from a trip to Aaltoes society in Finland in 2012 with 3 entrepreneurial educators from across the UK. A write up about that will be added to my blog soon!


During the trip I was introduced to Riku, a continued friend and contact in Finland. Riku talked in depth about Day for Failure a project he had been involved in setting up to celebrate failure across Finland.

I will never forget my constant excuses to him about why I hadn’t started working on a number of my own ideas but rather had been helping other people start… This was a real turning point from which I now have set myself a personal mission to take up opportunities and give everything to them if they help me to meet my overall personal mission… (Another story, another time) This has lead to me running 3 different projects: South Africa ChallengeLoughborough Beanies and Fail Forward at the same time as supporting others to take on their ideas. (and developing a few more to be announced soon…)

The concept connected with me so deeply, I realised that I had been brought up in a designed environment that from a young age told you that failure was NOT ok.

You had to be the best in your class, the best in goal (I was a football goal keeper for a long time) or the perfect son or daughter. The truth and I can only say this on reflection is that I was living a life in which I would select things that I knew I could do well in. I didn’t take part in other stuff or really get involved until I got to university and even then I didn’t push myself hard enough to try until Finland. I am not saying I have regrets, every decision I have taken has no doubt brought me to the person I am today and hopefully will continue to scope me to becoming the person I want to be. However, I am so glad that I learnt that now rather than later on!

Failure Dale

So here it is Fail Forward is coming to Loughborough with a mission to:

Change the culture, feeling and understanding in the UK of failure

 by sharing stories, bringing people together and provoking conversation

on failure as an important part of growth & learning

I have a vision that Loughborough will be the beginning…

I see this concept as something that needs to spread as far and wide. I know that people will disagree with promoting failure and I am ready for it and to a certain extent that is the point. In challenging and intellectual conversation that follow, we can  begin to tackle our societal understanding of failure. In this process, I hope, we will aid in individuals personal development as it has in mine.

If you want more information about Fail Forward have a look at our , share your stories and challenge me to bring Fail Forward to a town, city or country near you!

Bitcoin or Bust… How far can Bitcoin change the financial markets…

After a good 6 months of research into Bitcoin, here are my thoughts and findings. I am very open to comments and thoughts but just thought I would share…

Bitcoin or Bust? How far can Bitcoin change the financial markets…

By Peter Bailey  submitted (Jan 2014)

Executive summary

Bitcoin has changed the financial markets forever but not without its own problem. This report provides a background on virtual currency, key arguments for being mainstream and problems it needs to resolve, finishing with key recommendations on how it can solve its problems. In these findings I will conclude that in order for bitcoin to become mainstream it will need to tackle the fundamental issues with its structural underpinning and reputation as a currency. Governments will also need to intervene with policies to: increase the security standards, strengthen legislation against individuals involved and buying from companies like the ‘silk road’ and stop bitcoin being used as a short win for investors through taxation.


In this report I will argue why bitcoin could be the beginning of a new financial revolution.  Initially, I will give some background on the virtual currencies more generically before honing in on some of the key things that make bitcoin’s developments in virtual currency vital to its future. I will then give some key benefits to virtual currency followed by societal recommendations and comments as to how the virtual currency could be adopted as a mainstream currency and the effect this will have on its development.


The financial sector is the latest sector to be targeted by the power of technology but with the roots of currency dating back through the ages, with metal objects (coins) being introduced in 5000 B.C. (Bellis, 2013), there is understandable concerns.

Virtual currency became famous through currency within online gaming sites such as second life, cyworld and Weblo. (Shin, 2008) More recently Bitcoin has taken the limelight with it’s purely peer-to-peer electronic cash system  (Nakamoto, 2008)

Why is Bitcoin the Virtual Currency Leader

Bitcoin has now become an eponym for virtual currencies, after starting out as a hobby for technology enthusiasts “mining” (using computer power to solve a mathematical formal in return for bitcoins in payment) coins (The Economist, 2013), it became infamous through its association with transactions of illegal goods on sites like the ‘silk road’ (BBC News, 2013). Further interest grew in the currency after discussion overs regulation (Carper, 2013) (Rose, 2013), safety (Samani, 2013) (BBC News, 2013) and general hype around growing valuations (Woo, 2013) led to huge speculation and fluctuations in the currency. (Holliday, 2013) These huge flucatations led to interest from investors, likening its trade more to a commodity than a currency. (Slade, 2013)

Why was it designed?

