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True North Advisory Council launches to drive impact across the region

9 min read

True North, Company News

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Northern leaders are set to collaborate using data-led insights to explore where the True North network can be most impactful across four key challenge areas.

The True North Advisory Council brings together leaders that are at the heart of transformative projects and impactful research across the North. It's designed to connect like-minded businesses and other organisations from across the region to collaborate, identify new partnerships and help to scale their impact — leveraging what works locally on a regional-wide level.


The power of collective, grassroots action

True North is a business-led network committed to supporting the future of the North. It brings together purpose-led organisations that are already breaking down barriers and delivering in their own communities, opening up access to the workplace to create employment opportunities for the next generation, driving investment into the region through hubs of innovation and powering sustainable growth. 

The aim is to bring all of this together in one place to widen its impact and reach across the whole region and to demonstrate the power of collaborative, grassroots action as we move towards a more sustainable future. 

Since launching, more than 200 organisations have joined the True North network from all parts of the region — from large corporations, privately owned and owner-managed businesses through to scaling start-ups and social enterprises.


The True North Advisory Council

The True North Advisory Council will be led by Robert White (CEO, Brabners) alongside Prof. Maggie O’Carroll (social entrepreneur and CEO of The Women’s Organisation) and Michael Hayman MBE (co-founder and chair of Seven Hills). 

It's formed of four working groups, each under the supervision of two co-chairs and focused on one key challenge area:

The True North Advisory Council has also partnered with Open Innovations — the not-for-profit open data ecosystem — to help each of the four working groups develop data-led practical solutions that have a tangible impact where it's needed most, facilitating a more targeted approach to the development of initiatives set against measurable objectives.


Thoughts from our Co-Chairs

Prof. Maggie O’Carroll, Co-Chair of the True North Advisory Council, said: “By connecting business leaders across the North, we can drive progress in our region and address the systemic challenges that we face here — such as the continual fragmented policy and implementation approach to economic growth, innovation, investment and inclusion. The aim is to develop new partnerships that help to scale much of the incredible work already taking place across our four focus areas. It’s a privilege to be able to work with the inspiring business leaders on the council to help us achieve our goals through this new and transformational ecosystem.

Robert White, CEO, Brabners, Co-Chair of the True North Advisory Council, said: “We believe that it is the responsibility of businesses to demonstrate they can deliver positive change and purposeful social impact in the places — and with the people — they interact with daily. True North is about bringing together these businesses, business leaders and other organisations who are truly immersed in the communities they serve and understand their needs — and who are committed to working from the ground-up to deliver meaningful change.”


Meet the Advisory Council


Robert White, CEO, Brabners

As CEO, Robert sets the strategic direction of the firm and is responsible for overseeing the performance of the business. He brings a strategic dimension to defining, implementing and pursuing the firm’s development — focusing on long-term sustainable goals and market trends and taking a broader business outlook. Together with Nik White, the firm’s managing partner, Robert has led the development of the firm’s new sense of purpose and ambition — focused on building an environment in which its people can flourish and positioning Brabners as a modern, progressive law firm and brand. The firm is recognised as the Best Law Firm (and the 11th Best Large Company) to Work For in the UK by Best Companies. 

Robert is the driving force behind Brabners’ strategic change programme, which has already delivered seven consecutive years of profitable growth. As the He is passionate about the firm’s independent status and the opportunity it offers to deliver an enhanced experience for colleagues and clients.


Professor Maggie O’Carroll, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Hunter Centre, Strathclyde University, CEO of The Women’s Organisation

Maggie O’Carroll is Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Hunter Centre, Strathclyde University and CEO of The Women’s Organisation — the largest UK women’s economic development social business, trading nationally and providing international research, business support, policy, training, advice and incubation services.


Michael Hayman MBE, Co-founder and Chair, Seven Hills

A Sheffield-born entrepreneur, Michael Hayman is the chair and co-founder of Seven Hills. He is also Chair for the Small Business Charter — the award for the UK’s world-class business schools — and a member of the UK Government’s Help To Grow: Management Advisory Council. He is also Honorary Professor of the Purpose Economy at the University of London and an Honorary Fellow in Entrepreneurship at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School.


