Meet the Board

Trustees,  VOLA Consortium Ltd (May 2015)

  • Damian France (Chair)
  • Greg Coyne
  • Mark Ord
  • Dave Roberts
  • Helen Stephens
  • Angela White OBE
  • Claire Cook
  • Nicky Crosby
  • Jim Brett

Patron: Claire Dove OBE DL, Chief Executive Blackburne House Group


Claire Dove OBE DL

Claire has been a key player in the social enterprise movement since the early 1980s.  She has led the Blackburne House Group since its inception, using her entrepreneurial skills to help the organisation grow into an award winning and extremely successful social business.

One of the leading providers of adult and community education in the country, Blackburne House continues to expand its training remit, supporting women embarking upon education for the first time as well as women and other socially excluded groups looking to broaden their skills and enhance their career prospects in non traditional areas of work.

Over the past 30 years, the Blackburne House Group has successfully established a number of highly acclaimed, award winning social enterprises, whose products and services are sought throughout the country. The businesses continue to support the educational aims of the organisation and provide tangible examples of how new markets can be used to serve local communities and support business development and growth.

Claire also works on a national basis to form policy that supports the rights of individuals to education and training and to promote entrepreneurship and social enterprise opportunities across our many diverse communities.  Claire was one of the three commissioners on the national worklessness panel that produced the Houghton Review.

Claire is Chair of Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), the UK umbrella body for social enterprise, a member of the Alder Hey Hospital Trust and a Board Member for the Charity Commission.  She has recently chaired the Liverpool Fairness Commission on behalf of Liverpool City Council and is currently serving on the Liverpool Mayoral Development Board.

Claire was awarded an MBE for her work in the mid-nineties and has received the OBE in 2013 as well as being given the Queens Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also the recipient of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University, a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts, was voted nationally as an exemplary leader in Regeneration and is Deputy Lieutenant for Merseyside.

Damian France

Damian is Chair of VOLA Consortium having been a member of the previous Partnership Board since 2008.

Damian is passionate about social inclusion and has spent his life working to break down barriers to learning, work and play.

For the past seven years he has worked as a social business management specialist providing advice and support to civil society organisations and social enterprises on strategy and business development, collaborative working, governance, quality assurance and impact measures.

During his early career he built his management skills in the private sector and local government before taking his first senior post in a large charity providing residential care services.

From here he followed an interest in teaching, working in management and community development.  Through this, and his current work, he has been involved in a wide range of creative and innovative social and economic inclusion projects across the North West and advised on similar work nationally.

Professionally qualified as a Company Secretary (ACIS) he also holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

Greg Coyne

Greg is recently retired from Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) where he was senior manager for 16 years, holding a wide variety of responsibilities. He was the senior officer for two WEA regions and had overall responsibility for quality, including Ofsted inspections, in the WEA nationally.

Greg has taught and worked in adult education for 25 years, working in the TUC’s Education Programme for Union Members and Representatives, and teaching at Liverpool Community College and Wirral Metropolitan College.

He also worked at Merseyside Trade Union Community and Unemployed Resource Centre on a number of European funded projects, and establishing a training arm, running an Access to HE course based around community business models.

Throughout his working life, Greg has been active in a range of Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations, in both a professional and a voluntary capacity, and has acted as trustee of a number of charities.

Mark Ord

Mark was born and educated in Liverpool before attending University in Newcastle-Upon Tyne. After a period working as a musician, Mark was needed to support his father’s Scottie Road Newsagent so he returned to Liverpool.

Having first become involved as a volunteer in community learning whilst living in Newcastle, Mark then resumed adult and community learning as a career in Knowsley during the 1980s both in tutorial and community development capacities.

In 1988 Mark joined Speke Training & Education Centre developing a range of new vocational training activities for adults.  In 1995, the charity moved closer to the delivery of programmes linked to Speke Garston’s Regeneration Programme. In that year Mark became Centre Manager / Chief Executive and developed a stream of social enterprise income from managed office space services for charities and small enterprises.

Having served Speke Garston Partnership Board, South Liverpool Partnership and Liverpool Strategic Employment Partnership / Liverpool Economic Growth Partnership, Mark has remained active both in South Liverpool and the wider Merseyside Voluntary Sector. He supports a range of local and city-wide charitable organisations as a Trustee whilst continuing to serve STEC as Chief Executive.

Dave Roberts

Dave has been a Business Manager and Project Manager for most of his working life and ran a successful business before entering the Third Sector 30 years ago.

He is trained as a Graphic Designer & Screen Printer and set up an advertising and signage company. Dave sold the company in 1979 when his first marriage ended. He worked as a freelance Scenic Artist and Prop Maker in various theaters and gained a Further Education Teaching Qualification and worked as a part-time tutor in a collage of FE.

This led to his first job in the Voluntary Sector, with Chester YMCA in 1980, which helped provide young people with the opportunity to develop themselves through training, education and work experience. Dave moved on to employment at Cheshire and Wirral Federation of Youth Clubs, working with Problematic Young People as a Training Manager. This project was taken over by NACRO in 1983 and he became the Manager of the Chester Training Centre working to help rehabilitate young offenders. In 1988 he was promoted to Area Manager for Cheshire.

