Headshot of Jo McGrath

Jo McGrath

Jo McGrath has been nominated by her co-Founder at Flourish CIC, Nickala Torkington. Nickala says “Jo is someone who I have worked with and been developing initiatives to support women changemakers and grow the social economy with for over ten years.

She is a great sounding board and support and brings operational strength to the organisation, as well as strategic insight.  I am nominating her for two reasons, in particular, this year.  Firstly because in addition to juggling life, motherhood, and some hefty family care commitments and personal challenges this year, she has really helped behind the scenes operationally and provided great enterprise insights and coaching support on our Time to Grow and Resilient Leaders programmes.

Secondly, I am super proud of what she has achieved as Strategic Lead for Sector 3, a new infrastructure organisation set up to fill a gap in Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) support in Stockport (my home town!) and she has done an outstanding job of getting this moving and creating a sustainable future for it.”

Our 2020 Igniting Inspiration Campaign is proudly sponsored by

Who has she helped/who will she help?

“Stockport hadn’t had an official VCSE infrastructure organisation for a number of years and this created a real gap and lack of collaborative working and showcasing for what is a thriving social economy in Stockport.

The goal was to bring together a diverse and broad range of social enterprises, supporters, and the wider community to shape and create innovative and effective VCSE sector support for the hundreds of organisations and the wider community of Stockport who are making a difference, day in day out.”

What’s worked?

“Jo has facilitated a huge amount of strategic and grassroots conversations to co-design a service that will work and be able to sustain itself for the long term. They have already benefitted over 300 organisations through a local survey which involved Stockport based social enterprises and VCSE organisations, has helped created a wider Greater Manchester report and put Stockport back on the Social Enterprise map.

Plus, through the pandemic they ran a #KeepStockportCaring crowdfund campaign which raised over £45,000.00 to create seed funding to invest in the local community, grassroots organisations responding to COVID, and have been able to give out 42 cash awards to local groups.

They are also running local virtual Soup events (after being inspired by the session we ran at Flourish this summer) and are finding them to be a great way to engage their community and invest in what matters.

Last but not least, Jo was a key part of the team which secured a proportion of the £33m Local Access Partnership funding for the Stockport area ensuring that there is core funding to support and grow the local social economy longer term. Jo is now leading the co-design of a place-based social enterprise support programme in Stockport. The programme will include leadership development, personal coaching, peer learning and a social investment pathway.”

What have you learned? Any challenges?

Jo says “I’ve learned so much over the last year, lots about myself and my own personal resilience, my dad got very ill this year and passed away peacefully in October. We got to have some very deep conversations towards the end of his life and whilst I could have crumbled emotionally the experience has given me more impetus to work even harder towards supporting women changemakers and giving my time to work that has meaning and makes an impact.

The fact my dad was so proud of me keeps me motivated to give my all. I’ve had to let some things slip this year, it’s been a challenge to balance caring responsibilities, homeschooling, and grief and maintain a social venture.

I’ve got a deeper sense of gratitude that my work is purposeful and that I’m surrounded by such amazing colleagues who are kind and authentic and who have supported me during this challenging year. Nickala in particular has been fantastic and a source of strength, taking on extra work when I’ve been unavailable. I really couldn’t have got through this without her.”

What’s next?

“I will continue to grow and build Flourish with Nickala and our other fantastic directors. We are growing steadily and despite all the challenges we’ve had a great year, we’re seeing our work being recognised and building and deepening our relationships with our clients.

It’s been great to see how our support to social entrepreneurs during the pandemic has had such a positive impact. We are currently working on our social impact report and I’ll be really excited to see the results of this and what we can learn going forward.

I’m also taking better care of my mental health. I recently completed an ultra marathon in the month of November. It wasn’t all in one go! It was a few miles every other day. It really helped me get out and get some fresh air and has helped with my grief. I’m going to complete a marathon in January, in memory of my dad, and to raise funds for Prostate Cancer.”

What advice, contacts, or resources would help you?

“I’m always looking to learn from others, so any networks and events that I can attend to meet new people and gain new insights would be wonderful.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

Each year, an individual or organisation from each of our five categories plus one exceptional judges’ choice individual is recognised at our annual Igniting Inspiration celebration event.

We publish each and every nomination to raise awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North. While, this year, our physical event had to be deferred, our campaign to spread stories of positive social impact continues – good news is needed!