People, skills & the future

Laura Cordingley, Chief Operating Officer, Brabners 

Laura is Brabners' Chief Operating Officer. A senior, commercially-driven people leader with around 15 years’ experience, Laura has led and developed HR and People teams and agendas in global organisations including FTSE 250-listed PZ Cussons and Princes Ltd. She holds broad responsibility for ensuring that Brabners operates in a way that delivers strategic objectives that drive purpose-led growth. Laura is accountable for all aspects of the people strategy, aimed at ensuring Brabners attracts, retains, develops and rewards its people in a manner that is aligned with the organisation's plans.


Brendan Moffett, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor, Leeds Trinity University

Brendan Moffett is Associate Pro Vice Chancellor at Leeds Trinity University — an institution with a strong focus on widening participation and addressing key skills gaps in the economy. Brendan has also held a number of senior economic development roles and is a passionate advocate for unlocking the true potential of the North.


Innovation & change

Elizabeth Scott MBE, Executive Director, Turing Innovation Catalyst Manchester

Liz is a long-time tech ecosystem supporter, advisor and advocate. She has supported businesses large and small, nationally and internationally to grow, innovate and evolve for over 20 years. As Director at the newly established Turing Innovation Catalyst Manchester (TIC), Liz is focused on building a new not-for-profit that will catalyse an AI ecosystem across Greater Manchester and use AI to grow careers, businesses and the city’s economy. Over the next two years, TIC will deliver AI accelerators, venture builders, skills programmes and a whole host of events and activities to drive the AI ecosystem forward.


Sam Mabon, Partner, Brabners

Sam is a corporate lawyer with over 25 years’ experience in advising businesses. His clients include international organisations, listed companies, SMEs, entrepreneurs, start-ups and high-net-worth individuals. While the lion’s share of his work is of a transactional nature (acquisition/disposal/fundraising), Sam also spends considerable time advising on the execution of his clients’ strategic aims. 


Sustainable growth 

Faye Durkin, Head of Nature (North), Greengage

Faye is the Head of Nature (North) for Greengage Environmental where she leads the team delivering ecology and natural capital projects. She has a wealth of experience in ecology and sustainable development, particularly across the North West and Yorkshire regions. She is Co-chair of IEMA’s biodiversity and natural capital steering group and former chair and committee member for Women in Property Yorkshire and North East. Faye is also a member of the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority Local Nature Recovery Strategy (SYMCA LNRS) Advisory Panel. In this capacity, she works as part of the team to support the SYMCA Mayor to develop the region’s plan for nature recovery.


Marcus Armstrong, Partner, Practice Group Head - Business Services, Brabners

Marcus is a Partner and Practice Group Head of Brabners Business Services team. He has over two decades of experience as a corporate lawyer and specialises in providing advice on company mergers, acquisitions and disposals, business re-organisations, capital reduction and de-mergers, employee incentive schemes and secured lending. He acts for clients ranging from SMEs and owner-managed businesses to large corporates and has a particular focus on the financial and professional services, healthcare and technology sectors. 


Purpose & social impact

Kris Mackay, Commercial Director and Lead Placemaking Associate, Well North Enterprises CIC

Kris is the Commercial Director and Lead Placemaking Associate for Well North Enterprises CIC. This innovative social enterprise is on a mission to create a ‘360 Degree Society’ that drives a movement of change to put people at the heart of placemaking and creates cultures that learn through doing. Kris led the Well Rotherham pathfinder and is deeply connected to a growing network of Innovation Platforms across the UK. She is committed to tackling systemic health and social inequalities and supporting people and communities to achieve their potential. She does this through deepening existing partnerships and taking the learning and expertise into new communities. 


Edwina Hewson, Partner, Brabners

Edwina Hewson has over 25 years of experience in real estate investment within the Yorkshire region. She joined Brabners in June 2022 as one of the first partners in its new Leeds office. Her focus is on landlord and tenant matters, real estate finance and portfolio management work. She has worked for high street and specialist lenders — both on and off-panel — and has extensive knowledge of the Yorkshire region. 


Get involved

If you’re interested in any of these areas or have an idea that the Advisory Council could explore further, please get in touch at

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