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February 7, 2012 / Alex Robertson

Community and Network Manager in an exciting International Development Charity

We have a new position open at Challenges Worldwide. We are looking for someone engaged and dynamic to fill this role which we believe will become central to our operating model.

Challenges is quickly becoming an integral part of the way that many large agencies and businesses work in the developing world. We are positioned across all areas of public and private developing country development to enable our partners can create quick, controlled, and sustainable growth.

Challenges Worldwide and it’s associated companies are expanding rapidly and there is an opportunity for the successful applicant to expand their role within the business, increase their earning potential, and have an interesting career progression within Challenges.

Job Title Community and Network Manager
Reporting to Director Business Coaching – Alex Robertson
Hours 9:30-5:30 (approx. 35 hours pw)
Salary £12,000 PA basic (with opportunity for quick advancement and bonuses for performance)
Duration Permanent with regular reviews discussing earning potential and role progression

Challenges Worldwide

This role is positioned in Challenges Worldwide (registered charity SCO28814), but would involve working alongside both the Challenges Worldwide and Challenges Consulting operations teams.

Purpose of Post

The specific purpose of this post is:

To engage with the existing Challenges Network, proactively  growing it to ensure that Challenges departments have access to a greater quantity and quality of experts to fulfill their rapidly developing obligations to their clients.


Task Details
Develop our Salesforce Database to integrate the needs of different departments within Challenges
  • Collate data on businesses
  • Review, and update current contact details
  • Handle initial contact with applicants.
  • Ensuring candidates with specialist skills and experience are brought to the attention of the relevant business areas.
  • Respond to recruitment needs of operational staff to fulfil monthly targets and departmental needs across all areas of the business
Take ownership of developing a robust database of active and engaged contacts using innovative methods including direct mailing campaigns, newsletters, LinkedIn, and taking advantage of Challenges managers’ extensive professional networks
  • Use Salesforce to undertake monthly direct, targeted mailout campaigns
  • Use LinkedIn and other social media for targeted recruitment.
  • Liaise with each department about their potential exploitable networks
 Basic communications management
  •  Help Challenges teams to maintain use of proper templates and brand guidelines
Drive Challenges Worldwide’s website and social media activity, coordinating this across the organisation and liaising with volunteers, partners and stakeholders where relevant
  • Develop blog content
  • Develop and manage an effective social media plan
  • Update the website with job opportunities, news items and interesting features


Candidate Specification

Ability to:

  • Maintain high level of proactivity and commitment, demonstrating perseverance in face of setbacks
  • Communicate effectively, verbally and in writing to present complex messages clearly and with impact
  • Come up with innovative ideas to improve management of our network
  • Plan multi-layered activities, handle conflicting demands, spot problems in advance, identify solutions
  • Work across different Challenges departments, manage own workload and prioritising tasks appropriately

Desirable Skills/ Experience

  • Managing and growing an online community across a range of platforms, such as blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Experience of using social media to achieve defined marketing goals
  • Experience within a sales and marketing environment
  • While we do not require any prior knowledge of coding or web development, you should have an excellent working knowledge of electronic social and business media and be computer literate. We can provide training and guidance, but you will be expected to learn on the job – quickly – using your own initiative
  • Advanced computer literacy and ability to learn quickly
  • Ambitious and able to work independently as well as in a team
  • Knowledge of traditional marketing and communication principles and platforms

To apply please e-mail a CV and brief covering letter to Alex Robertson –

October 12, 2011 / Alex Robertson

Why do you do your job?

I got asked this a few weeks ago while giving a lecture and I used an answer I often give to people who ask similar things. I think that as someone who has had over 20 jobs, from bluechip sales to cutting grass, in my short working lifetime I might have stumbled on something like a “formula” for how to at least enjoy/appreciate the job you’ve got!

I was speaking to a bunch of masters business students. I had explained my work history, given a 45 minute lecture and then spent an hour debating various points about the work I do. One of them asked me why I work for a charity when I so clearly loved start-up, SME and business. Shouldn’t I be out there doing that and “earning my fortune” hah.

This is (something like!) what I said.

As an entrepreneurial ‘youngster’ you don’t HAVE to be working on your own business straight away. Like me, maybe you haven’t had the right idea yet? Maybe the market isn’t right for it.

