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Delivering impact through cross-sector support

The Royal Air Force Club (The Sovereigns' Room), London, W1J 7PY
Tuesday, 18th June 2024, 2-6pm

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Hosted by:




Agenda item



Registration & networking



Introduction to event

Ren Yi Hooi, Founder & CEO, Lightning Reach



Air Commodore Simon Harper OBE, Director of Grants, Services & Programmes at Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund



John, Lord Bird MBE, Founder, The Big Issue 


Cross sector partners panel + Q&A

Donal Watkin (chair), Chief Executive, Association of Charitable Organisations

Chris Flynn, Director of Housing Needs Lambeth Council 

Steve Baynes, Head of Social Policy & Grant Giving, RBL

Justine Hogg, Tenancy Sustainment Team Manager, PA Housing

Aruna Bhalla, Head of Partnerships & Open Banking, TSB





Lived experience interview

Luke Montague, Military veteran & Lightning Reach user

Lewis Gabrielsen, Business Support and Fundraising Coordinator, Torus Foundation


Breakout room activity

Themed discussions



Sara Weller CBE, Chair, Money and Pensions Service and Non-Executive Director, BT and Virgin Money


Closing remarks, followed by networking

Ren Yi Hooi, Founder & CEO, Lightning Reach

17:00 - 18:00

Networking, drinks and canapes


Key information for the day

Arrival timings 

Registrations and networking will open from 13:30, with sessions starting promptly at 14:15. Please arrive for registration by 2pm if possible to ensure you have time to get seated.


Upon arrival, please go to our registration table where you will receive your name badge. There will be QR code links to the digital agenda available. There will be a cloakroom available.


Dress code 

Smart casual. Please note the following RAF Club rules:

  • Permitted: Polo shirts, smart trousers, smart tailored shorts, untorn jeans and trainers. For ladies, smart sandals and t-shirt style tops are permitted.

  • Not permitted: Rubberised flip-flops, t-shirts, sports attire, hooded tops or overtly branded attire.


Photography & content sharing 


We will be filming and taking photos throughout the day to produce content for our social media and other communications. If you do not wish for your image to be shared, please let us know in advance. 


We would be delighted for you to share pictures from the day on your LinkedIn using #LightningReachEvent.



  • Delegate List 

  • Event feedback survey (will be available after the event)




For any issues on the day, please contact Sean on 07917806484



Sara Weller CBE

Chair, Money and Pensions Service and Non-Executive Director, BT and Virgin Money

Sara Weller CBE is the Chair of Money and Pensions Service, and Non-executive Director of BT Group plc, and Virgin Money plc. She is a former Non-executive Director of Lloyds Banking Group plc and United Utilities plc. As an executive, Sara was Managing Director of Argos for 7 years, and on the plc Board at J Sainsbury. She has also worked in Whitehall as the Lead Non-Executive on two Government Department Boards, DWP and DCLG (now DLUHC)

Lord Bird.jpg

John, Lord Bird

Founder, The Big Issue

John, Lord Bird MBE was born into poverty and brought up in care. His life journey has included spells as a prisoner, artist and printer. Now an activist, publisher and Crossbench member of the House of Lords, Lord Bird is the driving force behind The Big Issue Group, which includes the world's most successful street magazine, The Big Issue and its social investment arm, Big Issue Invest. Lord Bird is a business leader with an outstanding record of using enterprise as a force for social change in dismantling the root causes of poverty; and in Parliament, he focuses on poverty and homelessness prevention.


Steve Baynes

Head of Social Policy & Grant Giving, The Royal British Legion

Steve has worked with RBL for 11 years where he is responsible for the grants department which issues grants to individuals and organisations and designing new ways to meet the social needs of RBLs beneficiaries in changing times. Last year RBL awarded more than £20 Million in grants.  In addition to his work with RBL, Steve is also a trustee of his local Citizens Advice Bureau.


Chris Flynn

Director of Housing Needs, Lambeth Council

Chris Flynn is a seasoned leader with nearly two decades of expertise in the housing sector, specialising in housing and estate portfolio management, property services, and income development. Currently serving as Director of Housing Needs, Chris has successfully led numerous transformation projects, always prioritising the resident experience and needs. His innovative approach has been pivotal in enhancing resident services and satisfaction, ensuring that support mechanisms are continuously improved to meet evolving demands.


Aruna Bhalla

Head of Partnerships & Open Banking, TSB

Aruna is the Head of Partnerships & Open Banking at TSB Bank, where she leads a team of individuals in delivering partnership-led experiences that help customers achieve their financial needs and goals.She has over five years of experience in developing and executing partnerships and open banking strategies for retail banking, with a focus on customer satisfaction and loyalty.  As a SAFe® certified agilist and product owner, Aruna is skilled in designing and launching new features and propositions that leverage open banking APIs and third-party platforms. She is passionate about giving customers access to products and services that they wouldn't typically expect from their bank, such as investments, rewards, and cash management.She is also an active champion for diversity and inclusion across financial services, and a recipient of multiple awards for her academic and professional excellence.


