The women making big change

8 March 2019

On International Women’s Day 2019, we’re celebrating some of the women founders and leaders at project partners that we support. Each and every one of these women is a true inspiration and we are proud to know them at Big Change.

Kiran Gill, Founder of The Difference

Kiran Gill, International Women's Day

The Difference exists to improve the outcomes of vulnerable children by raising the status and expertise of those who educate them. They are specifically focused on training teachers in leadership positions to reduce school exclusions by appropriately addressing risk factors of vulnerable young people. School exclusions is a personal issue for Kiran. Not only has she seen the impact of poor mental health support during her time as a teacher, but she was raised with two adopted sisters who suffered from attachment issues due to their childhood experiences. We know from child psychologists that the relationships we have early in life affect children’s ability to interpret and control emotions, which also has an impact on learning. When Kiran returned to university after four years teaching to study education and policy, she expected to discover complexity but in fact she realised that it’s as simple as deciding to do something. And that’s exactly what she did. When you meet Kiran there is no escaping her passion and dedication for the work she is doing through The Difference. In 2018, Kiran joined the team on the fourth stage of the STRIVE Challenge 2018 – hiking through France, while sharing her knowledge with our amazing community of supporters.

Jen Lexmond, Founder of EasyPeasy

Jen Lexmond International Women's Day

Jen Lexmond founded EasyPeasy in 2016, an evidence-led enterprise, working to reduce the gap in school readiness. EasyPeasy have developed an app for parents to increase engagement with young children before they enter school so that they are better set up to learn. Too many children arrive at school lacking basic skills needed to learn in the classroom like language and communication, self-control and concentration. This leads to big inequalities in education later. Hearing Jen speak about the importance of early years engagement really drives home how crucial it is at this stage of development. She likens the approach of EasyPeasy to the growing trend in preventative medicine, saying that it is just as important to prevent inequalities where possible by creating the building blocks before a child even goes to school. Because, 85% of a child’s brain is already formed by the time they celebrate their fifth birthday. Jen began her career as at the think tank Demos, where she lead a research programme on social mobility and the predictive power of character in shaping children’s life chances from an early age. Her research on social mobility and child development has been widely cited in academic journals, as well as making policy impact at the highest level, being launched by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and referenced in government white papers and best practice policy. She also joined the STRIVE Challenge 2018 for some of the third stage and throughout the fourth stage. Alongside stepping out of her comfort zone there, she was in her element sharing the ethos and evidence behind her EasyPeasy app, which recently won at the Bett Awards in the Early Years category.

Lucy Bailey, Co-Founder of Bounce Forward

Lucy Bailey International Women's Day

Lucy Bailey is Co-founder, along with Emma Judge, and CEO of Bounce Forward – previously known as How to Thrive. It’s a charity dedicated to teaching resilience skills, so the young can navigate through our complex world. In 2018, Bounce Forward launched their new name as they celebrated ten years. In that time the programme has reached 10,000 teachers and half a million young people. Lucy’s background is as a youth worker, and she has 17 years of experience of working in, developing, reforming and managing children’s services. Lucy has been instrumental in embedding resilience curricular in schools and services across the UK over the last decade. This incredible woman directed the Healthy Minds research project, has an MSc in Practice Based Research, a BSc in Social Policy and Criminology, and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education.

Jessica Barratt, Founder of Franklin Scholars

Jessica Barratt International Women's Day

Jessica Barratt created Franklin Scholars in 2013 around Benjamin’s Franklin’s philosophy: “When you’re good to others, you are best to yourself.” Franklin Scholars is an award-winning social enterprise that works with schools to help each young person to tackle their own personal challenges and develop the skills and mindsets they need for success through support programmes. The Scholars themselves are near-peer tutors and mentors. In 2014, Jessica was awarded a Shackleton Leadership Award for her work with Franklin Scholars. Before founding Franklin Scholars, Jessica was running community education programmes in Mozambique, and simultaneously conducting research and development work around peer-to-peer support. Prior to this she worked in the music industry where she set up a youth mentoring scheme focused around the music business. Jessica moved on from Franklin Scholars earlier this year, passing her CEO baton onto another exceptional woman, Kim Reuter.

