About Tom Burston

Director of Strategic Operations

Tom Burston is Challenging Learning’s Director of Strategic Operations. He joined us at the end of 2016 after six years of supporting business growth across North East England.

Tom’s specialisms include the design and implementation of business growth strategies, the use of participatory methodology in development processes and the utilisation of community engagement to strengthen projects. His work is driven by his understanding of how real development and progress happens through informed planning and building trusting relationships.

Tom’s work on an EC business development project across Northumberland resulted in growth for many businesses in the county and secured more than £2million of EC business support grants. Tom also created and encouraged a long-term and fruitful partnership between Northumberland and Småland in southern Sweden through which businesses shared experiences and opportunities and developed new links in new markets. His work was recognised as professional best practice and he presented his findings at conferences across the EU.

Tom’s previous career background is in the overseas development sector. Tom has worked around the globe responding to humanitarian disasters in Sudan, Indonesia and southern Africa and worked on longer-term development projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tom rolled out strategic management training across Oxfam’s global operations and designed and delivered customised training in 20 different country programmes. He also helped to establish the response to the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan by negotiating entry of humanitarian goods into the country and establishing Oxfam’s operating licenses.

Tom trained at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University and as well as at the University of Durham.

When Tom is not working, you will find him in the Northumbrian hills with his wife Pennie and their two children Betsy and Frankie. Tom is a huge fan of Northumberland and is vice Chair of Alwinton Border Shepherd’s Show, Northumberland’s premier hill-farming show.