Bitcoin was originally envisioned to tackle the issues of double spending (making a copy of the digital token of the currency and then spending it again (Staff, 2013)) of virtual currency without the use of trusted third party.  (Nakamoto, 2008) The process by which it does this is complex however the basic principle is that each transaction is recorded centrally to the block chain from which all future transactions are checked against that chain. (, 2013) Stopping double spending allows the growth and adoption of virtual currency as illegitimate users can’t undermine the network by spending currency more than once.

Strategic Value

Virtual Currencies and in particular bitcoins have a number of strategic values:

  1. They prove that currency can be run outside of government and financial institution control, whether they are run well or not at the moment is not the point but simply that it is possible.
  2. Virtual currency in gaming increases the value and stickiness to the game as a part of the whole escapism experience (, 2014) that has become such a big part of the society.
  3. They are one of the few examples of the successful implementation of the collaborative economy.

What are the key arguments for implementing virtual currencies


The principle of removing a third party has the benefit of reduced value add in the chain and therefore opportunity for reduced transaction cost. (, 2013) This has a clear benefit to sellers as mainstream peer-to-peer transaction platforms have transaction charges such as paypal (3.4%-1.4% + 20p) (, 2013) and Stripe (2.4% + 20p) (, 2013).

Furthermore, the principle of one single de-centralised worldwide currency would mean there were no transaction charges or fluctuations when buying or selling products and services with different countries. However, some may argue this principle is flawed in that as currently there are no known legitimate companies that pay in bitcoins. Therefore national currency is still transferred into bitcoins making it reliant on government run currency. If however companies were able to pay in bitcoins, ignoring the current factors making it unlikely, it could gain these benefits.

Gold around the Gold Mine

As the network has continued to expand a number of complementary and support companies operating around the peripheries has increased with it. These companies have come in to tackle everything from accessibility of less tech savvy consumers, for example, to the latest news on virtual currency, These companies are absolutely vital to the networks growth as they provide more consumers with the ability to interact with the network, as well as providing more legitimacy to virtual currency as a concept when companies like Coindesk and Opencoin raise $25million (Hajdarbegovic, 2013) and $2 million (Needleman and Ante, 2013) from venture capital respectively.

Beyond legitimacy there is a wider societal benefit to these surrounding companies as they create jobs, which is extremely valuable in the current economic climate. Arguably, the people in these jobs are highly skilled and therefore more than likely to get other jobs elsewhere if they wanted them.

There are also wider benefits as hardware, like the bitcoin mining cards (, 2013),  are designed and improved as companies and individuals drive to ‘mine’ in a more efficient manner to maximise returns.  There are possibilities that these new products may be able to apply to other industries in particular big data where efficiency of computer processing is vital.

What are the key challenges implementing virtual currencies

Bitcoin as a currency or commodity has a number of issues that will need to be tackled in order for it to become mainstream.

Structural Underpinning

As mentioned the core reason bitcoin was created was to solve double spending. An overview of an issue of the structural process of checking for double spending, according to the economist (2013), is that the underpinning processor power required is growing at an exponential rate and will continue to do so as the number of transactions on the network increases.  To put the amount of power currently required into context the current level is 50,000 petaflops or 100 times the performance of the world’s top 500 supercomputers. (The Economist, 2013) This is an incredible amount of data considering the number of transactions is currently around 70,000 (, 2013) compared to 18,000,000 debit card transactions per day in the UK alone. (Butterworth, 2010) This number of transactions still doesn’t take into account credit card transactions or worldwide transactions making mainstream usage unviable unless it is solved.

Whilst the difficulty mining is increasing at an almost exponential rate (, 2013) leading to the reward for mining becoming more and more difficult to get as the network grows. In summary this means that overtime the potential profit on mining will continually decrease unless the value of the currency keeps increasing through speculation as it is at the moment. This fundamental flaw is likely to cause bitcoin to fail unless the advocates of the currency can change the structure of it.

Further to this, bitcoin also currently is totally reliant on trust within the network as if a payment is made there is currently no method of refund. For bitcoin to become mainstream, this along with a number of other features would need to be introduced to make it more customer friendly as we have become used to in other current banking services.


A further flaw is in regards to security within the network, which could be directly correlated with sub-optimal security generically online (Graziano, 2013).