Beccy Earnshaw, founding Director of Voice21

Beccy Earnshaw International Women's Day

Beccy Earnshaw was appointed as the founding Director of Voice21 in 2015. Voice21 are on a mission to ensure that every child gets access to an education in oracy. And it’s paying off. Just yesterday the first meeting of the oracy network to kick off the first inquiry into the state of oracy education took place. School21 and Voice21 have well and truly taken oracy from a little understood term to an issue firmly on the agenda, seeing the formation of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in oracy. Before leading this national campaign to get oracy taught in every state school, Beccy led Schools NorthEast, a network of 1300 schools. Prior to this, she worked for The Children’s Commissioner for England, ran major voter awareness and engagement campaigns for The Electoral Commission and set up projects to link the public to parliamentary debates and discussions on behalf of the Hansard Society. Beccy is a also trained Journalist with a Masters Degree in Political Communication.

Ruth Ibegbuna, CEO of RECLAIM

Ruth Ibegbuna International Women's Day

Ruth Ibegbuna is the founder and CEO of RECLAIM, a multi-award winning social action and youth leadership programme with a focus on working class young people being seen, being heard and leading change. RECLAIM supports young people across Greater Manchester from working class communities. The project has worked with over 850 young people from across the region. Ruth was named Manchester Peace Activist of the Year 2008 and received the Manchester City Council Women’s award for Outstanding Contribution 2009. She was also awarded the 2011 National Business in the Communities Sieff award for best collaboration with business to benefit society. Ruth began developing the RECLAIM project in 2007 out of her frustration at seeing so much wasted potential in young people; often written off due to their postcodes or through appallingly low expectations of their outcomes. Her book, ‘On Youth’, showcases the stories of five RECLAIM Alumni. Ruth has been listed in The Sunday Times 500 most influential people in the UK, and in The Debrett’s 500 in 2016. She was also listed by Virgin and Ashoka as one of the top six female changemakers internationally.

Catherine Roche, CEO of Place2Be

Catherine Roche International Women's Day

Catherine Roche has been Chief Executive at Place2Be since 2014 but has been with the organisation in varying roles since 2003, and as early as 1996 she was involved through giving pro bono advice and support. Her day job then was as an organisational development specialist with KPMG Consulting. The Place2Be is an award-winning charity that works inside schools to improve the emotional well-being of children, their families and the whole school community. By giving children the chance to explore their problems through talking, creative work and play, Place2Be enables them to cope now and make better-informed decisions about their lives and help prevent more serious mental health and behavioural problems in later life. Catherine has an MBA, magna cum laude, from Boston University, a BA (Hons) in English and French and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education, both from University College Cork. In 2018, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Psychology by University of East London in recognition of her services to mental health.

Hannah Underwood, CEO of The Key

Hannah Underwood International Women's Day

Hannah Underwood has been running The Key since 2005, combining her business head and her passion for developing young people. She has a belief that all young people have the power to be great and this is a central tenet of The Key’s approach. Hannah started off as science boffin, fascinated in how people learn, behave and unlock their potential and became passionate about using this knowledge to help young people develop themselves and their future life chances. She is now a self-confessed impact data geek with an unquenchable desire to improve as many young lives as is humanly possible with as little resource as is needed. The vision of The Key is to help young people to achieve their ambitions by giving them the opportunity and personal skills to build their confidence through designing a project and getting the support they need to achieve it. It’s a simple programme that hits the sweet spot between freedom and structure that supports teams of friends to ‘Think’, ‘Plan’, ‘Do’ and ‘Review’ self-designed Key projects. They are supported by a trained facilitator to develop life skills and unlock funding to make their dreams a reality.