To empower, inform and inspire people in Oxfordshire to get involved in looking after their environment, building community, supporting the local High Street and independent local businesses and local charities.
We believe in the power of connectivity… to create opportunities, accelerate progress, spark ideas, and enrich our lives. We also believe that social change needs to become an integral part of our business and personal spheres if we are to improve our lives, our communities and the world as a whole.
Our vision is to create a powerful platform for local people, entrepreneurs, charities and social change organisations to come together to collaborate, support, inspire each other in order to grow their businesses, enhance their own lives and make a positive impact locally and internationally.
What We Do
We have put on over 800 business networking events over the past decade with quality speakers with the remit to inspire and educate our business community. We aim to continue with these events in 2022. If you would like to host an Oxfordshire Project event then we would like to hear from you.
Our community is made up of business owners who share our 5 core values: inspire, educate, support, collaborate and contribute. Our members have a giver’s ethos, one that will drive them to ask ‘how can I help’ rather than ‘what’s in it for me’. As an organisation we intentionally nurture a win-win-win culture. As a result, the atmosphere at our events and interactions between members is friendly, uplifting and collaborative as opposed to competitive.
We aim to inspire, empower and inform people in Oxfordshire to get involved in looking after their environment, building strong communities and support their local High Street, independent local businesses and local charities.
The Oxfordshire Project was founded by Ben Molyneux in 2012 with the aim of educating and inspiring entrepreneurs and working with them to support their local community as well as vulnerable people overseas.
The Oxfordshire Project, known affectionately by its community as TOP has worked with thousands of local small business owners, larger businesses, local charities, social enterprises and local councils by putting on over 800 business networking events and offering expertise to its members through business coaching, consultancy and introductions.
Ben has always looked to create a win - win spirit of collaboration within the business community, leading the way locally in the networking arena by promoting community engagement, ethical business practice and support for keeping trade local.
In 2018 he co-founded Mahwe to run alongside TOP. Mahwe is a community for people with an interest in personal development, spiritual growth and for people looking to do the inner work on themselves to come together and learn and find inspiration.
Now The Oxfordshire Project looks to shine a bright light for others to follow as we move forward into a new era of change, where radical action is required, putting people ahead of profit, our environment ahead of endless growth and nature ahead of further development.
We believe that humanity needs to be lead by the wise.
Across the world we have all the knowhow at our fingertips to change the way we live and bring an end to poverty, corruption and the destruction of our planet; yet the self-interest of those in power and those that fund them, the mass media and big business blocks our rightful path to our freedom from poverty, stunts our spiritual growth and stops us from making the reforms needed for our generation and those of the future generations to come.
We hope that people will take responsibility for themselves, their families and the wider community and not think that they alone cannot make a difference, as the first step to creating the world we need begins within ourselves.
Our experiences, personality, beliefs, family, education, community and peers shape our views of the world. I feel it is important to share who I am so you can gauge my influences and see the world through my eyes. I will start by sharing a little of my life to help you understand what has shaped my view of the world.
I was born in the early 1970’s, the younger of two children born to working class white parents. My father a bricklayer and mother a retail shop assistant. We lived in Oxford in the United Kingdom. My first home was a small flat on Divinity Road in Cowley and we soon moved to a council estate in Cutterslowe on the outskirts of a wealthy suburb to Oxford, Summertown.
My father comes from a down to earth family, his father, a factory worker at British Leyland, building cars and a lifelong football supporter of Oxford United; he drew cartoons of people and then gifted them to his subjects. One of his drawings ended up in the dressing room of his football club. He had a wicked sense of humour that would drive my grandmother crazy. She was the salt of the earth, from Leyland in Lancashire. She was a very loving and warm hearted woman who I was very close with. She did various jobs but I remember her as a cleaner. My father and his father had very different politics, my grandfather a keen supporter of the Labour Party and my father, who prospered under the Tories in the 1980’s was a keen supporter of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party and the two of them would argue over politics.
My mother had lost her mother in her teenage years through cancer and this had shaped her childhood. Her father, Geoffrey Bradburn, was a very interesting and intelligent man, serving in the Royal Navy during the World War II and becoming a prisoner of war by the Italians. When Italy swapped sides he became an Italian interpreter in the British Navy. After the war he had a successful career as a scientist as well as being a magistrate and a local councillor for both the Labour Party and the Liberal Party, he spent time as the Mayor of Wallingford in Oxfordshire and was also a keen painter. A road in the town was named after him.
