The IMI President's Award 2024 Winner: Ronnie Wilson

Congratulations to the winner of this year's IMI President's Award 2024: Ronnie Wilson MBE of First Step Trust.


This year's award is Small Changes, Big Difference.

First Step Trust (FST) is an organisation that provides work and training opportunities for people with mental health issues, disabilities and other disadvantages, including drug and alcohol recovery problems. They use social enterprise to deliver real social value to local communities and have developed their own model of business called 'SMaRT' (Socially Minded and Responsible Trading™).

Ronnie is CEO of the FST and he is instrumental in setting a strategy that will maximise the impact of the organisation and extend the opportunities they provide to those furthest removed from the jobs market. Ronnie is incredibly passionate, honest and empathetic. He will speak up for people who are disadvantaged, and will champion them to get the support they need and recognition for their own individual skills and unique talents. It is clear that Ronnie really cares about people and wants to make sure that everyone, no matter their background or what life has thrown at them, gets a go at life in the way that maybe the rest of us take for granted. Ronnie is the CEO of First Step Trust (FST) which is a charity that provides real work experience, on the job training and salaried employment for people excluded from working life because of mental health conditions, learning disabilities, drug and alcohol and other disadvantages. 

Not only do FST work with the employees, they also target employers in their aim to help make lives better. They have a programme called Trading Places which is about inviting senior executives and business leaders to come and work alongside people with mental health problems, learning disabilities or other disadvantages to find out for themselves just what people can do given the right support and working environment. Their trading places programme aims to inspire and engage senior executives to go back to their own company or organisation excited at the prospect of doing something good because they have seen first hand what a difference can be made.

Ronnie himself was also a key part of the IMI Diversity Task Force Physical & Non-visible Disabilities working group. His advice and support to the group was invaluable. He also provided us many links to individuals with personal success stories to demonstrate how a bit of understanding and care for our colleagues can make a big positive difference to their lives. Having visited the SMaRT garage myself and heard a number of personal stories from people who have been involved with Ronnie and FST, the way they sensitively support and encourage people who come to them for help is truly inspiring. The work that Ronnie and FST does really shows that 'Small changes make a big difference'.