The Good Business Festival with Merseyside Network Manager, Carla At The Girls' Network we benefit from a team of dedicated individuals who live and work across the country. As Network Managers, these women connect with organisations and individuals in their regions to understand what the local picture is, and enhance our reach. Most recently, our Merseyside Network Manager, Carla, attended Liverpool's Good Business Festival. Here, she shares insight into the event, and the inspiring people she met. ............ Being a Network Manager at The Girl's Network means a lot of things, but to keep it simple, it's about connection. I connect inspiring role models who are women with our equally inspiring mentees who, regardless of the limited access to opportunity they have, are committed to unlocking their potential. So, when I found out about a business festival, pioneered by Liverpool City Region, whose whole purpose is to bring together some of the sharpest minds on the planet, I jumped in with both feet. The Good Business Festival took place Tuesday 22nd to Thursday 24th March with the aim to learn, discuss, debate and act to drive change around the world. Luckily for me, it was taking place in the centre of the very place I call home: Liverpool. Blessed with good weather, leaders, entrepreneurs, students and social change organisations flocked to venues across the city and I am so proud to say that I was right there with them as Network Manager for The Girls’ Network. The connections forged, seeds planted, and awareness raised felt palpable just from where I was sitting, so I’m excited to see the ripple effect that comes from the event in the coming months and years. I was able to attend day one and three of the festival and it started off on a high note at the Leading the Way Panel, which featured Paul Sesay, whose work within equity, diversity and inclusion I have followed for a number of years. During the discussion, I was able to hear Paul speak with a level of frankness that really struck a chord. In particular, Paul’s assuredness of the power of mentoring and how it works. Not only was he mentored as a younger man, he has gone on to mentor others – unsurprising when we know that 89% of those who are mentored go on to become mentors themselves. Largely thanks to mentoring, Paul has gone from arriving in Liverpool with £25 in his back pocket at 19 years old to being CEO of a global industry despite still feeling like he 'shouldn’t be here' sometimes! This kind of imposter syndrome is something that our mentees and mentors are all too familiar with and it was refreshing to hear a man talking about it. Contrastingly, Maria Chenoworth, CEO of TRAID, also spoke with fervour about the power of mentoring, explaining that she’d 'produced a few CEOs' in her time with a confidence that I wish all women possessed in such deserved levels. By far and away the best part of the festival for me was the purpose-driven networking, dubbed Firestarters, which has been developed by female-led marketing do-gooders, Matchstick Creative. I attended day one’s session around powering communities and day three’s session on cultural inclusion. Rachael Forde is the Development Coordinator for Liverpool Cares and was on the panel for day one. There was something about Rachael’s clear authenticity and practical viewpoint around how businesses and the third sector can genuinely manage power dynamics to reach a common goal that had me nodding away enthusiastically. When we think about the fact that 40% of people aged 16-24 say they feel lonely often or very often, compared to 29% of people aged 65-74, it becomes clear that causes like Liverpool Cares aren’t just about supporting the elderly. Having had such a positive experience on day one’s Firestarters workshop, I found myself booking in for day three’s session around cultural inclusion. The panel for this couldn't have been better picked: Alex Ferguson of Homotopia, Neo-Jazz singer Ni Maxine and BBC Radio Merseyside Producer Ngunan Adamu. All three offered passionate insight into the challenges they see on a day-to-day basis and shared their take on how to best tackle them. Ni drew on her experience as a black woman, with mental health challenges coming from a council estate and how her dry jazz bar aims to create a psychologically safe environment for like minded creatives. Ngunan also drew on how her experience as a Black single mother working in the media led her to create iWomen. Producer of Homotopia, Alex, reminded us that cultural inclusion is far from a reality when we see things like LGBTQI+ art work against the city’s hate crimes being ripped down but that Homotopia will never cease to deliver their inclusive projects. Elsewhere during the festival, the hysteria drew me towards Stephen Bartlett’s talk back at the Town Hall on day one, except it wasn’t Stephen that I walked away reflecting on the most. I indirectly became aware of Ian when he did what everyone else in the room wanted to do during the Q&A portion and asked Stephen Bartlett, in front of at least 100 people, for a retweet. Momentarily met with a spatter of giggles, Ian went on to talk about Locum Retreats CIC and the mission he was on to support care leavers to realise their potential. Within my own region at The Girls’ Network, I’ve encountered young care leavers who are flung into society without much opportunity to develop a sense of adulthood first so this cause really struck a chord with me. The festival came to a close at Content in the Baltic, where I sat in for the ‘What can I do when I grow up?’ panel discussion. It was the most well attended session I’d been at all week, which can only be a good thing when the topic was all about the future of work for today’s young people. Leah Green, who presented the panel, explained that 16-24 year olds make up two thirds of recent job losses. The first ever Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, talked about how the skills younger generations need to succeed in future roles are rooted in cooperation, emotional intelligence, empathy and critical thinking. The Girls’ Network are empowering young women and girls to acquire those skills right now. Until that moment, our work had never seemed more important than it does right now. The Good Business Festival was an invaluable insight into the work that is going on in this city and I walked away feeling ultimately inspired and optimistic about the willingness and ability to create real social change in Liverpool. It was indeed a very good Good Business Festival. I look forward to next year! ............ Are you passionate about social change? Do you want to join us in empowering the next generation of women in Merseyside (and beyond?). Join us! We welcome hearing from any local businesses and in this trying time for the younger generation are always on the lookout for new mentors, who we'll train and nurture to mentor one of our mentees. Learn more about becoming a mentor here, and contact Carla to chat about regional partnerships.