My two grandparents could not have been more opposite and I loved them both dearly. I took my love for art and politics from one and my passion for Oxford United from the other!
My parents worked hard and took on foreign students to live with us to help make ends meet. I remember during some periods all four of us sharing one bedroom as the other 2 bedrooms in the house were used for our students.
My parents took advantage when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government gave people the option to buy their council homes, which with my father’s skills as a builder meant that with an extension they were able to sell their house and buy another, which was in need of renovation, a property in a much sort after area in North Oxford.
This led to a major change in how we saw ourselves, the identity of the family. Cutterslowe at the time felt rundown; it was famous for having a wall segregating the richer homes from the poorer ones, although this had been taken down a few years before we had arrived on the scene.
I went to Cutterslowe First School and struggled, I have memories of having learning difficulties and frequent fights in the playground. There were happier times that followed at Summertown Middle School as I got to grips with what I believe was mild dyslexia, something that was never picked up through my school years.
My secondary school was Cherwell in Oxford, where we were divided on a test into a top set and bottom set at the age of 13, from here despite being fairly good at maths and other subjects, because of my undeveloped skills in writing I was unable to learn what was needed to aim for the higher grades. Something that I was disappointed with and I feel hindered my chances of any academic success. At 16 I was happy to leave my education behind me and entered the work place.
I remember going back to Cherwell with my first published novel; it was a wonderful experience as I read extracts from my book. I had a great sense of pride and achievement.
My childhood had been a happy one; I was loved and supported by my parents. I had an older brother who I was proud of, he was one of the popular kids at school and in many ways he is very different from me, he is much more of a rebel and we could fight like cat and dog. I had good friends and from the age of 16 I entered into a long relationship with Claire that would last 7 years. Claire kept me out of trouble and I am grateful to her for those years we spent together. Her parents also played a positive role in my life, especially her father who was an entrepreneur and took an interest in my life.
My career has been rather unorthodox, I suspect because being dyslexic I have an uncommon way of navigating my path through the system. Dyslexic people are known to be good at thinking outside of the box and can be great problem solvers. It is one of our strengths and one I am glad to have. I have also always had a great passion for challenge, whether I’m challenging myself or common beliefs or ways of being! This explains in part why I have undertaken to write this book.
After leaving school I worked in a High Street bank for 3 years, after which time I could see that a banking career didn’t feel a good fit for my creativity and sense of adventure. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew it wasn’t that! The job had been excellent for me; I had gained experience, confidence and made some new lifelong friends. I left with a spring in my step with all the vigour of youth and without a fear for the future, I was ready for adventure.
My career settled with photography and after a year in a national portrait studio where I received an award for my accomplishments as rookie of the year, I felt ready to set off with a friend and so between us we had a start up business at the age of 22. That business is still going today, although its form has changed a few times in 26 years. I have continued a freelance career as a portrait photographer and travel photographer alongside other business activities.
In the early 2000’s whilst in my mid twenties I set up a modelling agency in Oxford with a friend Mark Bassett called The Source Modelling agency, it was a small agency and we had no experience in the industry. We both did the job part time and would put on cat walk shows and even had local television film a documentary about one of our events. We worked with magazines, advertising companies and publishers. I entered one of our models Daniella Luan into a Miss England competition and she went on to win. The Miss World finals was due to take place in Nigeria but because of unrest it was moved to London. In a small way we experienced what it was to be part of the fashion industry and after a time I handed the business to my partner who kept it going for a few years after I left.
I married in my early thirties to a Spanish woman from a conservative, military and religious background. We bought a home and had three children whom I adore. The moment I looked at my first born child in her eyes for the first time my life changed and became richer and with it a embarked on the parental journey that changes your whole perspective upon life.
In 2007 with a young family we experienced the impact of climate change first hand. My ex wife was pregnant expecting our second child when the rising River Windrush in Witney in Oxfordshire burst its banks flooding our home, I remember the moment when I walked out of my house with flood water up to my chest as I carried some possessions above my head in a bin bag. I had experienced what many have and many more will as the sea levels of the World continue to rise. We were fortunate having had house insurance and a property provided by the insurance company to move to whilst ours was repaired; many in the future will not have this luxury.
In 2012 I founded The Oxfordshire Project, which was initially a business networking organisation that brought together small business owners to collaborate, support each other and support their local community whilst learning and finding inspiration through educational speakers. It started small but the momentum picked up pace and I opened up our 5th group in Oxford during our 3rd year, where we were met there with nearly 50 small business owners, it was an excellent time and there was so much positive energy that surrounded the work we were doing.
