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Bennett

Laura Isobel Hearn

Bennett

Ad-Hoc Expert

Generic Skills

B.1. Understanding of integrated and sustainable urban development: 
Digital tech is the fastest growing sector, creating high value jobs, attracting young wealth creators to urban centres, positively impacting on a city’s brand. Developing an ecosystem to support entrepreneurs is essential for integrated sustainable urban development. I have designed & run courses in entrepreneurship: Startup MBA, Founder Centric [http://bit.ly/2rQX2l3]; Startup Tribe, Escape the City [http://bit.ly/2r0ygxI]; Founders’ Network, Tech North [http://bit.ly/2s0RlmD]. As a freelancer, I lead on projects in digital tech, community engagement, & ecosystem development with clients in public & private sector. I am Executive Director of MakerHub [http://bit.ly/2raF5M4], supporting scaleup digital entrepreneurs in Sheffield City Region. The mission of MakerHub is to create conditions for a vibrant & supportive entrepreneur-led ecosystem to foster economic growth & create jobs. I hold a MSc degree in Globalisation & Latin American Development and understand how macro-economic & political structures can impact a country’s economic development. Two research areas were the impact of NGOs in influencing intl. dev. policy, and how to achieve sustainable urban development locally within a global neoliberal agenda. I worked in the nonprofit sector for 6 yrs, with 4 yrs in Peru, where I managed the strategy & operations for 2 nonprofit orgs. My experience designing & running programmes to support economic development is grounded in principles of sustainability & integration.
B.2. Understanding of exchange and learning processes at transnational level: 
I have run a presentation & a workshop on ecosystem development for URBACT TechTown, in Limerick & Tallinn. In Aug 2016, I mentored South Korean MBA students taking part in a Social Impact Accelerator at the University of Sheffield [http://bit.ly/2r0Lpqt]. I led on 1-to-1 mentoring with students whose first language was not English, requiring patient & creative communication skills. In Sept 2016, I coached startup founders in Gaza [http://bit.ly/2rQPQp2]. This involved 1-to-many mentoring sessions with founding teams in the early stages of developing their digital tech startups. I also led a Customer Development workshop [http://bit.ly/2sYUqRA] for 100+ Gazan entrepreneurs, and facilitated a discussion for 20 female Gazan entrepreneurs. I worked for 6 years in the intl. dev. sector requiring me to work at a transnational level & operate across different cultures & languages. At the Fairtrade Foundation (2008-2010), I led a UK Producer Tour with a farmer from Burkina Faso. Facilitating a useful & illuminating bilateral dialogue, no matter who the audience was, was integral to my role. As Director for Awamaki (2012-2014), I led an international team of Peruvians & Americans. The staff was diverse in language, nationality, & education level so I created an environment that would engender learning & knowledge exchange. We worked with indigenous women who only spoke Quechua. We had to be creative in facilitating training & capacity-building sessions to ensure full comprehension.
B.3. Proficiency in English: 
I am fluent in English (mother tongue).

Expertise for the design and delivery of transnational exchange and learning activities:

