Former Bond Agent Heads Octopus Body

Former Bond Agent Heads Octopus Body

The enthusiasm, determination and power of people living in Plymouth will drive real social change and help transform the city in 2019, believes the new Chief Executive Officer of POP+; the organisation which supports the city’s Voluntary and Community Sector. Matt Bell, takes over the position of CEO from Jacky Clift who retired in 2018 and helped to bring 1,600 very different organisations under the umbrella that is POP+ and was formerly known as the Plymouth Octopus Project.

Last year POP+ helped to bring in nearly £1.5m of external funding to enable either existing projects to carry on their work or to get new ones off-the-ground; projects which support all sorts of people across the whole city, such as, young mums, older people in need of companionship and people with mental health problems. POP+ was also instrumental in the decision last year by one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, to invest a further £1.3m in the voluntary and community sector. As the new CEO, Matt Bell says all this proves that Plymouth can work differently, and better, than other cities and because of that, he believes, there will be more opportunities ahead;

“We’ve witnessed a genuine shift in some of the conversations taking place in Plymouth over the last couple of years about how business should be done,” says Matt. “And what we have experienced is a desire to put ‘people’ at the heart of these conversations instead of the organisation. We’re now seeing individuals and the organisations they represent collaborating for the good of the city and that’s good for all of us.”

Matt Bell has been working in the voluntary and community sector in the south west for the last fifteen years. As someone who has had the responsibility of running both charities and social enterprises, Matt brings practical experience, working knowledge and academic analysis to the post of CEO. Plymouth City Council’s Senior Policy Advisor, Darin Halifax who has known Matt for many years, is looking forward to working with him;

“This is great news for Plymouth,” he says. “Not only is it really clear how passionate Matt is about the city but his appointment as CEO of POP+ comes at a time when Plymouth is getting national recognition for its partnership-working which is making Plymouth a fairer and more caring city for everyone.”

Matt has been the CEO of the charity Shared Lives South West; a programme manager with the South West Academic Health Science Network and an Assistant Community Strategy Officer at Devon County Council. A qualified engineer, his first job was working for an adhesive company analysing the remarkable qualities of glue. He admits that it is still glue that fascinates him, only now it’s the glue that holds communities together; the bonds that tie people and the relative strengths of these relationships;

“Bringing people together,” says Matt, “literally putting them in the same room, which is one of the things we do here at POP+, creates the energy necessary to drive change.”

This, as he explains, is where the dynamics between people, place and community can lead to inspiration and transformation;

“It’s like alchemy: collaboration gives power to people. And there is an exceptional willingness and determination in Plymouth, right now, to do just that.”

POP+ is free to join and offers training, funding and business advice to its members. Networking meetings, open to all, are held every month. The first meeting of 2019 will take place on Thursday the 31st of January from 10.00am until 4.00pm in the Lower Guildhall.