In particular, the cases of some bitcoin “wallets” (A service that allows you to send and receive bitcoins with others (, 2013)) current security vulnerabilities which have been exploited from a number of targeted DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks from cyber criminals leading to more than $3 million going missing. (Southurst, 2013) The continuation of these type of attack will ultimately led to the failure of bitcoin as both a mainstream currency and commodity as currently users see it as novel addition rather than a dependable like national currency. The way in which governments have tried to reduce these risks in banking, the equivalent institution to wallets with national currency, is through legislation, something that bitcoin users are often strongly against. (Ver, 2013) In order for bitcoin to become widely accepted in society either bitcoin and its complementary companies would need to be regulated, in order to maintain a higher standard of security across the network or across the board security would need to be co-ordinated by the network to make sure it is secure. From the two options the most likely to solve the problem is government legislation as they have experience from the banking industry.

Reputation in society

Bitcoins reputation as the society’s underbelly payment transaction base would be one key area that would come more and more into question.  With press articles suggesting that it is the FBI and other security services verus the ‘dark web’ (An anonymous, virtually untraceable unsearchable section of the internet)(BBC News, 2012) and websites like the Silk Road, both operating with bitcoin, with the underbelly currently winning.  (BBC online, 2013) This begins to bring into question whether the governments and institutions will react as they did with Napster (Deas, 2001) in closing down or challenging services because it is facilitating illegal activity rather than being illegal.  At this stage it is difficult to say the level and nature of government intervention with positive tone towards the technology matched caution and lack of understanding in US senate. (BBC News, 2013)

An example of this is around taxation firstly many bitcoin users, as with many other peer-to-peer transactions (online or offline), are not stating them for tax purposes. This is a challenging area for governments to thoroughly trace relying on the goodwill of people writing in tax forms. Furthermore, the current societial view on bitcoin is that transactions can’t be traced. However, governments may see, the totally open transaction records that make it unique (Nakamoto, 2008), as an opportunity to track transactions as part of a bigger smart data set that can be used to calculate tax and many other areas.

Further than this, the huge capital gains that some investors have made from buying and selling bitcoins brings into question whether bitcoin are taxed as income, as other forms of currency, or capital gains,  as other commodities. (, 2013) This is currently a grey area which each country is debating with Canada and Swedish deciding it is a commodity and the US undecided. (Robert A. Green, 2013) If they decide to make it commodity this will further damage bitcoins ability as a currency, due to is unique crowd based characteristics, because if people don’t consider it a currency and use it as such it won’t become a currency.

Is Bitcoin just a Ponzi scheme?

As a commodity Bitcoin provides an opportunity for people who understand the technology and have influence, like the Winklevoss brothers, (Fontevecchia, 2013) to make large profits from the buying and selling of the asset.  Thus creating an environment some would argue resembles that of a Ponzi scheme (, 2014) (, 2013) making it unmanageable as a currency and undermining the principle of bitcoin being crowd developed and maintained.

Collaborative Economy

The collaborative economy is a term that has been coyed over the last few years that aims to describe an economy built on a distributed network of connected individuals. (Co.Exist, 2013) This concept is in the early stages of development and therefore for economies like bitcoin that rely on it’s principles so heavily, through its mining and advocacy network, it is unclear as to what the growth or fallout potential is.

Technological infrastructure

Behind all of this there is a more fundamental change that would need to happen within society in regards to internet access. Whilst in developed continents the percentage of users is between 60-80%: North America (78.6%), Europe (63.2%) and Austrialisia (67.6%)  the developing contients: Middle East (40.2%), Africa (15.6%) and Asia (27.5%) have a way to catch up. (, 2013) This shows that with only (34.3%) (, 2013) of the world online there is a considerably change needed to get online in order for virtual currency to become mainstream.

How it will add value to the economy

Virtual Currency and in particular the developments of bitcoin would add value to the economy differently to each stakeholder. To governments, through the continued use of blockchain they would have the opportunity to trace all transactions within the economy making it more transparent. This could have a number of benefits to government in tackling fraud, taxation and other issues.

Through the drive for more efficient ways to mine bitcoins it provides a social benefit in pushing technology forward for the benefit of other industries. This could also link into providing more competition to the banks and other organisations into providing better services through its innovations in payment methods. Further to this, the creation of bitcoin as a currency has created a large number of jobs through a whole new ecosystem being created.

To the users of the currency, bitcoin currently provides a cheap transaction base that allows money to be transferred across borders potentially without the need to exchange currency. Furthermore, in the short term it is offering many users the opportunity to get rich quick through its hype raising prices.