C.3.1. Ability to communicate complex concepts to non-English speakers: 
In September 2016, I volunteered as a coach & mentor in a 5-day pre-Accelerator Bootcamp in Gaza, Palestine. I was in charge of delivering a workshop about Customer Development [http://bit.ly/2sYUqRA] to 100+ Palestinian entrepreneurs. I used materials from Rob Fitzpatrick, the leading expert in Customer Development, and adapted his slide deck to include more images, so as to take into account cultural differences & the language barrier. A good number of the entrepreneurs in the room spoke good English, others had a basic understanding, but there were many non-English speakers. I relied on simple slides that were picture (rather than text) heavy, and I taught the principle concepts by relying on storytelling techniques that drew out the main points, including examples that were based in the local realities. I had a Palestinian translator whose English was very good, but I still needed to ensure that the concepts were explained in a way that would be easy for him to translate, as he had no prior knowledge of the slide deck or the topic.
C.3.2. Ability to draw out, support the verbalization and documentation of knowledge and practice from participants: 
I delivered a workshop in Tallinn (April 2017) for URBACT TechTown on ecosystem development for European public policy officials. I wrote up the experience as a blog post [http://bit.ly/2r6Stpp], including examples of the different ways in which different countries approached ecosystem development. This was shared with everyone who took part as a way of documenting the experience, and a number of participants responded with their own blog posts. This documentation is collated as part of a library of resources and reference materials. Whilst mentoring in Gaza (September 2016), I wrote regular blog posts [http://bit.ly/2raOjrJ] which illuminated the different ideas and businesses that participants were working on. This was shared via the Tech North website [http://bit.ly/2rR4AUN], reaching thousands of entrepreneurs across the North of England. The main learning that I wanted to impart was that entrepreneurship, and the skills required to start a business, are universal & global.
C.3.3. Ability to capture learning for participants to take away: 
Within an ecosystem development presentation [http://bit.ly/2r0o8oJ] that I have designed & delivered on several occasions, I include a number of case studies from around the world that prove the point that an ecosystem can’t be “copied and pasted”, but that we can learn & adopt different methods. I include examples from Sheffield, Gaza, the North of England, London, and various clusters in the US, including Boulder CO & Silicon Valley. This presentation is available online & serves as a resource that participants can take away. The blog post [http://bit.ly/2r6Stpp], that I wrote about the URBACT TechTown ecosystem development workshop, and how different countries responded with a variety of approaches, serves as a report that captured learning for participants, as it included examples of the actions that the different clusters would take in order to stimulate the entrepreneurship ecosystem in their countries.
C.3.4. Ability to produce concise reports that incorporate good practices and policy messages: 
In March 2017, I authored a report commissioned by the University of Sheffield that provides a “snapshot” view of the Creative Digital Sector in Sheffield [http://bit.ly/2rQXAHJ]. The report will be available to download after the launch event on 19th June 2017. Using KPMG’s Magnet Cities approach as my framework, and through an array of qualitative face-to-face interviews, I drew out the strengths & unique selling points of Sheffield’s creative digital sector. I investigated the weaknesses of the sector in Sheffield, and provided concise & applicable recommendations that could be taken up by the public or private sector in response. I authored an internal report for Tech North on their community engagement strategy (not available publicly), providing advice & recommendations for a new financial year. This was based on my experience in this role for Tech North of what worked & what didn’t, and drew in wider examples of good practice that we could seek to emulate.
Summary Expertise for the design and delivery of transnational exchange and learning activities: 
I have knowledge & experience of tools applied to learning processes in transnational contexts. At Awamaki, I led a team of different nationalities. I facilitated knowledge exchange & co-design between Americans, Spanish-speaking, and Quechua-speaking Peruvians. I developed a workshop about entrepreneurship ecosystems & delivered it in transnational settings. Volunteering for Gaza Sky Geeks, I delivered a Customer Development workshop for 100+ Gazan entrepreneurs, facilitated a group discussion with female founders, and provided 1-to-many mentorship. I have leadership experience & a high level of emotional intelligence. At Awamaki, I ensured that the language of the office was Spanish, so that Peruvian staff did not feel excluded. I was sensitive to cultural differences & created a safe environment for collaboration. I led on the formation of an NGO network, bringing together 20+ NGOs, to collaborate & share learnings. I am able to present & capture knowledge in an engaging way. I taught the principle concepts of Customer Development through storytelling techniques, basing the learning in a local context. I delivered a workshop for URBACT TechTown on ecosystem development for European public policy officials, and wrote up the experience as a blog post. In Gaza, I wrote regular blog posts showcasing the startups, demonstrating that the skills required to start a business are universal. I authored a report on the Creative Digital sector in Sheffield, providing recommendations.