I think that you need to have two out of these following three things to have what I’d consider a good, challenging and enjoyable job.

1) Experience – are you learning new things? Are you challenged? Is this a place to learn?

2) Respect and responsibility – are you respected for what you do? Rewarded for it with position or responsibility?  Do you do it well no matter what the challenges?

3) Money – are you earning – otherwise it’s not a job

If you are happy that you have two out of the three above things you’ve got a pretty good situation – at least for a while. When you are happy you have all three – that my friends is when you have found a career!

So how does this match to what I’ve got?

1) Experience –  I am getting hands on training in recruitment, management, analysis, accounting, corporate finance, equity/debt investment, and business planning everyday. This can be nothing but invaluable in the future, as hard as it is to keep up sometimes.

2) Respected?  I am, after one year here, a Director in the Charity – responsible for a department’s development, and trying to drive it forward. I am good at my job and I’m getting better at managing people and the business. This is hard. But it’s great fun.

3) Money? Well I said two out of three ok! It’s the 3rd Sector. I’m not loaded, but I make a decent living wage. Often the experience you’re gaining early on, while earning small amounts, in your working life can lead to a higher salary later – so it should be well worth it!

So not every job for a young person has to be in a new start-up, or even in a business. There is a whole world of skills and experience if you are willing to take your two out of three. Most likely you might have to struggle with one of these for a while but when that opportunity comes and you have all three, it’ll be worth it.

So that’s the answer I gave and they nodded their heads and smiled. I think perhaps this is what they needed to hear. That not every job is everything. That sometimes it’s hard. That sometimes the right job isn’t going to be there right away.

But also that you don’t HAVE to go and work for Deloitte if you don’t get your own start-up into the market in the first year.

I’m not saying this is the only answer to the question of why you do the work you do, but it works for me!

I saw a Forbes business article posted today. It was a questionnaire on “should I be an entrepreneur or should I go work for the man”. It had basically split things into “am I a party loving , organised but quirky start-up guy” or “do I want a secure salary and to become really good at one thing”. Start-ups are neither – they’re both hard work and you can get a huge amount of experience in corporate or small business.

Remember every experience is worthwhile. Enjoy it, learn from it, apply it the next time.

I’d love to know what everyone thinks about this. Give me a shout on twitter @AlexDRobertson or in the comments below. Maybe even write a blog response!

August 2, 2011 / Alex Robertson

FED – Sustainable ideas shared well!

Well it’s been almost a month since FED – Ideas worth sustaining – and I have been terrible by not posting a blog about it.

The main reason for this is work with a side of a very busy social schedule but either way it’s no excuse!

The who with the what now?

The event for those that do not know is outlined here but was essentially an accessible set of talks by interesting people at the accessible price of free (or £5 donation!) at the Inspace in Edinburgh  – It was designed to be fairly short, engaging and interesting with some legacy and specificity to Scotland.

Organised by Peter Geoghegan and advertised in a very short time we were not sure how many people might actually turn up! however on the day we got 50+ people through the door which was absolutely fantastic.

Hashtagged #Fed11

Peter asked people to join the discussion over twitter if possible – mainly because we had both seen the all too often running commentry on speakers – quotes and subject lines – the really engaging thing about twitter is watching the tweets discussing the content flow!

Two projectors showed the most common keywords and recent tweets.

What was said?

Now I would at this point discuss the speakers however Kirsty Joan has written a fantastic blog about them all. She even drew some fantastic cloud illustrations during the talks which was great.

The talks covered electoral and civil service overhaul, Scotlands Economy and bringing ethical and real life issues into the classroom. The main takaways for me were :

  • Sometimes the civil service are the ones holding back great new ideas
  • Why can we not vote on-line yet (seriously why?)
  • Not just oil – why is Scotland not capitalising on the services to the oil industry
  • Why don’t we teach kids about the NHS in primary school?
  • Elspeth Murray writes awesome poems and can do great accents!
I suppose the highlight for me in some ways was Kevan Shaw who is a lighting designer. He spoke about the issues with “long life bulbs” which are less environmentally friendly than they at first appear, about Greenpeace cover-ups, lighting huge buildings, the myth of the saviour LED, archaic road lighting measures, mad EU round table discussions and of course any clean energy enthusiasts favourite subject – the Negawatt. “the cheapest KW of energy you can find is the one you don’t use”
He was very engaging, speaking about a subject that was probably comparatively new to most of those watching. Kevan and all the other speakers were happy to hang around during the breaks and chat away to whoever happened to be passing which gave FED a great atmosphere of openness and interaction.

