Photo of Karen Beckford

Karen Beckford

Karen Beckford has been nominated by Karen Cruise, a nominee in our Diversity-Driven Organisation category. She says “I only met Karen a few months ago, initially at a networking event, but was immediately taken by her friendly and open approach.

Karen joins up the dots between businesses in the city, putting the right people in front of each other. She does this with such positivity and generosity. What’s really amazing about Karen though is she doesn’t realise the positive impact she’s making. She’s so humble! Every business referral I’ve met through Karen speaks very highly of her; her passion and her genuine aspirations to make the city a better place.

I’m not sure she’s shared with everyone the amazing voluntary work she also takes part in and her dreams to continue to do amazing work locally and nationally. She’s a true giver, a beautiful soul, an inspirational contributor leaving footprints of positivity, hope and improvement wherever she goes.”

Who will the initiative help/who has it helped already?

Karen Beckford says “If you had asked me 12 months ago what my vision of my future career would be, it was entirely different to what I see now. My outlook on life has changed completely. I’ve worked for HMRC for 38 years and was seeking development opportunities to secure internal promotion.

Internal development opportunities were limited, so I looked elsewhere. In January 2017, I was given the opportunity to work for a charity on a 12 month secondment. The charity is Business in the Community and I was tasked with working in the South Leeds area.

My aim was to create partnerships between private, public and voluntary sectors to collaboratively work on social issues in the area such as Employment, Education, Enterprise and Community Cohesion.

The areas that make up South Leeds i.e. Beeston, Belle Isle, Hunslet, Holbeck and Middleton rank in the bottom 20% in the Indexes of Multiple Deprivation. This score is calculated by taking information from data on average incomes, unemployment levels, crime rates, health and disability, living environment and educational attainment.

I have met with many charities in South Leeds whose functions cover many of the indicators. The connections and partnerships I have created have supported the charities in many ways.

I have secured around 1500 hours of volunteering time, signposted and secured funding opportunities, created mentoring partnerships and procured many items of value that the charities would otherwise have had to pay for.”

What’s worked?

“Just being myself! I have always loved this saying from Maya Angelou: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

“I have learnt that there is still some way to go to make women accepted in all areas of business life, some networking meetings have been very male dominated and uncomfortable to attend. Other challenges have been to get private sector to support local charities not the larger national groups. I have had to be very resilient and tenacious.”

What’s next?

“For me, this has been the most incredible experience of my life. I cannot go back to doing the role I had before where things such as desk moves or lack of car parking spaces create the most ridiculous outbursts of immature behaviour. How can I when I have seen first hand the incredibly difficult circumstances that some people find themselves in.

I am genuinely astounded by the amazing work of the voluntary sector organisations. So for me, sod the promotion, I’m taking early retirement and looking for a new more fulfilling and worthwhile career. Watch this space!”

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

“It would be great to be able to have some sort of business connector role on a permanent basis in all areas of multiple deprivation. The difficulty is who would pay for them? I have seen some attempts to create a database for creating partnerships but you can’t beat face to face discussions to get your message across. If anyone has any ideas about how to create such a role I would be happy to hear them.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in our region!

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