Transition and long term issues

In the medium to long term, it is likely that any wider usage would still be as a part of a hybrid system in which people used both national currency and virtual currency. This is due in part to people tending to be risk adverse especially where livelihood comes into play and in part due to the time it would take for business in particular retail to adopt the change. However, it is clear that is possible as some online businesses such as Zynga have taken on bitcoin of a source of currency. (Bloomberg, 2014)

One of the most fascinating aspects of bitcoin in the long term is that in giving recommendations, there is no direct individual or organisation that is accountable for bitcoin therefore; decisions would need to be taken on by the crowd. This challenges current business models that suggest that rapid change or crisis management, both vital in the fast changing environment, can only be dealt with in organisations with simple management structures.

Finally, transitioning into currency provides a number of structural challenges to countries that do not currently have fast and reliable internet access. Without this standard of access, it would be challenging for the currency to be taken mainstream. However, this may give opportunity for the currency to grow more iteratively over time as currency has developed allowing any bugs to be resolved.


The three core recommendations for bitcoin in order for it to become main stream are:

  • The crowd that supports bitcoin needs to modify or adapt the process of the block chain to reduce the level of data needed to be stored whilst maintaining the ability to track transactions.  To allow for a considerable increase in the number of transactions on the network.
  • Governments across the world need a united front to bring in policies to:
    • Increase the security standards expected off bitcoin companies to something more similar to that of the banks.
    • Strengthen legislation against individuals involved and buying from companies like the ‘silk road’.
    • Stop bitcoin being used as a short win for investors through taxation.
  • Finally the users of the currency need to fundamentally change their usage of bitcoins from looking at bitcoin as a commodity to it as a currency.

Communications Strategy

Users of the system need to have a continued clear and unbiased understanding of what is happening within the bitcoin network. This would be achieved through continued up to date information through websites like coindesk and others.

Governments would need to consultant on changes in legislation with the network through blogging platforms and similar in order to truly get a view of what would and would not work in terms of legislation. Another good platform for them to communicate through may be virtual currency conferences and events as it is likely that the enthusiasts that understand and can make changes on the network would be there. Furthermore, governments would need to communicate clearly with the support organisations around bitcoin in order to make sure these organisations embrace the changes to improve the network rather than pull away from it.

Governments would further need to generate clear and defined policies that demonstrate the rules and regulations that have been brought in around bitcoin.

The Cult of Entrepreneurship

The fine lines between proactivity and entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship, as we all, know is a huge buzz word at the moment. Whereas once people grew up wanting to be an astronaut or a hippy we are now seeing a generation wanting to be the next Richard Branson, Mark Zuckenburg or Alan Sugar. Myself included.


Karan Bilimoria – Founder of Cobra Beer

While it is admirable, having this ambition to fuel the world’s growth and sounds rather appealing to be earning $2.5 billion in a year, the truth is they are the exception not the rule. The process of creating a multi-billion or even million dollar concept involves so many long hours, character traits and a bit of luck along the way.

So this leads me to my big question… Is pro-activity amongst a cult of university students to do something bigger than themselves, just that… a cult or can we truly change the world?


The Kairos UK Summit

Or is that even the right question? Do we really have a choice… Are we not the generation that has to solve the world’s problems?

Our parent’s generation have given us an incredible platform, for the first time we can communicate almost instantaneously with countries all around the world at low cost, we have the technology to start to tackle climate change and connectivity to get access to pretty much anything we want any time of the day through the internet. If you were looking at it in technology terms you would say we had the platform from which to build the subsidies that can change our world.

But with these rapid developments we have problems. We are going into a generation where unskilled people are being replaced by machines, which will, whether government intervenes or not cause huge structure economical skill differences between what we need and what we have. We are now more aware than ever before of the scale of: cancer, poverty, corruption, lack of education and the environmental impacts we are causing. We cannot, whether through ignorance or otherwise, turn a blind eye to these problems as people have a voice through the power of social media and other online forums.


Matt and Me presenting at the South Africa Challenge Showcase

So this leads me to one simple conclusion, whether it’s entrepreneurship or good old fashioned pro-activity, we have a responsibility to take action. We need to be the generation that is willing, to think differently, to be ambitious and push our generation forward. This does not mean more replicas of great ideas because you “think you can do it better” unless you actually can do it better! One lesson we need to remember from those we are following is those that succeed, and I am referring to the Nelson Mandelas and Martin Luther Kings of this world, were, and in Nelson Mandela’s case are, obsessed that they could change things and were willing to die for it.

