Shackleton Leader, Baillie Aaron, does TEDx talk

Shackleton Leader Baillie Aaron, co-founder and Executive Director of Spark Inside, was invited to speak at TEDx event called “unlabelled” in London’s Covent Garden. Baillie spoke on the subject of dropping the label “ex-offender” for people that have spent time in prison.

Spark Inside’s mission is to provide court-involved young people with opportunities for role modelling, inspiration, success, and enrichment through its coaching program. Studies have consistently shown that at-risk young people benefit tremendously from on-going mentorship relationships. The Spark Inside programme is based on empirically-tested best practices and provides adult coaches for youth in custody, commencing during their sentence and extending through to their community re-entry.

Once a thief, always a thief?:

Cause4′s My Antarctic Challenge

The Shackleton Foundation believes everyone has an ‘Antarctic’. ‘My Antarctic’ invites you to take on a personal fear or challenge. We have previously showcased the ‘My Antarctic’ challenges of our Trustees, Matthew (nude modelling) and Karen (spending a night on the streets), and our Ambassador Anton Oliver (performing with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra). Cause4 was the first company to take on a team challenge.

IMG_0346Armed with a picture of Shackleton and a map, the Cause4 team donned their walking boots to raise money for the Shackleton Foundation. The Cause4 ‘My Antarctic’ challenge was to complete Shackleton’s mission to the South Pole. The team started at the Shackleton statue at the Royal Geographical Society and finished at the ‘South Pole’ on the Great Map at the National Maritime Museum, stopping off at Burberry, Fortnum and Masons, and the Whisky Exchange along the way to ‘pick up’ his supplies.

The challenge provided a great opportunity for teambuilding, and for putting into practice Shackleton’s refusal to leave a team member behind. The team found that the importance of strong leadership really shone through when discussing the best way to navigate the way to each location. By working as a team on a fun activity outside of the office, different skills came to the forefront and the team bonded in a greater way than we would have done in the workplace.

Here’s what the team had to say about the challenge:IMG_0366

This was a really fun and interactive way to learn about Shackleton and the relevance his experience still has for the modern today – for example how important it is to have someone to take charge and provide leadership, and how much better it is when everyone sticks together to make sure no one gets left behind.’ – Zoe Dean, Development Coordinator.

I really enjoyed seeing bits of London I’ve never been to, as well as spending time with the rest of the Cause4 team (important since I’m relatively new to the organisation) and most importantly finding out more about Shackleton and what he did.’ – Katrina Black, Project Coordinator – Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme.

IMG_0361I learnt about Shackleton’s team spirit when the team didn’t abandon me when I was slowing them down!’ – Isabel Richards, Associate.

It was fun to be out of the office with the team for the day.’ – Sam Davis, Development Coordinator.

You can find out some more information about the Cause4 team challenge, and donate to their challenge here.

If you want to find out more about bespoke challenges for your company, please contact

Anton Oliver’s ‘My Antarctic’ Challenge

The Shackleton Foundation is very proud of Anton Oliver, our first Ambassador to take on a ‘My Antarctic‘ challenge.

The Shackleton Foundation believes everyone has an ‘Antarctic’. This is a personal challenge you have, something that maybe scares you, but a challenge you would also secretly love to conquer.

Anton Oliver is the former captain of the All Blacks, the New Zealand rugby union team. Although used to being in front of large audiences on the rugby pitch, the idea of a musical performance was well outside of his comfort zone. So, for his ‘My Antarctic’ challenge Anton travelled to New Zealand to perform the story of Peter and the Wolf alongside the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Here is his experience:

Anton rehearsal“So I knew I was really in the brown stuff after my first rehearsal.  Unable to read sheet music I had learnt the score that was sent to me in London so I could at least be ‘off book’ when I got to NZ. Half way through our first rehearsal (only one of two scheduled) the conductor stopped and we compared scores – turns out I had a different score to everyone else and the words that I had learned were mostly out of sync with the orchestra and I’d have to relearn a whole new script.


I had one rehearsal and a free day to get myself somewhere near a level of credibility; a level that meant I wouldn’t be humiliated and laughed at, which was my own ‘Antarctic’ experience: humiliation and fear in front of thousands of people – nowhere to hide, no team to hide behind, just hoards of people laughing at me, out of my depth, looking like a fool.