Thematic expertise:

Theme / Policy: 
Local Economic Development
D.1. Deep knowledge on the selected theme and related policy challenges, including up to date practice, research, etc.: 
Sub-theme: community engagement & ecosystem development in the digital tech sector. I play an active role in community engagement & ecosystem development in the digital sector in the UK. The digital tech sector is the fastest growing sector of the UK economy & requires sector-specific interventions. The digital tech sector requires community engagement via networking & collaboration, as well as specific interventions to ensure that the ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs is functioning well. These are vital components of local economic development. At Founder Centric (2014-2015), I co-designed the Startup Tribe for Escape the City. This combined practical workshops in entrepreneurial education with regular community engagement to encourage peer-to-peer learning. I play an active role in Sheffield's digital tech ecosystem. This has involved making connections & introductions; mentoring for Startup Weekend; taking part in policy roundtables with private & public sector to provide insights from other cities in the North of England; advising local government on recommendations for advancing Sheffield’s economic development through digital tech; & running informal meetups for entrepreneurs. I wrote the delivery plan (internal) for Tech North community engagement across the North of England, and contributed to the overarching mission & strategy of Tech North. I made connections between community leaders, drew upon best practice, and directed grassroots initiatives to sponsorship.
D.2. Ability to produce thematic inputs to feed in the learning process of in projects in which you have been involved: 
Sub-theme: community engagement and ecosystem development in the digital tech sector. The community engagement strategy that I wrote for Tech North (2015) is a thematic input that I have drawn upon for later engagement at a transnational level. It was an internal report and focused on ecosystem development and community engagement in the North of England, but it provides tools and methodologies that can be used by practitioners across the world. I shared the principles of it with the team at Gaza Sky Geeks, and they then asked me to share those principles at a public meeting that brought together all the main actors in the Gaza ecosystem, including universities, accelerators, businesses, and incubators. I wrote the annual strategy & planning document for Awamaki, whilst leading the organisation (2012-2014). I then had this translated into Spanish so that we could ensure that all Peruvian staff members were fully engaged, and so in turn that the community members we were working with could buy-in to the strategy. I produced an executive summary of the strategy in English and Spanish that I made publicly available for anyone interested, including local officials and businesses. I invited constructive feedback, and this helped us to then iterate and adapt the strategy to better serve the populations we were working with.
D.3. Ability to produce concise reports that incorporate learning from exchange & learning activities, put forward good practice: 
Sub-theme: community engagement and ecosystem development in the digital tech sector. I was commissioned by the University of Sheffield and Creative Sheffield (the City Council’s economic development arm) to write a report on the creative digital sector in Sheffield [http://bit.ly/2rQXAHJ]. This required carrying out desk-based research, conducting face-to-face interviews, deciding on the narrative framework, and writing the report. From my research, the interviews, and a survey that was conducted, I pulled together recommendations for city practitioners & urban policy makers (Creative Sheffield). The report as a whole is designed with an external audience in mind, as well as an internal audience in Sheffield’s digital tech community. For Sheffield’s digital tech community, the report is celebration of what makes Sheffield great plus some recommendations for how we can make it even better. For an external audience, the aim is to make them think of Sheffield in a new light, ultimately with a view to attract inward investment to the region. The report will be available online from 19th June 2017.
