Episode #14: Dame Julia Cleverdon – connecting the unconnected

11 December 2018

Dame Julia Cleverdon

In this episode, I talk to Dame Julia Cleverdon, a passionate and practical campaigner, listed by the Times as one of the 50 most influential women in Britain.

Dame Julia is co-founder of Step Up To Serve, also known as the #iwill campaign, as well as a number of other important campaigning and charitable roles. But she was probably most prominent as the longstanding chief executive of Business in the Community between 1992 and 2008. She was appointed a CBE in 1996 and DCVO in 2008.

In this interview we talk about how Julia got to where she is, what have been the mechanics behind her incredible track record of cajoling the powerful into serving the greater good, and what she has learned from decades of working with top business leaders and even Royalty.

Anyone who knows Julia will attest that she is a real force of nature – one of life’s incredible characters and an indefatigable campaigner. If you want some inspiration that you too can make an important difference to the world, you’ll want to listen to this interview.

Show notes

What did the world look like to the young Julia when she left school? (1:53)

Why Julia’s campaigning zeal took her to British Leyland and why her energy was greeted with less than enthusiasm (5:04)

Julia’s move to the Industrial Society and the seminal experience she had in South Africa with the company working to help apartheid to fail (9:13)

How the latter years at the Industrial Society eventually led to the move to Business in the Community – an organisation that seemed only to speak to CEOs and prime ministers (13:03)

How does an organisation like BITC attract and sustain a high level of engagement from the top chief executives of the biggest corporations? (19:54)

The power of challenging leaders to see things for themselves – and how anyone can become a catalyst under the right circumstances (25:40)

Why Julia became focused on what’s happening in Blackpool in recent years (30:20)

Who were the businesses that impressed Julia most? (33:37)

What did Julia see as being the effective examples of programmes that made a difference? (37:40)

Julia’s focus on young people taking social action since she stepped down from BITC (42:00)

Julia’s take on the generation of young people that’s coming up now (46:10)

Julia’s pithy and well-defined personal purpose (49:05)

One practical change Julia would want to bring about before hanging up her gloves (50:16)

Advice Julia would give to her younger self (51:31)

Who’s an impressive change maker Julia has known and what made them impressive? (52:52)

A mistake Julia made that led to some better outcome or personal growth (53:43)

One habit Julia would like to change (55:13)

What books had a powerful impact on Julia’s life (55:55)

What advice Julia would give to young people who want to make a difference to the world (56:48)


Julia online

Julia on twitter - https://twitter.com/julia_cleverdon

Julia’s website - http://juliacleverdon.com


People mentioned in this episode

Julia Middleton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Middleton

Stephen O’Brien http://www.london-works.com/about-us/our-board/sir-stephen-obrien

Tom Shebbeare https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Shebbeare

Robert Davies https://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/oct/25/guardianobituaries.obituaries2

David Grayson https://davidgrayson.net

Lord Hector Laing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hector_Laing,_Baron_Laing_of_Dunphail

The Prince of Wales https://www.princeofwales.gov.uk

David Varney https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Varney

Derek Higgs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Higgs

John Studzinski https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_J._Studzinski

Mike Darrington https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Darrington

Allan Leighton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Leighton

Richard Lambert https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lambert