Fast forward two days and now I’m standing in front of 4000 people, in New Zealand’s premier orchestral venue, being recorded by Radio NZ (our version of the BBC) initially performing the role of MC: introducing the orchestra, conductor, explaining the evening’s structure then retiring to my own room before it was my turn to get back out there and narrate Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’.Anton and Orchestra

Backstage, alone in my room, I turned the light off and lay down on the floor. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I began to contemplate what the hell I was doing here and why was I so foolish as to agree to do such a stupid blo*dy thing  in the first place: I’m no actor, I’m not a performer, I have cauliflower ears and like red meat – what was I thinking?! Moron!

Fear, genuine fear, is truly an awful emotion to experience – if you’ve ever felt it you’ll know what I’m talking about.

My body was betraying whatever mind tricks I was attempting to deploy on myself: ‘ You’ll be fine Anton (no I won’t)’, ‘You’ve prepared well (I hadn’t), ‘You’ve spoken to thousands of people before (not like this)’. These tricks didn’t stack up with the mysterious nervous foot tapping I’d suddenly developed, the generous flow of sweat that was trickling down my back, and the persistently dry mouth that I constantly had no matter how many sips of water I consumed.

And then it was time.

Anton on stageI stood in the shadows backstage – not too dissimilar to the precious moments in the tunnel before I used to run out on the pitch for the All Blacks – along and lost in my thoughts.

In time I got better. In time, as the tour progressed, the nerves dissipated. In time I actually got to the point where I enjoyed pretending to be a bird, a duck, a wolf etc. But it took time and it wasn’t something I necessarily had fun doing or enjoyed in the moment. Rather, I can look back upon my choice to step outside of my comfort zone and enter the realm of severe perceived personal risk with pride –for it is only in this space, where a perceived fear is real and confronted, that true personal growth is experienced and importantly, enjoyed.”

The Shackleton Foundation would like to say a massive thank you to Anton Oliver for being such a fantastic ambassador! You can donate to Anton’s fantastic challenge online.


Shackleton leader, Lee Healey, launches free online budget planner

The Shackleton Foundation awarded Lee Healey with the Leadership award for his project, IncomeMAX. Lee Healey, a welfare benefits expert with many years’ experience in the welfare rights advice sector. IncomeMAX is a Community Interest Company and Social Enterprise that supports people in making sense of their benefits and tax credits entitlement. Its services help people to maximise income, move into work, minimise energy & water bill expenditure, maintain social wellbeing and find the right debt advice.

IncomeMAX have just launched the fantastic, MY IncomeMAX planner. MY IncomeMAX is a free, online budget planner help with the better management of personal finances.

The MY IncomeMAX planner is simple to use, fully customisable and 100% confidential.

MY IncomeMAX planner

Baillie Aaron and Daniel Marshall receive major funding

The Shackleton Foundation is delighted that recipients of the Shackleton Leadership award, Baillie Aaron and Daniel Marshall from Spark Inside, have recently been awarded three major grants totalling £60,000 from the Big Lottery, UnLtd and Esmee Fairbairn Foundations. This funding enables Spark Inside to provide more coaching and support to young offenders who really need it.

‘My Antarctic’ Challenge: Sleeping Out! Part 3

Part 1 of this blog series documented the preparation Karen, Shackleton Foundation trustee, underwent when embarking on her ‘My Antarctic’ challenge of sleeping on the streets for the night. Part 2 looked at her experience pre-midnight. It’s now time to look at what happens whilst most of London sleeps!

Confessions of a totally unprepared brat: post-midnight

It is noticeably quieter now.  It is eerily dark.  We head towards a bench which is not near any trees and we try and settle in for the night.  Perhaps we should unfold a couple of deckchairs and sleep in those and we don’t even have to pay for the privilege!  What rebels!!  We delight in finding a bench ‘a deux’.

Cassandra makes herself at home by taking off her shoes.

Cassandra makes herself at home by taking off her shoes.