Simon Harper OBE

Director of Grants, Services & Programmes, Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund

Air Commodore Simon Harper joined the Royal Air Force in November 1988, having served over 2 years in the Royal Navy. Commissioned as a Personnel Officer, Simon has undertaken a range of HR roles across many locations in the UK and deployed in Afghanistan. He is a former Trustee of the RAF Benevolent Fund and the RAF Sports Federation. In 2012, Simon assumed command of RAF Halton and graduated from the Royal College of Defence Studies in 2015 having co-authored a paper, ‘The Military Instrument in the 21st Century’, which was published as part of the Churchill 21st Century Leadership Programme. He was promoted to Air Commodore in 2016 and completed appointments as the lead for HR policy and, latterly, RAF ground training policy and strategy. On leaving the RAF, Simon assumed the volunteer reserve position as Regional Air Officer for the South-East of England.


Justine Hogg

Tenancy Sustainment Team Manager, PA Housing

Justine has spent most of her working life in welfare rights, working in local authorities, charities and housing. At various times she has been involved with both awarding grants and identifying sources of funding for customers. In her current role, she took responsibility for the development of an existing support fund, rewriting policy, introducing rigorous application procedures, and recruiting grants and funding officers to manage the fund and assist applicants to the PA fund apply for other funding.


Ren Yi Hooi

Founder & CEO, Lightning Reach

Ren Yi Hooi is the Founder and CEO of Lightning Reach. Passionate about using technology to drive social impact and financial inclusion, she was previously the Product Director at FinTech scaleup Railsr. She also led and worked in international teams supporting financially underserved communities across Asia and Africa. Ren was recognised as one of the WISE100 top women in social enterprise and Women in FinTech Powerlist 2023. She has served as a mentor for the FCA’s recent Financial Inclusion TechSprint and a Senior Visiting Practitioner at the University of York’s Administrative Fairness Lab.


Donal Watkins

Chief Executive, Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO)

Donal is Chief Executive of ACO and responsible for all strategic, governance and operational aspects of ACO, as well as managing relationships between our members and corporate partners. Donal began his career with not for profit organisations in Northern Ireland and the U.S. before moving to the U.K. membership sector. Donal brings extensive experience in the leadership and senior management of membership organisations, with a focus on strategic planning, marketing communication and membership development and retention. He also sits as Trustee of both Mid-Kent MIND and Borden Grammar School.


Lewis Gabrielsen

Business Support and Fundraising Coordinator, Torus Foundation

With a significant portion of his working history in the third sector, Lewis has dedicated most of his professional life to supporting individuals through various roles in information and advice, as well as grant making. In a previous role funded by the British Gas Energy Trust, he worked alongside the author of 'The Good Trust Fund Guide’ to identify funding sources and secure financial support for those in need, mirroring the core purpose of the Lightning Reach portal. In his current role at Torus Foundation, Lewis is supporting the Financial Inclusion team to set-up and deploy the portal, opening up grant opportunities to tenants in over 40,000 properties.


Luke Montague

Military veteran and Lightning Reach user

Luke is a RAF and Army veteran who, alongside his pregnant partner Leanne at the time, were street homeless and relying on food banks to keep above water. After a period of struggling to find support through his local council Luke discovered Lightning Reach and went on to successfully apply for support from our support partners at RBL and RAFBF.

Accessing the venue


A step free access to the Club by wheelchair is via the second entrance on 6 Old Park Lane, W1K 1QW. This entrance is found just around the corner from our main entrance, two doors past the Rose and Crown Pub and is marked “The Royal Air Force Club Accessible Entrance”.


All our floors are accessible by lift and all our function rooms are accessible for wheelchair users with the exception of the Lancaster Room and Battle of Britain Suite on the lower ground floor. There is currently no step free access to the Running Horse Tavern.


Travelling by Public Transport

The Club is centrally located on London’s Piccadilly and is well served by both tube and bus. Bus stops C and D, serving routes 6, 9, 22, N9, N97, 14, 19, 38, N19, N38, are located directly outside of the Club. Hyde Park Corner Tube (5 minutes’ walk) Green Park Tube (10 minutes’ walk) Marble Arch Tube (15 minutes’ walk) London Victoria Tube and Mainline (20 minutes’ walk) are close by.



The Club does not have its own car parking facility, however there are a number of local car parks that can be utilised.


1. Euro Car Parks on Park Lane (Achilles Way, London W1K 1AB) is situated less than 5 minute walk from the Club and outside of the Congestion Zone. RAF Club Members are eligible for a 50% discount when staying overnight. Members can benefit from a 50% discount on parking for 24 hours (or part there of), usually £44.00. Euro Car Parks operates a “no barrier” system, where cars are recorded on entry using cameras. Once parked, Members must visit the manned kiosk before leaving the car park, show proof of either their membership or their reservation and pay in full for their stay, not on departure. Payment on departure will only be accepted if the kiosk is not manned at the time of arrival. The 50% Member discount will be applied at this stage. More information about the car park can be found here 


2. Q-Park (Park Lane, London, W1K 7AN) is an underground car park situated beneath Hyde Park, just a 10 minute walk from the Club and outside of the Congestion Zone. Members can benefit from a 50% discount on parking for 24 hours (or part there of), usually £48.00. 

Discounts can only be redeemed by pre-booking online using the discount code RAFPARKING via the following link:


Congestion Charge Zone

The Club is located within the congestion charging zone. Drivers of vehicles with more than two wheels entering the zone are required to pay the congestion zone charge if they wish to drive in central London between 7.00am to 10.00pm daily (excluding Christmas Day).

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