We interview the incredibly inspiring millennial, Michael Harris, manager in PwC’s People & Organisation practice and co-founder of charity and social enterprise, BeyondMe, which empowers professionals to create teams to tackle causes they’re passionate about. Michael and his co-founder, Adam Pike, were recently recognised as Points of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron for their charitable work and for encouraging hundreds of professionals to give a fantastic amount of time and money that is making a real difference to charities around the country.
You’re a pretty impressive and multi-talented millennial. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Ha. What would you like to know? I’m 29. Recently married. Became a chartered accountant with PwC and currently working in a data and analytics team. Maths grad from Manchester. I have a penchant for spoken word poetry and an unhealthy relationship with Cadbury Creme Eggs.
Tell us what the concept is behind BeyondMe. How did the idea for BeyondMe come about?
Put simply, we are trying to encourage our generation of young professionals to be the most generous generation yet. We support the creation of BeyondMe ‘teams’ – groups of young professional peers, supported by a senior leader – who pool their time, money and skills to solve the challenges they feel most passionately about.
My friend, Adam Pike, and I had just joined graduate programmes at Deloitte and PwC respectively. Over a few pints and early morning coffees, we realised we both wanted to find a way that we could have as big an impact as possible, on the things we cared about, with the limited time and resources we had. We took a punt on a concept now called the BeyondMe team as a way to bring together and galvanise the generosity of our peers.
What’s been the most inspiring and the most challenging part of your BeyondMe journey?
Since 2011, we have engaged more than 1,000 professionals across the UK, who have raised £210,000 and pledged 12,000 skilled volunteer hours to the causes they care about. For me, the most inspiring thing is the change we anticipate this will have in the long term. Our members are building meaningful relationships with subject matter experts in the areas they care about, and in some cases, the service users they are seeking to help. In this way we are hoping to change the way our generation gives, by being generous leaders – informed, collaborative and embodying generosity in everything they do.
It’s always challenging to change systems and mindsets. It takes resolve, personal sacrifice, a great team and a belief in the vision you are trying to create!
You have just returned to PwC after a sabbatical as Start Up Director of The Integrate Movement. What is TIM?
TIM is the sister social enterprise of the mental health charity, MAC-UK, and is trying to change the way we support the most excluded young people in our society, those who often have multiple and incredibly complex needs. Through “Streetherapy” workshops, led by young people and clinical mental health experts, we build the capacity of frontline workers, such as school teachers & police officers, to have a therapeutic conversation with, and build the resilience of excluded young people.
I spent just over 15 months getting the organisation on its feet, securing start up finance, developing and testing a product, building a team etc. It was an incredibly fulfilling and challenging period in equal measure, and I learnt a huge amount about the challenges facing the social sector, those on the fringes of our society… and plenty about myself too!
Where does your drive to help others who are less fortunate come from?
There are so many problems facing our people and planet and there is so much suffering in plain sight that is hard to not want to do something to help. I think if there were no hope we would all have given up long ago, but given the ingenuity and kindness that human beings are capable of, there is so much to be done and so little time to wait.
Doing good and giving to those less fortunate than myself was hard-wired into my Jewish education growing up. This undoubtedly had, and in many ways still has, a big effect on me.
Do you think this is a bit of a millennial trait – to want to do something for the greater good and give back?
I don’t think human beings have inherently changed in the last 30 years (!) but I believe Millennials are dealing with a very different set of circumstances than the generations that preceded them, arguably the most different. Whatever the reasons, there are plenty of surveys showing us that Millennials desire a better alignment between their careers and values. At BeyondMe, we want to inspire Millennials and non-Millennials alike that they can do something for the greater good right away and don’t need to wait nor be satisfied with giving back in a way that doesn’t deliver real impact. Above all, we believe that generous leadership is fundamental to solving the problems that face us.
What’s next for Michael Harris?
As my wife Naomi will attest, I’m very bad at making plans! I have tonnes of whacky ideas that I would love to have a play with and in the next 5 years I would hope to have a significant and positive impact on a few issues that are close to my heart.
We’re so inspired. How do we get more involved in all these initiatives?
If you’re hungry to make a meaningful difference but perhaps don’t know how or what to do, BeyondMe is here to help on that journey. We’ll provide you a way to team up with others to donate your time, skills and money to a cause you’re passionate about. A combination that we believe will be meaningful to you and the charity you choose to support.
Sign up at BeyondMe.org and start a team with like-minded people. You can also come along to one of our upcoming Bootcamps. You’ll meet like minded peers, hear from inspiring leaders and learn how to set up a BeyondMe team.