We then notice a police car driving in circles across the carefully manicured lawns of the park. Slowly the car approaches us and a police officer greets us politely asking us what we are up to.  As I explained what we were doing there, I had to give the policemen 100% for effort, remaining patient and not saying what they were actually thinking, which was ‘toff-nosed’, ‘idiots’, ‘ridiculous’, WTF, WTF, WTF’, ‘foolish’ etc.  From their perspective, all they could see was 2 ill-prepared females trying to play at being homeless.  They directed us to a ‘safer’ area where there was a permanent police unit and they carried on with their erratic driving, which we worked out, was to try and chase off those who were sleeping on the grass away from the pathways.  As Cassandra and I trudged over, we decided against staying there and decided to head to Victoria Station.

It was 0240 and there was a queue outside Victoria.  Many with luggage.  Here, we spotted a few more homeless people.  One guy even had his shoes off.  Cassandra was very proud that she really is ‘method’.  Although our happiness rating at this stage had settled at a numb 3-4 (we were not unhappy, just tired and a bit frustrated being thrown off our ‘turf’), we still managed to find Victoria Station quite entertaining.

Victoria Station, 2.45 am

Victoria Station, 2.45 am

The gates opened at 0245.  There was a very glamorously dressed woman with a 2 baby pram.  Both her children were fast asleep.  What was she doing there?  Almost every weirdo under the sun decided that Cassandra and I needed entertaining.  As we sat on some uncomfortable benches observing Pedantic Station Master 1 authoritatively command instructions to all visitors, whilst trainee Station Master (not quite of Pedant status yet) tried to conduct his menial tasks; all sorts came to join Cassandra and I on our bench.  The man with the jiggly legs, the preacher, the glamorous lady with the children, banjo man and some other randoms.  The cleaner man on his machine was insistent that he be allowed to do his job by making Cassandra and I get up from our bench.  Cassandra and I completed a crossword  and we just sat and watched.

At 0410, we had spotted a total of 17 homeless people so far.  Most of these who were in Victoria station were thrown out by Pedantic Station Master 1 – we guess it’s because they looked homeless. We were both very, very tired.

At 0510, Cassandra and I headed back to St James’ Park to watch the sun rise.  But there are no photos because we missed it.  Duh!!  It was a very cloudy morning.  Seriously??  After all that!!  Total number of homeless people spotted?  36.  Not as many as we thought, but still 36 more than should be out there.

We both sat down and had a think about our evening.  We definitely had more questions now that we had completed the evening.  We agreed that the homeless themselves seem relatively harmless but we acknowledged that there are dangerous people out there, some of whom may be homeless.  The police are very aware of two females running around and are keen to keep us safe.  Rightly or wrongly, they seem very jaded by the homeless and arguably see ‘them’ all as some kind of ‘criminal’.

my antarctic

It must be hard to ‘move on’ if you already have an issue that drove you to be homeless in the first place, compounded by an incessant lack of sleep, lack of clean anything and a decent meal.  There is no escaping this life, day or night, cold or warm, wet or dry.  The spiral only seems to worsen with time.  We wondered if at any stage, do they experience any fun at all?  Do they have any friends and family? Did they have jobs etc before?

In conclusion, Cassandra and I are so glad we briefly experienced what it was like to be homeless for a night.  We both acknowledge that this would have been more of a challenge at a different time of year and for longer.  However, the aim of this challenge was to take on my ‘Antarctic’ – my fear of being homeless.

What’s Your Antarctic?

Find out how you can get involved, and take on your own ‘Antartic’.

‘My Antarctic’ Challenge: Sleeping Out! Part 2

‘My Antarctic’ Challenge: Sleeping Out! Part 1 documented the preparation Karen, Shackleton Foundation trustee, underwent when embarking on her ‘My Antarctic’ challenge of sleeping on the streets for the night. It’s now time to look at the actual challenge itself!

Confessions of a totally unprepared brat: pre-midnight experience

It’s 1945 and we leave Cassandra’s flat and head out into the street.  We walk past some diners sitting outside enjoying a very delicious and relaxed dinner and we feel kind of ‘scuzzy’ in our gear.

cardboard boxes

We get overly excited as we spot a pile of cardboard boxes.