D.4. Understanding of how to maximize the use of project results for benefits in capitalization, policy design, awarenes: 
Sub-theme: community engagement and ecosystem development in the digital tech sector. The report that I wrote about the Digital Creative scene in Sheffield (March 2017) will be publicly launched on 19th June 2017. In the planning for this, I am ensuring that the event organisers include time & space for a facilitated panel discussion in which public policy officials & local businesses are able to contribute their ideas to how we can start to act upon the recommendations. The report would be no use to anyone if it remained unread on a shelf; the whole point of writing it was so that the community in Sheffield could capitalise on it, whether that was to tell the story about tech in Sheffield for inward investment purposes, or to respond in practical ways to the recommendations put forward in the report. A launch event in London is planned in July 2017 so that the report can be used to raise awareness of the creative digital scene in Sheffield, with a view to creating a buzz and encouraging more businesses to move to Sheffield and more entrepreneurs to stay & build their businesses in the city.
Assessment: 
Sub-theme: community engagement and ecosystem development in the digital tech sector For 3+ years, I have played an active role in community engagement & ecosystem development in the digital sector in the UK, in particular across the North of England. The digital tech sector is the fastest growing sector of the UK economy & requires sector-specific interventions & community engagement for it to flourish. I have designed & delivered workshops & programmes that promote community engagement via peer-to-peer learning. I am an active player in Sheffield’s digital tech ecosystem, volunteering as a mentor for Startup Weekend Sheffield; taking part in policy roundtables with private & public sector; advising local government on recommendations for advancing Sheffield’s economic development through digital tech; running meetups for entrepreneurs. The community engagement strategy that I wrote for Tech North (2015) is a thematic input that I have drawn upon for later engagement at a transnational level. It provides tools and methodologies for ecosystem development that can be used by practitioners across the world. I authored a report about the creative digital sector in Sheffield, drawing out ecosystem development recommendations for city practitioners & urban policy makers. I am urging the community in Sheffield to capitalise on this report, using it to tell the story about creative digital industries in the city.
Theme / Policy: 
Entrepreneurship and competitive SMEs
D.1. Deep knowledge on the selected theme and related policy challenges, including up to date practice, research, etc.: 
Sub-theme: entrepreneurship skills & learning for digital tech startups and scaleups. I have designed and delivered educational & skills-based programmes & workshops for digital tech startups and scaleups. I designed the Founders’ Network programme for Tech North (2015-2017), a 6-month peer-to-peer learning & support programme for early stage startup entrepreneurs. I invited world-class educators and experts to share their expertise and talk about their entrepreneurial journey. I created a safe space for entrepreneurs to share challenges & work through them with their peers. I provided free access to expertise on useful topics such as legal, investment, traction & growth, customer development, building a team, and leadership. Joining Founder Centric in a Strategy & Operations role (2014-2015), I “productised” teaching materials so that they could decrease reliance on senior partner teaching time. For the Startup MBA, I translated teaching materials into practical workbooks, designed worksheets, and wrote up the main principles of their subject matter into newsletters & blog posts. The latter (freely available) also acted as a sales funnel to attract more people to their (paid for) courses. I co-designed the Startup Tribe with Escape the City. This was a 3 month programme for “corporate escapees” wishing to leave careers in law & banking to start a business. This programme taught basics of entrepreneurship, facilitated peer-to-peer support, and provided accountability.
