As some of you may have heard there’s a new CEO in town or is it a city?
Either way, we are delighted to introduce Ian Revell the new CEO of the Milton Keynes Community Foundation.
As is customary on these occasions we thought it would be a good idea to grab some time with the man himself and get to know more about the inner working of his mind. Luckily for us, the door is always open to Ian’s office and he was more than happy to share with us what makes him tick.
The story so far…
We chatted to Ian about where it all began and discovered that, from his time at school, Ian had first-hand experience of what it feels like to be misunderstood and underestimated. This realisation that everyone learns and engages differently was going to be a valuable tool that would prove really useful in the future. After leaving school Ian becoming an Apprentice Gardener learning many skills and even winning Apprentice of the Year. It was not until he started to volunteer for the YMCA that realised he could harness this understanding of people, to make a difference to his community.
“The thing that really gets me is injustice I really can’t take it. If I notice someone not having a chance to speak or being put down or being devalued. I will always give support.”
Early on in his career, it became apparent that Ian had a flair for organising and engaging people to get involved. Following a stint in the landscape design team, he moved to Harlow Council to set up their landscape contracts and manage their plant production nursery. He then became involved as a volunteer his local YMCA in North London running children and youth programmes, leading several international camps for young people, working in the US, Bulgaria and Ukraine. He later switched careers and got a job as Children and Youth Services Manager with the YMCA in Brixton. He only spent 19 days in that role before he got a promoted to Programme Executive, running the whole community programme in that area of South London.
Before he knew it he was Deputy CEO of Lambeth YMCA with responsibility for the Housing Department too, which at that time ran the largest refugee and asylum seeker hostel in the country.
“The YMCA gave me opportunities I don’t think I could have got anywhere else. There was me, this boy who used to be a gardener, on the YMCA Board, and their finance committee, able to challenge misconceptions, and fighting my community’s corner, trying to get the best outcome for the children and young people I represented. I always saw it as my role to put them heart into the conversation and debate.”
Ian first came to Milton Keynes in 1999 to work at the MK YMCA. While at Harlow Council Ian had gained a strong sense of being part of a new town and in Brixton, he had found a passion for being involved in the community. When he saw the role at MK YMCA he realised it was a brilliant opportunity to draw on these experiences and to grow something new.
“I love gardening, my first job was as an Apprentice Gardener and I haven’t stopped growing things since. I saw MK YMCA as a gem of something that was starting to grow we went from employing 6 people with a £300,000 turnover to employing 20+ people and a £1.4 million turnover. I see this job as CEO of MK Community Foundation as an opportunity to cultivate and grow the MK community. I aim to nurture and encourage the growth of new community initiatives while supporting our existing wonderfully diverse voluntary and community sector to thrive and flourish.”
Obviously working and volunteering for so long at the YMCA (30 years in total) Ian has a great affiliation for their work and for homeless charities but he also has a passion for minority organisations who work with refugee and people seeking asylum.
“I very much see myself as a person of the world, I’m not English or European, I’m a human. At the YMCA in Brixton, I came across many refugees and people who were seeking asylum. My best memory on duty at Christmas was trying to explain to an Eritrean why I had a paper crown on my head. It was harder than you might think”
Ian’s Greatest Achievement
As well as the top mention of his children, it was heart warming to hear that Ian’s greatest achievements usually involved other people doing well.
“I like to think. I like to change people's minds, expand people's thinking. I get real pleasure when you have been part of somebody’s success. I love it when someone has taken something that I have thought about or said and they have made it far better than I could have ever done. I love being party to that, those moments are my greatest achievements.”
Inspiration - Who is Ian’s Hero?
“When Nelson Mandela was released I was volunteering at Romford YMCA. I made sure every TV was tuned in, everyone in that YMCA saw Mandela walk down that path out of prison. Unbelievable. Some years on I was working in Brixton YMCA when he came to visit and I made sure everyone came, he was someone who stood up to real tyranny, real injustice and became the president that’s really inspiring.”
Positive and Inquisitive
While interviewing Ian we definitely get the feeling he is a positive person. But we wanted to know how his friends would describe him
"Apart from the obvious description of loud, you always hear me before you see me, I think they would say I’m positive and inquisitive; I like to know how things work. I will take something apart and reconstruct it. I do have an attention to detail that can sometimes annoy people but I do try to think of other people first before I call things out. When I do call things out I trust people will know I do it for the right reasons. I am a positive person but I think that is the right way to be. At MK Community Foundations I really want to be a catalyst for making things work together, I want potential partners to get on board. If something doesn’t work the first time let’s learn from it and try again."
Everybody has got a right to play their full part
At Milton Keynes Community Foundation we’re really excited that Ian’s not afraid to put a whole lot of passion into his vision of Milton Keynes. We will leave you with a quote from Our New CEO Ian Revell and hope you’re all ready to take up the challenge.
“I want to create a sense of ownership and belonging, get people loving our city. Everybody has got a right to play their full part. I see this new role as a chance to create space for that to happen all we need now is for people to stand up and get involved”
to be continued…