We decided to head towards St James’ Park for the start of the evening.  Acclimatise, sit on the park bench, chew over the proverbial fat.  We quickly tucked into the chocolate and watched the world go by.  It was really quite lovely not having an agenda.  We listened more, saw and noticed more and generally enjoyed the moment.   Cassandra took some fantastic photos of what we saw.  We wondered if the homeless would have similar experiences or is this a luxury?  We also wondered, what do they do – in the daytime?  At night?  Where do they go?  Do they hang out in groups?  Are there turfs?

We quickly reviewed our ‘happiness’ levels and we were both at 8/9 out of 10.

At about 2230 we decided to get up off our proverbial and head for the London Eye.  We walked past a fellow entertainer, getting ready for his slumber time by caterwauling himself to sleep.  The colour of the sky was glorious.  The sounds were much more noticeable, as were the smells – both lovely and not so lovely….  We walked past The Foreign Office and the Treasury.  For the first time, we noticed many details which we might not, had it been the daytime and busy.  Of note, was a whole row of prams outside the Foreign Office – Mr Hague, do you have something to tell us??  We spot 1 police car.

I sang and danced for Cassandra, and I hazard that if she had a bottle full of yellow liquid, she would have thrown it at me.

I sang and danced for Cassandra, and I hazard that if she had a bottle full of yellow liquid, she would have thrown it at me.

At 2300, Trafalgar Square was still quite busy.  Cassandra’s happiness level was at a strong 8/10.  I guess mine was a 7/10.  By the time we reached the Royal Festival Hall, the lights on The Eye had been turned off, or had they?  They kept coming on and off throughout the night.  Cassandra and I decided to lie on some benches and observe some people.  There was even a jogger going about his business of getting fit at this hour.  There were many skate boarders practising their moves.  One guy was working on something on his computer and a couple of other people were finishing off their drinks and ‘partaking in the sacred herb’.

The not so gentle sounds of trains rolling into Charing Cross interrupted the general chattering noises at regular intervals.  Up till this point, we had only encountered 3 homeless people.  We wondered where they all were.  By this stage, Cassandra and I were fast running out of steam and good cheer.  I was terribly sleepy (nothing to do with the copious amounts of wine from the night before) and I dosed off for about 10 minutes.  The ever watchful and vigilant Cassandra was not quite as lackadaisical.

We did think that the Royal Festival Hall was very welcoming though with signs like this.

We did think that the Royal Festival Hall was very welcoming though with signs like this.

We wondered about how difficult it was for us to sleep, worrying about what may or may not happen.  Imagine what is must be like, day in, day out, especially in worse weather conditions.  Cassandra and I decided to pack up and leave the hustle and bustle for St James’ Park again.  We chose it because it is not locked up at night.  As we dragged our feet that way, we barely noticed any more homeless people.  Where are they?  Our count up till this point is about 11.

Our Second Trustee to Take on a ‘My Antarctic’ Challenge: Sleeping Out! Part 1

2014 marks the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famed trans-Antarctic Endurance mission. The Shackleton Foundation is celebrating Shackleton’s legacy of endurance and leadership by running the ‘My Antarctic’ campaign, encouraging people to take on their own ‘Antarctic’ challenge. This is a personal challenge you have, something that maybe scares you, but a challenge you would also secretly love to conquer.

I have previously written about the first of the Shackleton Foundation’s trustees to take on a ‘My Antarctic’ by modelling naked for life drawing classes. The second of our trustees to step up to the plate is Karen, who roped in her friend Cassandra for company on her ‘My Antarctic’ challenge: sleeping out. Karen wrote a diary of her experience.

Confessions of a totally unprepared brat: Preparation

Since committing to this venture, people have asked me lots of questions and comments like:

Shall I bring my sister’s very fierce and scary dog to protect us?

Shall I bring my sister’s very fierce and scary dog to protect us?

What are you bringing?  Why on earth are you doing this?  Have you prepared emergency numbers?  Are you a f***ing idiot?  Why not do a week – one night is pathetic!  I hope it rains.  Don’t you think you will make more of an impact on the topic in February?  Who is the Shackleton Foundation?  Why them?  Is it a homeless charity?  Are you not being disrespectful to the homeless?