Engaging with sustainable ideas

Finally came the chance for people to pitch their own ideas. There were quite a few that were put forward and it was great to see things coming up that would probably be otherwise well away from the spectrum of this sort of meetup.
  • I spouted incoherently about how pension funds could be used to invest in social business in the developing world using the model of Impact Investment and about how in this way anyone who has some savings can be involved in growing the developing world.
  • Someone had an interesting idea about a mass reclamation of fees charged by many letting agencies, “admin fees” as they are called, which are technically illegal.
  • Kirsty spoke about the excellent Global Sustainability Jam – a sort of sustainable themed hack day
  • many many more
A round up by Kate Higgins and Peter opened up even more discussion to the floor. Poems and beers followed with discussions carrying on for about an hour after we should by all rights have been kicked out the venue.
Blind poet and more beer followed for the more hardcore of the Edinburgh based group.


All in all the day went really well, in fact since I have had some really positive feedback – although I certainly think there were certain things we could have done a little better.
  • Robert McAlpine opened and was extremely interesting but also very intense. Perhaps we could have entered with something a little lighter before moving onto the “serious” stuff!
  • No central theme
  • Not advertising it very well or particularly in advance (my fault!)
  • Plenty of other stuff
So what did we get right
  • A selection of speakers and subjects
  • Great atmospheric space
  • Relevance and legacy to Scotland
  • Engaging our audience as clear equals and relevant members
  • Not charging £3800

Get Involved

Peter and myself are keen to keep this alive and kicking with a few events each year. Perhaps with a specific theme for each. To make that dream a reality it would be great if you could all join our facebook group! We need another 11 Likes to reserve our unique facebook URL and would much appreciate it.
We hope to start feeding you delicious content soon – as well as encouraging people to post their very own sustainable ideas right onto the page for appraisal.
So watch THIS SPACE for more information and of course if you want to you’ll follow me on twitter – @AlexDRobertson
July 6, 2011 / Alex Robertson

FED : Ideas Worth Sharing

Like many people I spent months trying to find some sort of way to get into the TED event about to come crashing down on Edinburgh….. Like many people I investigated live streaming to a side event, organising a TED-X event at the same time or even just trying to find someone with a ticket and willing to give it up!

However it’s tied up tight! You can’t get a ticket for less than £3800 or unless you work for an institution considered to be “in”. As someone who works for a self-funding Charity, with non allocated budget amounting to less than most businesses pocket change, having anything to do with TED seemed impossible. Especially as TED-X events are not allowed at the same time as the main TED event.

I even tried to set up my own event but the time needed to do so was beyond me at this moment. However along came Peter Geoghegan! A few weeks ago he announced FED – Ideas Worth Sustaining. It was to be a free event (well almost free at a £5er) . Not only is there a great line up of speakers but also plenty of “question time” and the option for members of the public to pitch their own ideas worth sharing! This is a great addition. TED tends to reflect the success of their celebrity speakers (and for the most part its hugely well deserved). FED aims to allow us to learn plenty about the work of the speaker but also allows us to get involved in a more open and engaged way.

The event will be small and held in the InSpace at Edinburgh University, Bristo Square. I’ve attached the press release below! Hope to see you there!


Why pay £3700? TED gets its own fringe event – FED

1.30pm July 9, Inspace, University of Edinburgh

Troubled by the prohibitive £3700 ticket price, a group of Scotland’s top thinkers, writers, and artists are to stage their own version of TED, the global lecture series that arrives in Edinburgh next week.

FED – Ideas Worth Sustaining will borrow TED’s famous format of short accessible talks on big ideas, but not its price tag. Rather than costing several thousand pounds, FED will offer a day of talks and for only a fiver.