In 1990 Dave became the Area Manager of NACRO on Merseyside. This projects aims were the promotion skills to unemployed people with an offending background.

In 1996 he set up the Independence Initiative for Sefton Council, providing a one-to­ one program for Recovering Substance Misusers. We provided an opportunity for people with a history of addiction to break with their negative lifestyle and move on to better things. We did this by identifying something that might motivate them and we devise individual opportunities that might help them achieve their goals.

He retired in May 2015.

Dave is Chair of “Choose Life,” A project originally set up inside HMP Liverpool, Walton Prison. This organisation originated as a play written and performed by prisoners that was intended to inform children and young people of the dangers of substance misuse. It has evolved into a social enterprise that sells its services to Schools and other organisations across the North West and North Wales.

In 1994 he was a founder member, and currently Chair, Merseyside Expanding Horizons which is an organisation dedicated to a socially inclusive Merseyside.

Dave is a Board member of Network for Europe, an organisation that helps the voluntary and community sector to access European Funding.

His interest in Social Enterprise was sparked when he began to realise that a reliance on revenue grants was ceasing to be a long-term option and that the trend was towards trading in the marketplace, selling services and delivering outcomes to commissioners of services. Eight years ago he completed an MA in Social Enterprise at JMU and two years ago he was recruited as the Independent Chair of Social Enterprise North West.

Dave is a Board Member of Comtechsa, a community architectural service that provides architectural, environmental and landscaping services to the voluntary sector on an “at risk basis” in the first instance. They provide feasibility studies and outline drawing to aid fundraising. The organisation is then able to offer competitive rates for project managing the new-build & refurbishment of buildings for 3rd Sector organisations.

He is Chair of Tilston Playing Field Association, helping to provide play and sport in the village where he lives.  They bought the playing field from a local landowner after a round of fundraising that involved the whole community. Dave represents independence playing fields (those not owned by the local authority) on Cheshire Playing field Association.

Helen Stephens

After graduating from Buckinghamshire College in 1999, Helen’s early career began in the music industry, coordinating album releases and designing sales flyers.  Helen then returned to Liverpool and worked in the voluntary sector as a play worker at Fun 4 Kidz before joining Sefton CVS in 2006, where she worked as an administrator on the Sefton Voices project for young people, before moving on to VOLA in 2007.

After working as VOLA’s Communications Officer for 4 years, Helen established Sandbox Digital, a digital marketing social enterprise that provides affordable web and graphic design services and social media training to voluntary sector organisations.

Helen also runs regular drop-in IT surgeries in community centres across Sefton.

Having always been a keen supporter of adult and lifelong learning, Helen was the Adult Learners Week coordinator for Merseyside for 3 years and, more recently, for the whole of the North West, leading a consortium of regional partners, and worked with Merseytravel and National Museums Liverpool to deliver Merseyside Adult Learners Week events.

Helen joined VOLA Consortium’s Board in 2013 bringing with her a unique perspective of VOLA: as Director of a consortium member organisation, as delivery partner  and from her experience of previously working in the management team.

Angela White OBE

Awarded an OBE in 2016, Angela has worked in Merseyside as Chief Executive of Sefton CVS for over twenty years, following studies in Lancaster and Manchester obtaining Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Divinity degrees.

She has led CVS through its development and growth as a local infrastructure agency, nationally recognised for development of support services to frontline organisations and developing new and innovative services.

Angela is Vice Chair of Sefton’s Operations Board which brings together the key strategic partners in the borough and other multi-agency initiatives through the work of Sefton CVS locally, within Merseyside and the North West.  These include VOLA Consortium and the Change Up Consortium.

Angela is a Director of Together Liverpool, a new Church Urban Fund/ Diocese of Liverpool inspired initiative and Sefton Foodbank Network. She is also Company Secretary of Sefton CVS.  Angela is the Chair of Church and Society at Liverpool Diocese, a member of Bishop’s Council and Diocesan Synod. She became an Honorary Lay Canon of Liverpool Cathedral in 2004.

Angela is an avid supporter and season ticket holder of Sunderland Athletic Football Club.

Nicky Crosby

Nicky came to Liverpool to do a teaching qualification in 1979.   She started her teaching career in Further Education, and always worked in provision designed for people who wanted a second chance at education – young people who’d left school without qualifications, women who returned to learn after raising families, people who’d come through school but still struggled with basic Maths or English, people for whom English is a second language.

Moving between Further Education Colleges and Local Authority Adult and Community Learning Services,  Nicky taught and led teams delivering second chance, basic skills, maths and teacher training courses over 30 years.    She quickly learnt that the most successful community based education initiatives came through developing partnerships with other public and voluntary sector organisations.  Always believing in a broad curriculum, some of the high points of her career came from taking groups of women and children, often for first time outside Liverpool, to college residential premises in the Lake District.

A lifelong lover of steep learning curves, Nicky, moved into the voluntary sector in 2008, working as Vola’s Quality Coordinator through the first eight years of the consortium.

She retired in 2016 and became a trustee of Vola Consortium in 2018.