People behind the Powerhouse: Ilona Alcock

Tell us more about you and Elevate.

I co-founded Elevate in 2020, with my former colleague Katie Robson. We believe that business can, and should, be a force for good, and have built up a network of individuals and organisations who share our values.

We run a wide range of events (from roundtables to large scale conferences), deliver training on public speaking, leadership and Carbon Literacy, make introductions across our network and support wider initiatives to promote the North. We are passionate about inclusion and recently launched Elevate The Conversation to recognise and identify diverse speakers from all sectors.

Outside of Elevate, I am a trustee of animal welfare charity Feathers Together, Senator of JCI (a global not-for profit developing young leaders) and member of the GM Green City Comms Board. I love a good challenge and you’ll often find me running trail marathons or competing in Hyrox!

What makes Greater Manchester special?

The people. Since moving to Greater Manchester in 2015, I have been overwhelmed by the warm, collaborative nature of the people I’ve met. This was particularly evident when we launched Elevate in the middle of a pandemic! We were inundated with messages, offers of support and introductions to more people who wanted to be part of the journey.

We have seen time and time again that the region pulls together in times of need. Whether to fund the Bed For Every Night campaign to combat rough sleeping, or providing free meals to children, or committing to ambitious net zero targets, people genuinely want to make the region better for everyone.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Northern Gamechangers. It’s a new style of awards programme we launched last year to celebrate individuals and businesses making a positive impact in their sector. Rather than a sit down, formal meal, we hosted a massive party with a wandering brass band, no long speeches and a surprise runway show! Instead of trophies we commissioned a local artist to create a canvas and prints for the Top 10.

It was supported by some incredible businesses (including PHA!) who took a leap of faith that we could turn our random idea into an actual programme and event. The ceremony itself coincided with Elevate’s second birthday, making it the perfect marker of how far the business has come.

Where do you find your motivation?

In my morning cup of coffee! Seriously though, it comes from having a clear sense of purpose. We know there are lots of areas where businesses can help to change society for the better and we get a huge sense of reward from playing a part in that movement. We’ve made a concerted effort over the last year or so to include time to celebrate our wins, rather than constantly having an eye on the next project or event.

In your opinion, what’s next for the North?

A revolution! That’s possibly a bit dramatic but I do believe the new devolution model in GM will become the blueprint for other city regions. There has been chronic underinvestment in the North, perhaps most obviously in transport, which has prevented regions achieving their true potential. With more control over funding, we can create new models of education, healthcare and integrated transport systems that actually service the people who live and work here. The Atom Valley development is a brilliant example of multiple local authorities and the private sector working together, across Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, to drive a green industrial revolution, invest in skills and attract businesses to the area.

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