On July 11, TEDGlobal will host its first conference in Edinburgh. Its theme is ‘The Stuff of Life’. Several thousand pounds will allow punters to hear Philip Blond wax lyrical on the Big Society, Niall Ferguson present his version of history and have a chance to grab a drink with Alain de Botton.

In reaction to TED’s price tag, exclusivity, and increasingly corporate model, FED was born.

Presented by Realpolitik and Bella Caledonia, ‘FED – Ideas Worth Sustaining’ is the homegrown alternative. This one-day event takes place at Inspace at the University of Edinburgh this Saturday, July 9. It will feature talks, discussions, videos and, most importantly, ideas for a sustainable future for both humans and the planet.

FED is an agora for ideas and debate. The SNP’s landslide election victory last month reflected, in part, the desire for a wider vision of Scottish society: FED is about providing ideas about these futures. Of course, Scotland is not divorced from its wider context and the line-up for FED will reflect this, too.

Speakers on the day include Gerry Hassan, Tom Kane, Robin McAlpine, Elspeth Murray, Lorna Waite, Kevan Shaw, Kevin Williamson and Kate Higgins. There will also be space for the public to pitch ideas and suggestions (not to mention tea and cake in the afternoon and drinks at close).

Organiser Peter Geoghegan said: “In financial terms, TED is a boon for Edinburgh but in terms of engaging people who live in the city, and in Scotland, and in leaving any sort of meaningful legacy, it’s sorely lacking. Most of the participants, and almost all the speakers, will come from outside of Scotland and the connection with the city is disappointingly fleeting and insubstantial.
“We felt that Edinburgh needed a home-grown alternative to TED, an inclusive – and inexpensive – place where people with ideas could come together. That’s when FED was born.”

Blogger Kate Higgins, who will be wrapping up the event along with writer Gerry Hassan, said: “In policy and institutional terms, there are so many things broken in Scotland but there are also some wonderful ideas out there on how to fix them.  As we stand on the cusp of a brave new Scotland, it’s important we start harnessing these ideas and readying them for our future.  FED offers a vital first stage in the process – offering space for sharing and debate.”

FED will kick off at 1.30pm. Full program is available here:

For more information please contact Peter Geoghegan on 0777 0501423. Or tickets are availiable here :

May 24, 2011 / Alex Robertson

Internship availiable!

UPDATE **Blimey** What a response. I’ve had quite a few applications and I think I’m sorted. So thanks for reading. Look at the power – Traditional advertising got me #0 applications in 2 weeks. I’ve filled the role in 2 hours using various social media groups! Not always the best but sometimes it’s darn fine!

Hi Everyone!

I have an immediate opportunity for an intern to come in and work alongside me for a month here at Challenges Worldwide.

Basically we grow business in developing economies. We feel that this is the best way to help developing economies become stronger.  We use an Impact Investing model. This is investment into organisations/business which will provide positive environmental, economical and social change to the communities and areas impacted. Our core aim is to deliver a volunteer to 120 organisations in developing economies this year.

While technically “unpaid” I am able to offer an interesting bonus if we manage to hit our quotas over the time you spend with us (maybe a laptop/IPad or something). Added to that any experience in recruitment and this sort of relationship management with an international organisation is CV gold.

The Intern-ship is cover for my current operations guy who is heading off for a month travelling.

The role would include :

  • Calling prospective volunteers and finding out what they are looking for
  • Developing the relationship with those volunteers and bringing them into the programme
  • Answering questions and dealing with enquiries.
  • Interviewing prospective volunteers and matching them to roles.
  • Working with me to develop assignments inside our large portfolio of companies and organisations
Skills needed:
  • Confidence to develop phone relationships mainly over e-mail and phone (no cold calling – don’t worry!)
  • Excellent written and spoken English (accent negotiable)
  • Some experience with marketing or sales would be an advantage
  • Team player
  • Positive attitude

Here’s the clincher. I don’t really care if you’re neat/punctual/have lovely handwriting. If you pay attention to detail, do things when you say you will and the work gets done, I’m a happy man. This is an opportunity for you to get a large amount of experience in a relatively short amount of time.

I need someone as soon as possible – so get in touch even if you can only do 3 days a week. It’s a very flexible role. Should last 4-6 weeks or possibly longer!

