Thomas Fisher is a founder and Director of CoDeL, working on the Smart Islands project and the Islands Revival blog. He is also a tutor for the Social Enterprise Academy, delivering leadership, coaching, social enterprise and other learning programmes, including for young people. Recently he became a consultant to the Scottish Islands Federation developing learning materials and programmes for an Erasumus + funded project focusing on enterprise for refugees on islands in four European countries. Formerly he was Director of Enterprising Communities at the New Economics Foundation in London.
Thomas Fisher has in fact been engaged with community development all his professional life, across different continents and in a range of roles from local engagement to national and international policy: as social entrepreneur, developing and leading projects and teams, and building organisations, … as trainer, facilitator and tutor, … as mentor and coach, … as researcher, policy advocate and fund raiser.
Thomas worked in India between 1991 and 2002, assisting the Tibetan government-in-exile with development in Tibetan refugee settlements, undertaking extensive research into rural non-farm employment across India, and supporting Indian micro-finance and other development organisations with training, mentoring and organisational development.
As Director for Enterprising Communities at the New Economics Foundation (1996-2002) he led work on community development finance, enterprise and economic inclusion in Britain, Europe and India. The work of his team laid the foundations for community development finance as a sector in Britain, and influenced government policy, including managing the research for the Chancellor’s Social Investment Taskforce (2000).
Since 2003 Thomas has lived on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. He managed the (Scottish) Children’s Parliament‘s group of 20 children from Uist and Barra for three years, and worked with one of Uist’s leading social enterprises, Cothrom, for almost a decade. At Cothrom he engaged in community economic development, including enterprising workshops for young people, supporting community development projects and influencing local economic policy. He set up two mentoring projects for young people, trained community mentors and managed a social audit of Cothrom. He has been involved as a board member of different community groups, and is a Trustee of the Linda Norgrove Foundation.
For the last 10 years he has also been a Tutor for the Social Enterprise Academy, designing and delivering the Academy’s first 12-day ‘Wide Horizons’ enterprise programme, to help disadvantaged young people explore enterprising opportunities, and delivering learning programmes on leadership, coaching, social enterprise, project management, difficult conversations and measuring social impact.
Thomas was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University (1995-96), and has published three books (with Sage, Oxfam and Intermediate Technology), enterprise manuals as well as articles and research reports on local and international development. He was also the editor of a book, The United Kingdom – The United Nations, published by Macmillan. Thomas studied in Britain and the United States, but has learnt even more from colleagues and communities in India, London and the Outer Hebrides.