So let’s do this, it is our moment.

The passion of South Africa

So almost 2 months ago now, my two weeks staying at the world changers academy in Durban came to an end. It was an experience I will never forget and I can’t thank all the people that made it possible enough. I just wanted to provide a reflection of my experience.

South Africa is a beautiful country from its beaches through to its rolling hills.

The community that we spent most time with was the Zulu community. A community that is still affected by the fall out from apartheid as well as a HIV epidemic. The unemployment rate is predicted to be around 40%+ in this community but truthfully they are still unsure as to the exact numbers of people living there never mind the unemployment rates. During our visit we were fortunate enough to live with a family in a township for one evening, admittedly the house was nice probably nicer than world changers in some respects (sorry Craig). The family shared with us what it was like to live within the community: the high crime rates, lack of work and risk of sexual abuse. Along with other things we saw in Durban it was very difficult to listen to and take in…

But this is not my memory of South Africa and it is an unfair representation of the community as a whole. The fact is that every country has significant issues, whether it be unemployment, poverty or terrorism but one thing that stood out more than anything was their love of life. Everyone we met within the communities was so passionate about South Africa and although they may have been financially poor were so willing to give and so friendly.


It has forever changed my own personal definition of the word rich. As a part of the challenge the team were all involved in a personal leadership programme that tried to break down our preconceptions and leadership issues, this process reinforced to me the importance of not pre judging people. After all the truth is everyone has things in their lives that cause them to act the way they do, the process of being willing to understand and work with that gives you real enlightment.

As I move forward I want to make a real pledge to myself and to everyone else that I can’t forget the lessons that I have learnt not only in my short time in Durban but also in my prior experiences. After all, this process of learning and development is what sets us apart as mankind.

Tackling the facts from the valley of 1000 hills…

So as I catch my breath sitting in Vancouver Airport after a fantastic month of travelling, I can’t help but begin to further reflect on some of my South Africa experiences. A big theme of the experience and something that I will continue to take in the rest of my life is the difference between fact and assumption. Something I will tackle in a later blog but for now here are some facts about the area we stayed in with some comments on some of them. Over the next couple of weeks I will begin to tackle each one in turn.

The facts:

  • The communities are still affected by the apartheid.
  • Within the valley of 1000 hills there is a HIV issue
  • The unemployment rate within the Valley of 1000 hills is high.
  • Rape and sexual abuse are significant concerns within the areas we visited
  • Waste of all types is a huge problem
  • There are a number of support organisations running within the area.
  • Although there are schools within the communities the teaching within many areas is sub optimal with many young adults still struggling with basic maths and literacy.
  • The South Africans we met were some of the most passionate people I have ever met breaking out in song and dance at seemingly random points!
  • Bribes within police and services
  • The affect of aid & handouts is still having an impact on the communities.


The apartheid although happening a number of years ago is still affecting the country. Many people we spoke to said that there are still areas that are known for particular colours of skin and that in our case certain areas were unsafe for white people to go into. The difference in schooling between communities is still significant with majority white schools or majority black schools but there is a feeling that this is now not based on skin colour but rather on available income. Black people are referred to as coloureds both by the government and within communities.

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The area of the valley of 1000 hills is known as the epicentre for HIV/ AIDs within South Africa. You can clearly see the affect of it throughout the communities with a generation the majority of which between the ages of 20-30 missing leading to families often being led by grandparents. The awareness or acceptance within some of the communities is still not there, with children not being school and some families not educating them. Often even within the schools children are told but still often don’t accept it exists or if they do they don’t see the scale.

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Ben speaking to some of the children in Makaputu. A fantastic orphanage in the valley of 1000 hills.


The area we stayed in had significant levels of unemployment but the truth is that the scale of the problem is still very much an unknown. Within the townships it is often one of two members of a household that are earning as in England but within some of the households we visited there could be in some cases more than 8 children. This problem in my opinion seemed on one hand because of the lack of jobs or industry within the close vicinity, another on the skill levels within the community but finally and most importantly in my opinion the aid culture or mentality. The mentality seemed so rife within so many of the people we visited simply that if they prayed or were willing to wait long enough they would receive more food or whatever else it was they needed. It was heart wrenching to listen to some of the people talking at the food handout we did of how they had no ambition to work or look for work because they knew they could get stuff off other people for without doing anything.

