OUR PORCUPINE VALUES

What we stand for...

The Porcupine Collective are change-makers with over 90 years' professional experience spanning both the third and private sectors.  We work at the heart of social endeavour making good ideas happen for the most vulnerable members of our society. 


We are not your tried-and tested traditional team who tow the party line. We are risk-takers, game-changers; people who are not afraid to rock the boat if rocking the boat is the right thing to do.


We have high expectations of ourselves and others.  We don't take shortcuts or cut corners. Excellence, not average, is our measure.  


The Porcupine Team are prepared to push through barriers and bottlenecks to deliver ground-breaking new resolutions to critical social dilemmas in Education. 


We are can-do, go-getters who ask tough questions and make courageous decisions to influence meaningful change for the people who need it most.


We value honesty, openness and integrity and work on the foundation of mutual trust, choosing partners who value plainspoken, trustworthy, reliable and dependable professionals who deliver on their promises.

OUR PORCUPINE TEAM

MARTINE COTTER

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FOUNDER

DIRECTOR OF OPPORTUNITY

ABOUT MARTINE

ALISON O'LEARY

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FOUNDER

DIRECTOR OF TALENT

ABOUT ALISON

CHRIS COTTER

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DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

ABOUT CHRIS

JEREMY JACKSON

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ADVISORY MEMBER

ABOUT JEREMY
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OUR PORCUPINE SPIRIT

How did we choose our Porcupine name?

 

The porcupine is a great protector - a ‘warrior for the vulnerable’.  


With his thousands of quills, the porcupine is the preeminent symbol of self-preservation, reminding us that it is okay to be ourselves, and trust that it is safe to be who we truly are.


As a born survivor, the porcupine has everything he needs to protect himself. When life casts him upon turbulent waters, the porcupine’s air-filled quills keep him afloat, meaning that he can survive even the wildest of storms. His stoic calm proves invaluable during times of adversity and stress. 


In some cultures, the porcupine spirit appears when you find yourself at a very important crossroads. He will walk with you in new situations; create new paths and protect your values; particularly when you feel apprehensive and vulnerable. 


He is a guardian through uncertainty, an ally in life and a trusting and protective friend.

 

The porcupine is generally good-natured and has a childlike sense of wonder and curiosity. He represents humility, trust, honesty, joyfulness and kindness. He has the aspiration to move mountains and the bravery to try.


.....


The Porcupine Collective embodies the spirit of the porcupine by harnessing and cultivating natural talent and empowering young people to feel confident in their own unique abilities despite the difficulties they may be enduring.  


At times of uncertainty and vulnerability, we aim to bring clarity and sharp focus, centering on the intrinsic strength within them to 'weather their own storms' and 'stay afloat during turbulent waters' to continue on their own chosen path.  


We believe every young person has the courage and skills to move their own mountains and we aim to champion and guide them all the way.

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When you know your 'WHY', you know your 'how'

Why do we do what we do?

 

Our story is inspired by a brave young 14-year old girl, Jess (not her real name), with high functioning Aspergers who simply did not thrive in the traditional education system. 


Processing difficulties meant that she struggled to cope with exam pressures, even though she was gifted in so many ways. Eventually Jess believed she was a failure and gave up trying. 


Her parents removed Jess from school to continue her education at home. They sought the help of a life coach to rebuild their daughter's confidence and focused on developing her natural talents. As each day passed, Jess maximised her strengths and values, believing in her natural ability, and set achievable goals to move her closer to her ideal career. 


Today, Jess is healthy, happy and highly motivated. She no longer feels a failure and is well on her way to achieving her dream life as a freelance illustrator. 


Jess proved that her potential was always there, within her. She just needed time, patience and some gentle encouragement to bring her natural talents to the fore. 


Which leads us nicely to our own 'why'...


The Porcupine Collective was launched in 2018 for all the 'Jess's' in our education system who, for whatever reason, are struggling to flourish and achieve their full potential.


We believe every young person should be able to stay in school (if that is their choice) and receive the guidance, support and encouragement they need to find their place in this world. 


We seek to discover the natural talents that exist within our society, and maximise the strengths and gifts that are un-measurable by today's league tables. We celebrate all skills and empower young people to strive further, reach higher and dig deeper to secure the future they are worthy, capable and deserving of living. 

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OUR BACK STORY

Where did it all begin?

 

Let us take you back to 1991 and a tiny windowless careers office in an all-girls school in the Southwest of England.  


Two friends were eagerly awaiting a long print-out of possible careers selected by a computer, based on their personal school data. 


Imagine the horror (and hysterics) when the first piece of paper dropped from the noisy printer with only one job  - a tractor driver!  


The other friend did not fair well either - the printer kicked into action again and spat out another job... a sculptor!


The computer was not to know that the first girl was too short to be a tractor driver and the other’s life sculptures were more Morph than Henry Moore!   


These anomalies were not a consideration. Whilst these careers were perfectly acceptable for other young people, they were entirely inappropriate for two girls who had neither the desire or attributes required to do the jobs justice.


Even though the two friends laughed at the bizarre and random answers provided by the computer, and the less-than-wise words of comfort from the Career's Adviser, it could have been a defining moment in their lives.  Over 10-years of learning had culminated in this.  


Thankfully the computer and the Career's Adviser were both wrong.  The two friends both went on to enjoy successful careers in jobs that would have surprised many of the teachers involved in their education at school.


The first became a CEO of a successful charity and went on to win numerous awards before setting up her own consultancy business.


The second went to university and gained an honours degree before embarking on a 20-year career in the Global PR Industry, living and working between London and Paris.


Despite being the best of friends in school, the two girls lost contact for over 18 years, until they discovered each other on social media.


On one Christmas evening in 2009, the two friends agreed to meet and share stories at a local eatery just 500 metres from the school they had once attended together. Neither of them had changed and they both laughed at the memories of their less-than perfect school years.  


They remained in contact for the next few years and watched as each other's life took a significant u-turn.  The first friend began to reflect on her life and started to feel trapped by her consultancy, sad that her dreams of travelling and leaving a meaningful legacy behind appeared to have passed her by.


The second friend also realised that her busy executive job was not really the life she had envisaged.  It was city-based, hectic and stressful - not exactly the ideal career for a quiet introvert with a love of nature.  In an incredible twist, she decided to re-train as a life and career coach and moved to the foot of a remote mountain in Wales.  Whilst training, she introduced her old school pal to a fellow life coach who inspired her to follow her travelling dreams, reminding her that it is never too late to change direction. 


Consequently, the first friend wrapped-up her consultancy business and travelled the world with her family for two-years visiting over 20 countries.   When she returned, it was her old school friend who helped her to re-visit her strengths, values and skills, guiding her closer to the kind of meaningful work she had always dreamed of. 


Then an opportunity to meet again was presented and they jumped at the chance to connect in person.  So, in 2018 the pair booked a place at a vision board workshop in Oxford and rented a small cobbled-together house in Abingdon for a few days.


They engaged in deep and reflective conversations late into the night, sharing their personal thoughts and insights into all manner of topics from politics to education.  It was the topic of education that sparked an animated and passionate debate about their own experiences and that of people they know and love.


With such clarity of thought, they could see the fundamental error of career planning in the UK and why so many young people fail to thrive and achieve meaningful, fulfilled and happy lives DOING WHAT THEY LOVE.


In the early hours of a cold winter's night, the concept of the Porcupine Collective was born.  


Their names are Martine and Alison and the Porcupine Collective is their vision and legacy. 

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ALISON & MARTINE's REUNION 27 YEARS LATER

                                                                Still young at heart!