Graeme is Director of Inclusive Growth at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, where his responsibilities include overseeing the council's work to drive local economic development and improve employment and skills outcomes for local residents. This involves working across the council and with a wide range of local partners and businesses. Previously he was Head of Strategy at Islington Council and Director of Research at the Institute for Public Policy Research. He has also working in Whitehall and the voluntary sector.

Graeme is passionate about the potential of good quality employment to provide people with dignity, purpose and social connections. Long-term unemployment is a human and moral catastrophe. He is inspired by his two gorgeous children. Graeme said, “They inspire me to make the most of life and live it to the full every day - just like they do”.

The best professional/career related advice he has ever received is to work out what you really care about and what really motivates you - and then try to find some way to spend your working life doing as much of that as possible!

Kevin Harris

Kevin is a Director of Development & Project Management (North London) for London & Quadrant (L&Q), a 90,000 home registered provider and residential property developer across London and the regions. With responsibility for £1bn of construction and development activities, he represents L&Q on the Board of a number of Joint Ventures with strategic partners. A Building Surveyor by background and a professional member of the Chartered Management Institute, he has been involved in mixed use mixed tenure schemes, including estate regeneration projects, in London over the course of the past 23 years.


A passionate believer that everyone is entitled to a safe, comfortable and affordable home regardless of circumstance or background. Among his achievements, Kevin played an active role in the delivery of the affordable homes on East Village (the former London 2012 Athletes Village), while delivering Chobham Manor; the first of the Olympic neighbourhoods on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.


He believes that the most precious resource any organisation has is its people. Without them, you have nothing. With this in mind, ensure colleagues are challenged, are given responsibility and are looked after.

Cameron Geddes

Councillor for Barking and Dagenham, and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Social Housing.

David Harley

David is Head of Regeneration at Be First - the regeneration company owned by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and tasked with accelerating growth in the borough.    Prior to this David worked in various regeneration roles in the council for nearly 20 years.  David is a chartered town planner with a masters in Environmental Planning and has delivered dozens of regeneration projects in the borough.  One of David’s proudest achievements was Barking Enterprise Centre from concept through to opening.

Outside of work, David’s main passion is music - buying records and going to gigs. David loves working in regeneration as the results he sees inspires him to do more. During his time at Barking and Dagenham he seen a number of schemes from idea stage to completion - delivering new homes and jobs for people and improving the physical environment.  Something to be really proud of which inspires him further.

When asked what's the best professional/career related advice you've ever received? David said, “It is about being yourself or, as the jargon has it, being 'authentic' - working to your strengths and attributes and recognising your weaknesses but not fighting against your inherent character”.

John Fagan

John has worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (including NatWest) for the past 39 years, 30 of which have been in front line management and customer facing roles. He is currently a Regional Director within Retail Banking. Over the years, John has developed a wide knowledge of the Small Business and the SME market, from the initial start-up stage to fully developed PLC's.

A creative and highly motivated senior business leader with a proven track record of surpassing behavioural and performance objectives across a broad range of disciplines and business segments.

I am passionate about the industry I work within, the people I lead and the customers that I serve.

Outside of the Bank I support the local community as a member of the Barking & Dagenham Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee for over 13 years and have also served as a Committee member/Governor for Barking & Dagenham FE College. In addition, I’m a Mentor for Career Ready UK, a member of Newham Chamber and a Board Member for Barking Enterprise Centre (Community Interest Company).

Finally, I am a local man (born and raised in Forest Gate) and now live just down the road in Gidea Park, Essex. I’m married to Amanda and we have 2 children Matthew (20) & Mia (13) and for my sins, an avid Arsenal fan. 

Peter Cornforth

Peter is Director of Retail for Benson Elliot Capital Management. He is a property investor and developer, currently running a €300m retail and leisure portfolio for leading pan-European private equity fund, Benson Elliot. He studied at the renowned Faculty of Urban and Regional Studies at the University of Reading, holds a degree in Urban Land Management and is a professional member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He has represented the real estate industry as an expert contributor to the Mayor of London’s Night Time Economy commission. His approach to integrating the wider enterprise ecosystem into urban regeneration has been quoted as best practice in the Mayor’s plans for London’s 24-hour economy.

A particular passion for social justice has seen him hold senior non-executive positions in a national learning disability charity, a social housing company and a community mental health provider. And against many friends’ better judgement he’s had an independent record label, recording studio and put on club nights around London.

In the work context, I'm passionate about developing the people I work with. By helping them achieve their life and working ambitions and goals. As in my experience one can lead to the other.

The other mantra I have always worked towards is to look after the people you are privileged to lead well.  Support them, challenge them but always have their best interests at heart and do that authentically as people will know in about 10 seconds if you are genuine or not. Then, they will do a much better job supporting your customers as they feel valued and you have given them a purpose and hey presto, your company moves forward and makes a little money. Simple but a lot of people in leadership miss the point on this one!

In terms of inspirational figures, a bit of an unusual one, but for me it’s Stan Lee, the architect of the now globally renowned Marvel empire (latterly part of Disney). Just think about the vision, drive, ambition & foresight to develop such amazing characters from the world of pulp comics to what they are today. I bet everyone knows whom spider man is - not just my son and daughter! 

The best professional advice would be the ‘10 things that require zero talent’. In no order, this includes being on time, having a work ethic, putting in the effort, positive body language, having energy, positive attitude, being coachable, having passion, doing that bit extra and being prepared.

Community Development winner 2017

Business person of the Year

Karen West-Whylie

Corporate Social Responsibility – Winner

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