Alison Alexander has recently joined Martin James Network as Executive Director. She sat down with Chief Operating Officer Ayyab Cockburn, to learn about the Network, its impact and why she continues to work to create Fearless Futures for all.

I love that everyone here shares the same passion.  I see so many change makers here at the Network, people who recognise that obstacles to social change are only obstacles until they’ve overcome them. That same group of people recognise the value and need for collaboration to challenge the root causes of inequality to support the growth of a fair and more progressive society.  I know that together, we are all committed to supporting communities to believe in themselves, achieve their potential, and inspire future generations.

Ayyab described the team of people at the Network as being Fearless in their ventures, and always refers to them as the Fearless Futures team. She is proud of how the team apply human centred practices innovatively with new technologies, in order to facilitate the development of a fairer world.  I really liked how she talked about those in the Network, “Many of our companies are pushing the boundaries of technology; however I believe it’s true to say that technology advances societal progress materially when combined with a human connection.” –  Ayyab


Human Connection: It’s at the heart of our futures

We both agreed that human connections exist in many forms and that it is the deep emotional bonds we have with ourselves, our family, our work colleagues and our social networks that are influential in determining our future. When bonds are healthy and strong, they lead to us enjoying good health, being confident and thriving.

But sadly, many people don’t enjoy these strong social and emotional bonds for a variety of reasons, for example, abuse, neglect, and trauma. When we lack human connections and bonds we often lack the confidence to do things – we get stuck, stuck in our comfort zones. Then there are some who have a lot of confidence but get stuck in a different kind of comfort zone. Regardless of the reason, comfort zones can reduce growth and innovation.

Ayyab tells me that she believes that helping individuals to grow and innovate, rebuild their human connection/bonds, is the responsibility of everyone, but especially leaders and change makers. In our work at the Martin James Network, we help leaders and change makers to step inside the skin of others, by using technology such as immersive Virtual Reality. This not only helps them to self-reflect through increasing their understanding, they also empathise. This new understanding and empathy of others’ lives, helps change attitudes and behaviours to empower the disempowered.

Ayyab shared with me, “Whilst watching the work of the teams across the Network, I started thinking about exactly what is it that makes them so successful. So, I watched a bit and talked a bit more, and then I realised – they all use innovation to disrupt the current ways others were doing business to bring about change. But it wasn’t just what they were doing; it was how they were doing it.” 

She also shared that she noticed that the teams were constantly self-reflecting on what and how they do things.  Crucially, they always asked ‘why’. They also had a unique ability to empathise with others, placing themselves in the other person’s viewpoint and thought about both sides.

But what I learnt that she loved most, was that they didn’t accept that people couldn’t do things. They did everything they could to ensure that those they worked with were empowered to take control of their own futures and growth.

“I’ve always been a curious and creative person. My curiosity led me to observe and my creativity drove my desire to turn this new learning into something.” – Ayyab

So what did Ayyab do? She identified four actions combined were making a difference:

  • Self-reflection
  • Empathy
  • Empowerment
  • Disruption

And this is how the MJN practice model SEED was born.

Watch out for our next blog to learn more about how the teams are using our practice model.