Get in touch! or call me on 0131 225 9549
May 4, 2011 / Alex Robertson

SMEs will benefit from acting as a Springboard for new talent

I’ve worked in a variety of organisations over the last 10 years. From tyrannical hotel dictatorships through to supervisor enforced skiving for my local council (Hartlepool) while I was meant to be cutting grass (this was of course to increase the overtime we had to do!), social media startups, the Third Sector and lots of bits in between!

In particular I’m interested in the way SME and larger organisations recruit young people or “talent” as we sometimes call it. After 13 months successfully running an advertising company in a recession, my rejection by multiple graduate schemes in my final year studying (here’s looking at you Microsoft, Dell, Coca-cola) because of one bad A-level made it clear to me that the route to the top for a young person is through small business.

I feel that there are two main types of business that bring in talent. I call them Foundations and Springboards. Lets quickly look at Foundations first but I really want to speak about the idea of Springboards.


These are larger company’s where people can be secure, find community and a career. There will be structured training available, advancement over the years. It’s a secure job where there is a structured management system, a fixed salary which grows based on advancement. There is opportunity but it comes over time. There is probably a fairly large team and a great community feel. A well managed foundation company is something that nurtures and creates talent but also keeps  it held close to its chest. They probably have less flexibility but bigger budgets. A great opportunity to get involved in a big team doing something exciting.

Advantages – Loyalty, steady staff numbers, less surprises (?), regular holiday times, good community, stability. conservation of talent.

Disadvantages – “9-5 staff”, Just a job?, lack of ambition sets in?  Missed opportunities? Bitterness if missed for promotion? Sudden losses?


This is the main point of this blog.  I believe Springboards are companies that are trying to push into areas unknown, maybe a start-up, third sector organisation struggling to find funding or a small company taking a risk and trying something new. In my experience some of these companies will try to:

A) Recruit as if  they are a foundation (IE long term offer a salary and terms they can’t afford or possibly quantify for the future)

B) Don’t recruit at all (worse than option A!)

If they recognise what they are trying to achieve and the type of person they are going to need to do it maybe they’ll think again and push themselves out as a springboard for a new generation of thinkers and doers. I believe that sometimes people are looking for the next challenge, the next passion, the next thing to get wholeheartedly stuck into.

The employee that the springboard companies are looking for do not need (or look for) the big pay cheque, the job security or the company car. What they need is trust, some training opportunities, a listening ear and above all a great idea to get behind, grow and work with!

I genuinely believe that this sort of initially short-term project based opportunity will drive someone far more than a few more days off or a longer lunch break. In return for being given a chance (and maybe even a limited time scale) they will often throw themselves into something with more passion and hard work than you could ever expect. If it doesn’t work then at least both parties have probably learnt a huge amount without anyone being disappointed or in a bind about having to fire a staff member. the main thing here is that Springboards need to not have qualms about losing that talent after the allotted time. You need to set it free! At least you’ve gained a new programme/advocate/income for your business, and also probably gained a friend!

Advantages : Possibility of a fantastic new revenue stream, possible eventual full-time new team member, someone to learn from and to teach, someone who will be a great advocate for your business even if you have to let them go if project doesn’t take off, someone to invigorate a static company profile.

Disadvantages : Theres some risk involved. If it doesn’t work out then you might lose someone you would love to keep! Possible fear of being replaced by current team members. Possibly lose some real talent to the next company if you can’t afford to keep them.

Final thoughts

I know this isn’t for everyone and it is a whole lot of information to hit you with – but I genuinely believe that the current generation of workers would love nothing more than to, just sometimes, have the opportunity to try new things, bring new ideas to the table and really try to make a difference to a company. Failure is only bad if you don’t learn from it and if you’re honest about the two possible outcomes (success/no success) from the start,  it’s a learning opportunity for all involved.

What does this mean for companies – Trying to put too much onto your existing staff members can create several problems instead of new opportunities. Work can be spread using keen interns or temporary spring-board staff members. Why not bring a great freelancer on board for a short amount of time while they’re quiet elsewhere? If the ideas interesting enough they’ll almost certainly do the job for a reduced price!

