GiveBackUK: An Interview with Martin Baker

by | Jul 3, 2015 | Articles

How do you help the overwhelming majority of charities that have no budget whatsoever for L&D? You create free resources for them! That’s what Martin Baker is doing – he spoke to us about GivebackUK, the not for profit organisation he’s masterminded to create free, high quality video learning especially for the third sector.

“Tell us why you started GivebackUK.”

I started GivebackUK for a very simple reason: I wanted to help support staff and volunteers working in the third sector. It seems to me that they’re the very people that need help the most. In the recession, donations to charities fell, whilst pressure on their services has soared. You just have to speak to someone like Carmel McConnell from Magic Breakfast to hear about the desperate need of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. It’s hard to comprehend that so many children go to school hungry in the UK isn’t it? But when it comes to providing these kinds of essential front line services, who cares for the carers?

It’s really easy to talk about ‘charities’ or the ‘third sector’, but it’s people that make up the organisations that help those in need. I wanted to find a way to support those people, those staff and volunteers – who let’s face it, may do the toughest and low paid (or non paid) jobs. At the launch of GivebackUK Andrew Jacobs spoke very movingly of never knowing when you, or a loved one, may need support – wouldn’t you want the people helping you to have the right skills and knowledge?

The stark reality for the overwhelming majority of charities though is that no-one is responsible solely for learning and development within their organisations. L&D may be lumped in with other responsibilities – not as an afterthought, but because there isn’t any budget or manpower to put any learning and development into action. So I wanted to find a way to provide free resources to enable staff and volunteers to take control of their own development.

“What’s so unique about your video interviews?”

I think there are several things that make the whole of GivebackUK unique, but in terms of the videos, we’re using a professional filmmaker to create fantastic quality videos. I just don’t understand why there is a prevailing attitude that second best (often second hand) is ok for people working in the third sector. It’s often a case of ‘needs must’ I know, but I think that we can do so much better than that. So quality was important to me.

And in terms of GivebackUK overall, I think it’s the potential scale that really makes us different. We’re aiming to provide free video leaning to a mass audience of more than 13 million people – the figures are actually quite mind boggling! Learning technology will enable us to reach that audience cost effectively, so it really is a project of its time – even just a decade ago, I don’t think it would have been possible to contemplate this kind of scale.

“How do you think GivebackUK can impact charities in the UK?”

Ultimately I hope that it will make a difference to millions of people’s working lives. In the same way that people go direct to Google or Wikipedia for answers online, I hope that GivebackUK will be a source of inspiration, knowledge and expertise that will help staff and volunteers in the sector in a really practical, hands-on way. I’d like GivebackUK to help them take control of their own learning, and ultimately help them work more effectively.

Measuring how we make a difference – how we know whether we will have achieved what we are setting out to do – is something that we’re grappling with at the moment. Evaluating learning can be challenging, as anyone who works in the industry knows! So the partnerships that we have with organisations like Towards Maturity and the Tinder Foundation are really vital to helping us achieve our aims.

“Tell us about the future of GivebackUK and how people can help.”

We’re busy both creating content and working with our partners to ensure we have everything ready for when we launch to end users at the CIPD Learning & Development Show in May 2016.

In the meantime everyone and anyone can get involved, no matter what their job role. The question that I normally ask people is ‘what are you passionate about in your work?’ And my next question is ‘will you be interviewed, to share that knowledge with others?’ So it’s a simple premise, of ‘paying it forward’, of using video to share and disseminate best practice and expertise.

We’re currently working on our Charity Series, to create charity specific content, and we’d love more charities to get involved. We have a real focus on vocational learning, so we’d like to hear from anyone with charity expertise, in particular in fundraising, volunteering, governance, or training trustees, as we know these are particular areas where there are skills gaps.

We’re also asking for anyone volunteering or working in the sector to get in touch to let us know what they’d like to see from GivebackUK: how can we best serve you?


Martin Baker is the founder and CEO of GivebackUK, the Charity Learning Consortium and the Corporate eLearning Consortium. He’s a founding Ambassador to Towards Maturity and is recognised as one of the most influential people working in eLearning in the UK. Connect with him on twitter @martincbaker and LinkedIn or email [email protected]

Notes: The NCVO’s UK Civil Society Almanac estimates that 13.8 million people in the UK volunteer at least once a month. More than 820,000 people in the UK carry out paid work in the sector

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