Others have been more helpful, like:

Don’t wear your Jimmy Choos!  There are 24 hour loos at…  I’ve seen some good benches in…..  Good for you!  Great cause, great charity!  There is a huge pile of cardboard boxes outside…

The reality is that I have not really thought much about it till this morning.  Call it denial, call it avoidance…  As this is the morning of, suddenly all sorts of thoughts are running through my head.  Is this just like staying out all night, as I observed partygoers swaying home at 6.45 this morning?

And what shoes shall I wear?

And what shoes shall I wear?

Then I face a sharp reminder, as I see this one man, lying outside the tube station, sleeping under a mountain of dirty clothes, on some cardboard, clinging on to his pillow artfully plumped up with a melange of Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and other rainbow coloured plastic bags.  This is the same man I see every day.  I wonder why there, why is he alone?  Why is he there at all?  Is his pillow comfortable?  Is he hot?  Is he cold?  Further up the road, I get very excited as I see something very appealing.  A whole pile of flattened cardboard boxes.  Yay!!!!!  However, my jubilation doesn’t last long as I note that most of them were soaked in last night’s rain. ‘Damn it, I can’t use those now!’  I sincerely hope that it stops raining in time for tonight…..

I have packed 2 jumpers, a waterproof jacket, 2 bin bags, a hat, a pair of gloves, some tissues and 2 plastic bags.  I also have some chocolate with me and a bottle of water.  I opted for the old pair of trainers!

I have packed 2 jumpers, a waterproof jacket, 2 bin bags, a hat, a pair of gloves, some tissues and 2 plastic bags. I also have some chocolate with me and a bottle of water. I opted for the old pair of trainers!

The thing is, I am very conscious of not looking like I am mocking those who are homeless but the reality is that I won’t know what it is like until I get out there this evening.  I don’t know what they are thinking or feeling or why they are there.  They certainly don’t have the luxury of worrying about the things that I am concerned about because many don’t have the choice.  So until then, I guess, it’s a big fat, who knows?? I sincerely hope that Cassandra is a lot better prepared than I am!!!!!

At 1830, I’m at Cassandra’s flat.  I am all dressed in black (because black is the ‘new black’) .  I’m ready and raring to go.

Should Cassandra just wear her sleeping bag??

Should Cassandra just wear her sleeping bag??

Cassandra is fussing about finding her socks.  She tells me she is feeling happy and apprehensive but excited.  Things could go a bit wonky.  Oh yes….!  But of greatest concern is that it will be cold and wet.

Best pack her beloved poncho.  She goes all ‘method’ and stuffs everything into a big plastic bag.  Given that it is a Timpson bag, I wonder if she has delusions of grandeur, homeless style with her need for dry cleaning her wares…

We both take a moment to appreciate sitting indoors, in a lovely clean flat.  We wonder what we will be doing in 4 hours’ time.

Find out how you can get involved, and take on your own ‘Antartic’.

See how much Karen has raised, or make a donation.


Matthew Beardmore-Gray faces his ‘Antarctic’: modelling for life drawing classes (picture included!)

“For scientific leadership, give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems to be no way out, get on your knees and pray for Shackleton.”Sir Raymond Priestley

“Not a life lost and we have been through Hell.”Sir Ernest Shackleton

When the Endurance expedition got stuck in the ice, Shackleton demonstrated incredible leadership in succeeding in the seemingly impossible task of getting each and every member of his crew home safely. It is these leadership qualities that the Shackleton Foundation seeks in those awarded funding: inspirational leaders striving to make a difference to the less advantaged. A number of Leaders received a grant from the Shackleton Foundation, and we want to find more fantastic social projects to award seed-funding.

2014 marks the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famed trans-Antarctic Endurance mission. The Shackleton Foundation is celebrating Shackleton’s legacy of endurance and leadership by running the ‘My Antarctic’ campaign. The campaign aims to raise the profile of and fundraise for the Foundation’s work with leaders and social entrepreneurs who are making a difference to the lives of people in need and to local communities.

In order to fundraise our fantastic trustees are taking on their own ‘Antarctic’ challenge. The Shackleton Foundation believes everyone has an ‘Antarctic’. This is a personal challenge you have, something that maybe scares you, but a challenge you would also secretly love to conquer.