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An interview with a local man who has now got employment in the valley of 1000 hills with another local organisation.

Rape and Sexual Abuse

Within many communities rape and sexual abuse is rife in significant numbers. One of our team Matt Pradhan is in the process of producing a documentary about it from talking to rape survivors (the terminology they use- not victims). From some of the stories I heard, there was the potential that girls as young as two years old had been sexually abused. Many people within the communities consider the problem to be in mindset. It is horrible to think of the circumstances that some of these people have been in and it is further concerning to think that when Matt mentioned about rape of men the response was always almost of surprise at the suggestion.

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Matt interviewing Jenni a previous member of the police force and current supporter of rape survivors.

More to come…

Handout Economy

We all think we are doing fantastic things when people are asking us for money on the high street but during the trip I was able to visualise the legacy of badly managed aid.

During the second week, we were fortunate enough to go to a fantastically managed orphanage called Makaputu, providing a home to 49 young people. We were introduced to the centre last year but this year partnered with an American team that was working with some of the young people to look at their entrepreneurial attitude. Our team went in and delivered a session on creative thinking and basic business model canvasing. Both techniques to assist in them taking their business to the next level.

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After delivering the session, we were kindly asked by the centre if we would like to join them on a food handout into the local townships, an opportunity I jumped on. It was a real insight into the aid culture in the townships, Graham the outreach manager from Makaputu, showed us into the most at risk households.

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We were shocked to find about 10 children sleeping on 2 single beds, in a room no bigger than what would be considered a box room in England. This was a challenging concept further challenged by the fact that in this tiny house they had two TVs, DVD player, video player and some sort of music player. It was a really difficult concept to deal with as they don’t have enough money for food but will spend on luxury items.

This finding was then compounded when we arrived at the community centre. This centre, Graham informed us, might deal with around 40 families, that could be up to 10 people per family (although it is difficult to know for sure). The people that were there when we were talking to them had no ambition to earn money or get a job but were instead complacent to rely on the handouts. It was a highly frustrating concept for me.

The truth is there are many organisations doing fantastic things with the donations that are given but please think before you give to organisations who are simply providing a product to a foreign country. Often their is a deeper problem than the most visible one which relies on organisations like World Changers and Makaputu who change mindsets to see real change within the economy.

Snapshot of some of the journey so far

A Snapshot of some of our Journey.

World Changers Academy

So here we are, I am currently sitting in the World Changers academy above writing this. It is Sunday morning, 4 days into the challenge. I am astonished by the opportunities, level of discussion and deep thought we have tackled during the challenge. Just to get you up to date if you haven’t managed to keep up we have just updated the website to include our calendar.

It has been a baptism of fire in South Africa, with the whole team bonding and embracing the South African culture, people and food! The programme at times has been extremely taxing with a few tears along the way.

World Changers Workshop

The picture above is from one of our team meetings. This one in particular with Craig the CEO of world changers as he runs through more information about the centre and it’s activities. But we have also been running a series of other sessions tackling our own development areas with Gori.

James playing football with a local

James playing football with one of the local lads as we visited VUK Africa to have an experience of the valley of 1000 hills and the Zulu culture.

View of the valley of 1000 hills

The incredible view we woke up to in the township. It is such a beautiful country.  TWalking through the valley of 1000 hills with VUK Africa

James and Jamie walking through the township with our guide from VUK Africa.

I have found myself fighting more often than not just to tackle my own personal pre conceptions of people and this beautiful country. Sure there are problems here as there are in most countries, but every person I have met so far from business leaders, families in the township to the leadership students have been so welcoming. 

I feel I am really starting to grasp some aspects of the culture here and also starting to understand more of the problems from crime and drugs to health and mindsets. One of the biggest realisations for me has been my constant assumptions and pre conceptions that are really limiting my growth. One example of this is my conception of the words rich and poor. There are so many factors to that build in to develop the understanding of whether someone is rich or poor and money is such a small factor in it.

There have been so many insights but I just wanted to share a few:

– Give generously and good things will come to you

– Assumptions led to so many problems

– You really can’t understand how to support communities without living in them and talking to the people face to face.

– If you focus on your weaknesses in character rather than skills you will see more success in the future

– Having the same values as colleagues or partners is the key to really high functioning teams