D.2. Ability to produce thematic inputs to feed in the learning process of in projects in which you have been involved: 
Sub-theme: entrepreneurship skills & learning for digital tech startups and scaleups. At Founder Centric, I created a workbook for participants in the Startup MBA programme, and sent out weekly newsletters after the weekend course to keep them on track with their goals. An example of one of the newsletters is on my website as a blog post [http://bit.ly/2s0TNcG]. I have referred to this thematic input (plus pdfs of the other newsletters) when mentoring South Korean MBA students taking part in a Social Impact Accelerator run by the University of Sheffield.I have designed & delivered a number of workshops on a variety of topics for early-stage entrepreneurs, working in digital tech or social enterprise. The slides from these presentations are freely available on my LinkedIn profile, via SlideShare, and I link to them from my personal website also. Topics include company culture [http://bit.ly/2s94087] and an introduction to social enterprise [http://bit.ly/2rG7w8m]. I have drawn on these thematic inputs when working with the South Korean MBA students and when mentoring early stage startups in Gaza.
D.3. Ability to produce concise reports that incorporate learning from exchange & learning activities, put forward good practice: 
Sub-theme: entrepreneurship skills & learning for digital tech startups and scaleups. I designed and delivered a workshop [http://bit.ly/2sIofq4] about ecosystem development to over 20 international city practitioners and urban policy makers at the TechTown Transnational Meeting in Tallinn (April 2017). This took learnings from the Babson College Ecosystem Project, and contained practical actions that city practitioners and urban policy makers could take forward in their home clusters.
D.4. Understanding of how to maximize the use of project results for benefits in capitalization, policy design, awarenes: 
Sub-theme: entrepreneurship skills & learning for digital tech startups and scaleups. Over the course of the past 3 years, I have designed & delivered learning programmes for digital tech entrepreneurs, including the Startup MBA for Founder Centric, the Startup Tribe for Escape the City, and Founders’ Network for Tech North. I put in place impact measurement tools & methodologies for each programme, and built up a body of evidence (qualitative and quantitative) of what works. I have used this evidence in roundtable policy discussions at with the public sector in Sheffield which will inform a Digital Action Plan for the City Region. I have a blog on my website [http://bit.ly/2raLTtn] and have built up a significant following on Twitter [http://bit.ly/2r71hfc] and Medium [http://bit.ly/2s92frq]. This provides me with a channel to raise awareness of best practice when designing workshops for digital tech startups and scaleups.
Summary Thematic expertise: 
Sub-theme: entrepreneurship skills & learning for digital tech startups and scaleups. I have designed & delivered educational & skills-based programmes and workshops to support digital tech startups and scaleups. Founders’ Network (Tech North) was a 6-month peer-to-peer learning & support programme, with world-class educators & experts sharing their expertise on topics such as legal, investment, traction & growth, customer development. At Founder Centric, I translated teaching materials into practical workbooks, designed worksheets, and shared the principle concepts in newsletters & blog posts. I co-designed the Startup Tribe, a 3 month programme teaching “corporate escapees” the basics of entrepreneurship. I have designed & delivered workshops on a variety of topics for early-stage entrepreneurs working in digital tech & social enterprise. The slides are available on my LinkedIn profile via SlideShare, and linked to on my personal website. I have drawn on these thematic inputs when mentoring South Korean MBA students and early stage startup founders in Gaza. I designed & delivered a workshop on ecosystem development to 20+ international city practitioners & urban policy makers at the TechTown Transnational Meeting. Over the past 3 years, I have built up a body of evidence (qualitative and quantitative) of ecosystem development “best practice”. I have used this evidence in policy discussions at with the public sector in Sheffield which will inform a Digital Action Plan.

