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Making a difference #1 – Ruth Turner

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Downtown in Business is fortunate to have a stable of inspirational speakers who regularly rock up at our events to inspire and inform our members.

A recent addition to our ‘portfolio of presenters’ is Ruth Turner, who joined us for an event in Birmingham this week, and who spoke at a Downtown lunch in Manchester late last year.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Ruth for over twenty years, first making her acquaintance shortly after she had set up Big Issue in the North.

From social entrepreneur, Ruth went on to become one of the most influential women in British politics, serving as a key advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair in his last term of office. She continued to work with Blair post Number 10, and helped him establish his charitable foundation, before going on to her current position within the innovative Forward Institute.

Early in 2014, a group of some of the most senior leaders in the UK, supported by The Boston Consulting Group, came together to commit to a commercially rigorous exploration of responsible leadership. And to finding new ways to embed these principles in our next generation of leaders. The Institute was formed to carry out this complex and challenging work.

In Birmingham this week, and in Manchester last year, Ruth Turner genuinely inspired business leaders in the room. It isn’t just the fact that she is a no-nonsense, forthright, and articulate businesswoman who applies a good dollop of common sense to her approach to complex issues that impresses.

It is the fact that, in every single job she has done, and task she has set herself, or been set by others, she has made a difference.

Her work with the homeless in the nineties in Manchester was innovative and exemplary. She served, with distinction, Labour’s most successful leader during his time as PM. Her work for the Foundation saw her go into some of the most dangerous places on the planet for eight years, promoting peace and religious tolerance. Now, she is working to implement cultural change within institutions who suffer from that most chronic of difficulties – institutionalisation.

The energy and enthusiasm with which she clearly attacks these roles shines through when you meet her. And she does this without an ounce of ego, and a humility that belies the achievements she has contributed towards.

It says everything about Ruth Turner when I tell you that if she reads this blog she will be cringing with embarrassment.

But, highlighting her work and the differences that she has made reminds us that business, and politics, can be a force for good. I’ll be giving you more examples of business and entrepreneurs making a difference throughout the year. I couldn’t think of a better person than Ruth Turner to start the ball rolling..

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