The Oxfordshire Project thrived and we created a community rich in values that hugely benefited its many members. It was during this period in my life that my journey with community began, until this time I had operated outside of community and hadn’t realised the huge benefit that existed with a positive uplifting supportive environment.
At our zenith we were running over 220 events a year and had grown outside of Oxfordshire to the neighbouring counties. It was an exhausting endeavour that would leave me little time for anything else. I would attend most meetings and at each one we would have a speaker and through these talks I would listen and learn and receive frequent inspiration. It was an environment which enabled me to grow as an individual but also as an entrepreneur. I would also be rubbing shoulders with really great people as our network was values focused and part of that was giving without expectation of return, it attracted a certain type of individual and those individuals helped me raise my game in lots of ways.
We built a coaching network with business coaches and consultants giving up their time to support our members. I worked with half a dozen of these coaches over a few years and each one gave me a new way of seeing problems. One focused on values whilst another on leadership and another on growth, it was a big learning curve for me and helped my confront areas of weakness.
Our network supported local charities as well as those overseas; we had created a platform to make it easy for good people to support good causes by bringing these stories to our events through representatives of the charities. Some of our successes included raising funds to send girls to school in Uganda, recycling laptops to set up computer rooms in schools in Ghana and more locally collecting food at our events for local food banks. It was a hugely rewarding experience for everyone involved and I learnt about the power of giving and how giving didn’t need to be about money.
After a challenging marriage for both my ex wife and myself, which had both happy times and its fair share of difficulties I walked out unable to cope any longer. It was a dreadful decision to make and I was caught between raising our children in a hostile environment that was damaging both of their parents or stepping outside of our family home and leaving them behind. After soul searching for a couple of years I took the choice which I believed would do the least amount of damage.
Our beliefs and values had become too wide a gap to bridge, her Spanish background and Catholic beliefs were very different from mine. I follow a spiritual journey away from organised religion, this in part as well as other reasons led to a very difficult and painful divorce leaving me to face shame and judgement for the first time in my life. People I knew and respected would no longer look at me in the face and some of my family members and close friends turned their back on me and ended our relationships. I took the full blame as people chose sides and supported the perceived victim.
My shadow self was firmly exposed and it hurt deeply. I had no escape from my shame, the school drop off and pick up became a brutal place where I felt humiliated. My ego was battered and it took time to recover and evolve. A battle to keep my children in the country and in my life began which would leave me deeply scarred. I am pleased to say they stayed close by and I have remained an ever present in their lives and now both my ex wife and I have forgiven each other and have a good relationship where we are able to support our children even though it hasn’t always been the case.
In 2018 I co-founded Mahwe, a personal and spiritual development community that met together to hear engaging talks designed to stimulate inner growth. Our aim was to create a community where people would find like-minded people who they could learn from and support each other. Our events spread through Oxfordshire and in addition we were able to run a group in Bath.
I am also the published author of 2 young adult novels, ‘Arthur Archer and the Time Traveller’s Chronicles’ and the sequel, ‘Arthur Archer and the Warrior Queen’. I have a love for history and storytelling so combined the two to create historical novels with a time travel twist.
In 2019 I ran for the Liberal Democrats at Town Council level but missed out on election by a handful of votes. I was drawn to them at the time because of their stance on the Brexit debate. After my election I was then involved behind the scenes for the general election and supported their campaign. It was a fascinating experience to see the mechanics of local politics and what is involved in winning an election at a local level. I am no longer involved with any of the political parties.
Over the course of my life I have voted for all of the political parties and tend to cast my vote based on aligned values with the political thinking of the day. I have never felt my views have been represented by any of the political parties.
My health has been good, in recent times I had Long Covid in 2020 which brought me to my knees and left me with chronic fatigue and breathlessness, it took 8 months to get through and even now a further 4 months on I do not have the full capacity in my lungs that I had before.
I have always struggled with my weight and finding a healthy diet that suits my cravings, it has always been one of my biggest challenges. As a child I was overweight until I reached my teen years and since becoming an adult I have rarely been content with my body image, something I now realise is inner work about accepting who I am. We are surrounded by temptation and live in stressful times, I believe the Government can do a lot more to help us with our choices.
Regarding my financial situation, in recent years money has not been a big driver for me. I have focused on building uplifting supportive communities at the expense of building a salary, choosing a life where I consciously choose to earn less money in exchange for the freedom to do something I believe to be truly worthwhile.