From Hull to Harvard: Socially conscious leadership in a rapidly changing world

“When I heard of the Foundation’s aspiration to help students who couldn’t otherwise attend University, I was keen to help. Having met some of the first beneficiaries from the scheme, I am convinced it makes a massive difference in helping great students come and stay at Hull.” – Ben Morrin (British Politics and Legislative Studies, 1996)

Director of Workforce at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Ben Morrin has a passion and determination to support the development and wellbeing of others. Whether that is the 8,400 staff working across its six hospitals, or the University of Hull students receiving Danny Fullbrook Fearless Foundation Bursaries, for which he is a staunch advocate, Ben is committed to helping others succeed.

The University of Hull has a great track-record for developing leaders, change-makers and people who are prepared to take on the really big challenges. Throughout his career, in senior civil service roles at the Departments for Health, Education, the Treasury, in the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, and now in the NHS, Ben has shown the leadership skills required to navigate difficult times and to deliver for his staff and the people who rely on them.

This has led to him being offered a scholarship to take part in Harvard’s prestigious Advanced Management Program this spring. Originally set up in 1945, the initiative was established with the goal of equipping the next generation of ‘socially conscious leaders’ with the skills and knowledge to be able to address the major economic and social challenges.

“The programme offers a chance to reflect on your leadership style and work within a group of leaders in different organisations across the world,” says Ben. “There is an expectation you’ll actively contribute to the learning of everyone on the program with you. I’ve arrived wanting to share what I can from my learning ever since my time at Hull.”

The great challenges of the day, such as poverty, global health, digital transformation and environmental degradation are systemic in nature. The programme at Harvard has identified a leadership skills gap that needs to be addressed in order to meet the complexity inherent in these challenges.

“People who’ve been selected to join the program before me, have described it as a life-altering experience that has accelerated their personal and professional growth. Over the two months I’m here I’m expecting to learn from fresh insights, research and Harvard academics about markets and forecast changes in the economic context in which health and care can best be provided.”

In terms of taking a little bit of Hull to Harvard, Ben is absolutely clear on the crucial contribution Hull has made to his life.

“Going to Hull was the making of my career,” he says. “Professor (now Lord) Philip Norton was the supervisor for the seven of us on the British Politics and Legislative Studies degree from 1992-6.  Learning from him was a superb opportunity. If I had not gained the chance to work within Parliament, I am convinced I would not have had the chance to work at Channel 4 or to join the civil service fast stream, or to have been ready to take on a leadership role in the NHS.”

Ben has made no secret of the fact that he strongly supports initiatives at Hull to give students access to a high quality education. He is a particularly strong contributor to the Danny Fullbrook Fearless Bursaries, a joint scheme between the University and the Danny Fullbrook Fearless Foundation which provides support to students to meet the costs of coming to the University in memory of Danny. Bursary recipients have had “fearless” journeys in coming to University, overcoming challenges and difficulties to pursue a higher education. Ben’s support of these young people, who may not have had the best start in life, helping them to stand out and reach their potential in an ever competitive employment market, truly embodies socially conscious leadership in a rapidly changing world:

“I didn’t know Danny well, though I met him at a friend’s wedding reception and he seemed a nice guy. When I heard of his death and the Foundation’s aspiration to help students who couldn’t otherwise attend University, in his name, I was keen to help. Having met some of the first beneficiaries from the scheme, I am convinced it makes a massive difference in helping great students come and stay at Hull. I am really pleased the University is giving the scheme their backing. My hope is we can go on to help lots more students. I encourage anyone reading this blog to watch our campaign video.”

For current students or alumni thinking about taking their first steps in a new career, or planning for their own successful futures, Ben has this advice:

“Learn from as many perspectives as you can about: what particular careers involve; what is the best way to market yourself to potential recruiters and the pro’s and con’s of working in the types of jobs that interest you. If you’re struggling for help don’t worry – it can be a stressful transition. Why not ask the alumni team to connect you with ex students who are in the career sectors that may interest you? I’d be happy to help anyone who may be interested in joining the NHS. This year is the NHS’s 70th birthday and lots of us working in it are returning to our former schools and Universities to talk about the positive difference a NHS career can make. Hull students can make a great contribution to its future!”

If you would like to get in touch with Ben, you can contact him via Twitter @benmorrin

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