Expertise support to local authorities and other stakeholders in designing & delivering integrated and participatory policies

E.1. Knowledge on participatory methods and tools for co-production and implementation of local polices : 
Whilst in Peru, I led on the formation of an NGO network, bringing together leaders from local and international NGOs for knowledge sharing & mutual support. Through organising several meetups and events, we became the representative voice of NGOs in the local area. This enabled us to sit at the table in meetings with local government & contribute to ongoing discussions about sustainable development policies in the local area. In order to remain representative, we needed to proactively reach out to our immediate stakeholders & get their buy-in. There was often mistrust between the local government & the NGO community, predominantly due to certain negative influences of tourism on the local area. I used my skills in mediation & conflict resolution in order to ensure that we could have an open & transparent dialogue, in which the motivations of all parties were clearly communicated so that we could work together for a common goal, which was the sustainable development of the local area.
E.2. Knowledge on integrated approach for the design, delivering, monitoring and evaluation of urban strategies/policies: 
I worked as Community Engagement Manager and as Programme Lead for Tech North, a government funded body working to promote tech in the North of England. I was keen to ensure that we were measuring our impact over time & that we had the tools in place to enable that we could monitor the effectiveness of our programmes. I ran an internal workshop about impact measurement for Tech North based on Theory of Change. This workshop enabled us as a team to establish our assumptions (i.e. that the digital tech sector is the fastest growing in the UK, and that support for digital tech entrepreneurs therefore leads to economic growth and jobs creation), and map out our inputs, outputs, impact, and outcomes. I led the team in a process to establish qualitative & quantitative metrics for ongoing monitoring. Also at Tech North, as Programme Lead for Founders’ Network, I established a baseline survey for participants, plus regular monitoring surveys after each event that gave me ongoing qualitative and quantitative data. I used this data to iterate & improve the programme based on feedback, as well as monitor & evaluate the impact of the programme over time.
E.3. Awareness of the main policy and funding schemes for sustainable urban development at EU and national level: 
In my local area, I subscribe to newsletters from the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub & keep myself up to date via social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Medium) with relevant local debates in sustainable urban development. I participate in roundtables and attend panel discussions with local policy officials on topics such as coordinating a Sheffield City Region response to the national Industrial Strategy. I am an active participant in the regular “Vibrant Sheffield” meetings and discussions, organised by Grant Thornton, that bring together public & private sector individuals to develop collaborative actions that positively contribute to sustainable urban development of Sheffield. Nationally & internationally, I subscribe to newsletters from Urban Innovations Actions, Urban Agenda for the EU, and URBACT, as well as referring to their websites. For grant & funding information, I refer to local tender experts, subscribe to the YORTender portal for opportunities in my local area, and subscribe to the Innovate UK & Federation of Small Businesses newsletters. I actively use Twitter [http://bit.ly/2r71hfc], LinkedIn [http://bit.ly/2rGyaOr], and Medium [http://bit.ly/2s92frq], and have built up a significant following. I find that these platforms provide easy access to the latest themes, debates, and discussions about sustainable urban development, whether that is a quick discussion on a Twitter thread, or an in-depth opinion piece from a thought-leader on Medium.
E.4. Ability to understand specific local situations and adapt tools and content to different local realities: 
As Community Engagement Manager for Tech North I spent time carrying out research into best practice for community engagement & ecosystem development for digital tech entrepreneurs, learning about examples from across the world, some well-known (Silicon Valley and London), others less so (Milwaukee, USA and Sofia, Bulgaria). I then applied best practice in community engagement, within a framework of my understanding of the local realities (in particular, the economic profile & political history of the cities). When I was commissioned to write a report into the Digital Creative scene in Sheffield, I used the KPMG Magnet Cities report as my framework for investigation. I considered Sheffield’s creative digital scene through the lens of the seven principles that KPMG have established make a city “magnetic”, in other words, what is it that attracts and retains young wealth creators to a city. To use this framework effectively, I needed a thorough & grounded understanding of KPMG’s approach & examples, and the ability to apply it to a local context.
Summary Expertise: 
I have provided expert support to local authorities & other stakeholders in designing & delivering integrated & participatory policies. In Peru, I established an NGO network by building collaborative relationship with stakeholders. We were a representative voice of NGOs & contributed to discussions with local government about sustainable development policies. I facilitated open & transparent dialogue, understanding the motivations of stakeholders to collaborate for the common goal of sustainable development. For Founders’ Network, I conducted regular monitoring & evaluation that provided qualitative & quantitative data. I used this to iterate the programme & evaluate its impact. I ran a workshop about impact measurement for Tech North which enabled us to map our inputs, outputs, impact, and outcomes. I participate in roundtables with Sheffield City Region policy officials. I actively participate in “Vibrant Sheffield” meetings bringing together public & private sector individuals to develop collaborative actions that contribute to sustainable urban development. At Tech North, I researched global best practice for community engagement & ecosystem development. I applied best practice to the North of England within a framework of the region’s economic profile & political history. As author for a report on Sheffield's Digital Creative sector, I used KPMG Magnet Cities study as a framework. This required understanding KPMG’s approach & an ability to apply it to a local context.

Informations

Residence location:
United Kingdom
Languages:
English - Mother tongue
Foreign Languages level: 
Foreign languages: 
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Foreign Languages level: 
Foreign languages: 
Email:
hello@lauraihbennett.com

Area of expertise