What does this mean for employers – You have to meet more people at interview and get to know them rather than just asking technical questions, head hunt them, court people you find interesting. Never say never just because the money isn’t going to compete. Maybe you’re exactly what they’re looking for! Next time you’re looking to build a new website/database/marketing strategy/social media strategy don’t go rushing to an agency – why not look to your linkedin, your twitter stream and your local networking events.

What does this mean for job hunters – make it clear from your CV that you’re in for exciting projects. Tell them about you, your interests and not just your technical ability. Also make it clear that you can succeed and that you can bring passion and commitment. It’s not all about ideas!  Finally GET YOURSELF OUT THERE. I have got most of my exciting and most fun roles through knowing someone who said “oh you know…. I saw this and thought of you”. Network, tweet or facebook. Whatever works for you!

What does this mean for everyone? Loyalty and trust are hugely important. I believe the Gentleman’s (Gentlewoman’s) agreement is a valid concept. Lets do business face to face and really mean it! Let’s trust our guts and our talent!

I really hope this hits a chord with some people.

I’d love to discuss it more in the comments or on my twitter @AlexDRobertson

March 23, 2011 / Alex Robertson

Challenges are recruiting – Do you have what it takes?

I’m looking for a new member for my Applications Team here at Challenges Worldwide (registered Charity SCO28814) in Edinburgh.

What do we do? Very briefly we grow SMEs in developing countries using volunteers, investments or  market linkages. We have worked in 35 countries and provided over $20million in consultancy at no cost to the end recipient.

Basically we are looking for a passionate, engaging individual who is willing to jump in at the deep end and work hard to achieve tough targets. If you want a 9-5 with a regular paycheck, apply to a graduate scheme/PCWorld , this is not the place for you. If you want flexibility, independence and  responsibility – read on!

What do you do Alex?

I am currently in charge of finding and recruiting all our volunteers for a variety of projects ranging from accountants for a  peanut refinery in Malawi to legal professionals to work in East Africa. We are experiencing a huge surge in the amount of work we have and need to add capacity to our Applications team. This is where you would come in!

The Role

The role will involve some administration work, but will also come with plenty of opportunity to learn new skills, develop existing ones and also earn some money. We are currently growing quickly and this growth brings opportunity for fast advancement.

I would say this would suit an ambitious recent Graduate or a professional with some experience looking for a change in direction.

The office is a fun, fairly relaxed place to work and we are keen to keep it that way. We always have plenty of side projects going on which mean there is plenty to do even if you get all your work completed!

What would the role entail?

  • Process and document suitable candidates details into internal databases
  • Report application figures in weekly meeting and provide synopsis of figures to communications team
  • Initially arrange and eventually run interviews with applicants
  • Copy-writing : Write/Edit assignment descriptions. Write/Edit blog and newsletter articles
  • Record keeping
  • Ongoing implementation of linking strategy
  • Analysis of Google Analytics/AdWords accounts
  • Assisting with other projects : Making promo videos, assisting with marketing strategy, design, researching new revenue opportunities and starting your own projects.

What do you need?

  • Be passionate, engaged and driven to succeed
  • Organisational skills
  • Basic experience of sales and marketing (Sales can be taught but its easier if you can already sell!)
  • Excellent command of English with a confident phone manner
  • Excellent written communication
  • An eye for detail
  • Friendly, outgoing personality (preferably with a good sense of humour!)
  • Not be a 9-5 type of person.
  • If possible some knowledge of social media, video editing, digital marketing – not essential

Whats in it for me?

  • You get to work with an established Charity which is striving to have a huge impact on the developing world
  • Learn about International Development.
  • Gain hands on experience of recruitment, sales, marketing and administration.
  • Have freedom, flexibility and fun at work.
  • In house training, training and contact with our partners
  • Be part of a forward thinking team
  • Earn some money! The more successful we are as a team the better the earning potential

Is this for me?

I love my job – not because of the pay-check, but because it gives me the freedom to be involved in things that wouldn’t be possible with a large corporation or graduate scheme. I get to try new initiatives and projects, speak to interesting people everyday and sometimes even play with foam dart guns!

If this sounds similar to how you work (or want to work) then get in touch!

or on Twitter or LinkedIn