The first of our trustees to step up to the plate was Matthew Beardmore-Gray, whose great great uncle, William Beardmore, employed Shackleton at his Glasgow Shipyards and was one of the major sponsors for the Nimrod expedition. The Beardmore Glacier was named in his honour. Matthew took on the very daunting task of posing nude for a life drawing class!

A drawing of Matthew from his ‘My Antarctic’ challenge

1. Why did you choose posing for a life drawing class as ‘your Antarctic’?

Last year I had major problems with one of my legs involving two operations and six months on crutches including a six week period confined to bed. Whilst I have recovered a physical challenge was not appropriate!  I sat down and analysed three of my greatest fears:

  • Nude Modelling
  • Snake handling
  • Being buried Alive

I phoned several Zoos but in today’s environment no-one was willing to offer a snake opportunity. Being buried alive for half an hour was just “too much” for me – I was just not prepared to do this. So that left Life Classes; even that wasn’t easy. They all said no saying they needed professional models who could devote up to 2 weeks. Fortunately I was introduced to Spirited Bodies run by Esther Bunting.

2. Did you do any preparation, and how did you feel leading up to the challenge?

My preparation was meticulous. All excess Nasal hair was removed, toenails clipped and a “lite” Brazilian endured.

Most important were two large glasses of the replica Shackleton Whisky which I had purchased earlier in the year.

3. What were your thoughts during the challenge?

The session lasted for two hours. There were 8 of us and 2-3 of us would form a “tableau” for a 15 min pose with the others drawing & then the roles would be reversed. I ended up doing about 4 different poses.

My thoughts – 15 minutes is a bloody long time!!  Absolutely exhausted at the end of it.

4. Now you have completed the challenge, how do you feel? Would you do it again?

It sounds a bit pathetic but I do feel a bit chuffed about it.

I have signed up for another workshop in August. My main interest is to improve my drawing skills because I discovered I could only do “Bottoms” so I am looking to extend my range .

Let’s keep it in perspective with all the horrible things that are happening in the World taking your Kit off for 2 hours should not be that hard

Now Then Where did I leave that whisky …………………..

Find out how you can get involved, and take on your own ‘Antartic’.


Dr R Kabaliswaran, Management Professor, NYU Stern Business School on Shackleton

When I designed and rolled out a capstone course on leadership in the NYU Stern MBA program, I made sure I included a case on Ernest Shackleton. Several years later, I still use his story as the first of several biographical case studies on great leadership in my course.

Great leaders, I learnt from my research, follow the parameters of what I call the Triple “E” Kabi Leadership Paradigm: they envision; they energize; and they execute.

I notice that the triple parameters that make up the act of leadership are precisely and simultaneously calibrated in the case of more effective leaders.  Shackleton is a fine example of the three leadership parameters working together in balletic precision. He knew, after Browning, that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. This explains the audacity of his initial vision to conquer the Antarctic. He also knew, after Napoleon, that an army marches on its stomach. That’s why he chose to retreat as he wrote in his journal: Death lay ahead. Food lay behind. That’s a true hallmark of great leaders. They push their followers but not beyond the point of no return. They don’t confuse leadership with martyrdom. They understand that leadership is a not a person but a phenomenon wherein the leader and the followers discover their mutual dependence and shape their collective fate. They understand the symbiosis.


Shackleton, like all great leaders, was so tuned not just to his internal environment of machine, men and their many moods but also to the external environment of the fickle and ferocious Antarctic. And he adapted his vision to align with those forces.  That’s why he changed his original vision of reaching Antarctic ahead first to one of traversing it first, and still later, to one of surviving the ordeal and returning home with not a life lost. Yes, there is a fourth E. Great leaders know when to exit!

I see Shackleton audacious enough to dare, tenacious enough to persist, but realistic enough to adapt. He tweaks his vision to align with what is possible. His story is one of heroic failure rather than plebian success. The very sweep and scope of the failure makes his story a stirring tale of leadership.

Shackleton’s story is a great lesson on how to envision, energize, and execute, and when to exit and realign the vision. The story is a hundred years old, but its wisdom, fresh as the day.