Cliff Faulder is the founder of AboutFace anti-racism training. Earlier this year, Cliff and his company completed their incubation period within the Martin James Network. Today, Cliff dropped into our Edgbaston offices to use our CoLab facilities. During a break between filming he sat down with Alison Alexander to share AboutFace’s story:

Sometimes all you really need is a friend who cares. But in the fight against racism, you need more than that, you need allies.

Today I visited my friends at the Martin James Network, who from the outset greeted me with warmth and smiles. It’s hard to explain, but the feeling you get when you realise you’re amongst real friends, you feel it in your heart and you feel safe.

This took me back to my first encounter with the founders of the Martin James Network in August 2020. That summer, the world had started to become increasingly aware of the racial pandemic that sat alongside the viral pandemic. Personally, I had taken a sabbatical from my work within the childcare sector to formalise the anti-racism training that I had been delivering to residential teams for the past 20 years.

As the world searched for answers, explanations, and cures for the virus, many leaders and professionals were searching just as diligently for answers as to why the world seemed to be on the verge of a race war. A safe space where they could have brave conversations about the systemic racism. Racism that led to the abhorant killing of George Floyd in 2020, and the violent attacks on England’s footballers that we have witnessed today in the aftermath of Euro2021.

During an impromptu conversation, a friend became very excited on hearing about how I intended to develop my anti-racism training. So much so, that part way through my ramblings he interrupted me:

“Cliff, you must speak to Jim and Ayyab; give me five minutes I’ll call them now because you must meet them.”

I was left standing in my garden holding the phone and quite confused.

I soon learned that the Martin James Network, led by Ayyab and Jim, is a group of companies with a social conscience that are committed to improving society through technology that utilises human centred practices. They sounded like my kind of people. We met at the Martin James Network’s Edgbaston offices and both welcomed me with smiles and excitement, without a hint of reservation.

As a black male many of my initial meetings with management are accompanied with awkwardness as they try and overcome their inherent biases. I was struck by how easy it was for me to be myself and how little code switching, and assimilation was necessary.

As the meeting drew to a close, Jim asked me to give him a couple of days, and after a few more meetings, I was officially a partner within the Martin James Network.

The Martin James Network truly understands the role that anti-racism training has in creating a diverse and equitable society for all. Despite the entire planet being in lockdown, they pushed and supported me to break the boundaries of what I had thought possible. This resulted in the rebranding and relaunch to the sector as AboutFace online training.

Throughout this process there was complete trust from all those at the Network and a deep desire from to ensure that the innovative training would succeed in disrupting the sector.

But it was not only empathy and kindness from the Network. They financially invested in my idea and provided time and resources to help me to be successful outside of the Network’s incubator. Though I am no longer part of the Martin James Network, I continue to be supported by those who were instrumental in empowering me to be successful – which is why I am here today.

They are the embodiment of what happens when cooperation goes a stage further and demonstrates acts of alliance. The Martin James Network holds fast to its own mission of building a fearless future by working with socially conscious companies.

The Martin James Network: phenomenal friends, unbelievable allies.