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To Achieve a Revolution, You Need a COO

Chief Operating Officer of LivesthroughFriends Rob Fountain and our new COO here at Studio 3, Claire Fennell, discuss the merits of having a COO to implement changes and allow ambitious ideas to become reality.

LivesthroughFriends is a Community Interest Company (CIC), and in effect a social enterprise. As well as operating as a business providing commissioned advice and support to public bodies, we also have a driving social purpose: for people with disabilities, autism and mental health challenges to get to live their best life. 

We know from experience that current systems fail in this and let people down badly. We are vocal in calling this out and are champions for doing things differently in order to achieve much better outcomes. This social mission drives everything we do, maintaining an ambition to change the world for the better. 

Our Directors are a collective who bring insights and experience from a range of disciplines. They are united by the determination to fulfill our social mission. They each get involved in different pieces of work that are aimed at achieving our goals. Our shared vision and values unite us and guide what we do (as well as what we don’t/won’t do). 

It is, though, also vital that we organise and operate in a robust way. Good intentions only get you so far. We are delivering complex work, across the UK and internationally. We therefore need to make sure all the elements of work we are involved in are coordinated, our resources are deployed in the right places, and that we fulfill our promises. That’s when having a COO – or Chief Operating Officer – can help. 

Rob Fountain joined LtF as Chief Operating Officer in May 2022, LivesthroughFriends’ first employee. He leaves the organisation this year after 2 years of supporting the Directors in ensuring we are delivering on our ambitions. Day-to-day, that has involved some less revolutionary aspects – preparing proposals, assigning associates, reporting on progress. It has also been a hands-on role, working directly with individuals and their families to deliver bespoke planning or delivering training to providers on working towards a good life.

Rob’s experience in social work, higher education, public sector consultancy and running charities was useful. He also reconnected with Bob Rhodes having met him initially back in 2003 whilst working for an advocacy organisation. Appointing a COO to oversee the running of our organisation has freed Bob (as the founder and President of LivesthroughFriends) up to focus on agitating and influencing for system change. 

Images shoes a headshot of Claire Fennell, the new COO of Studio 3
Claire Fennell, new COO of Studio 3

After a period of growth and looking to the future, Studio 3 have also recently appointed a COO themselves to help drive the organisation forward. In October 2023, Claire Fennell joined Studio 3 as Chief Operating Officer to take over day-to-day operational management from their founding CEO, Professor Andy McDonnell, enabling Andy to give 100% focus and leadership on the development and promotion of non-restrictive practices and Low Arousal Approaches.

Like Rob’s role at LtF, Claire will be ensuring that the clinical and training work undertaken across Studio 3 delivers on the vision and ethos of the company. With over 40 employees working across the UK and internationally, Claire’s day-to-day is primarily concerned with the coordination of operational and business support processes and functions, including finance and administration, so that the amazing teams at Studio 3 can get on with the skilled and important work they do.

Claire brings a range of experiences from social care, rights-based charity and public sector services with children, adults and families, from early years onwards, including specialisms in autism, disability, looked after children’s advocacy. Claire is excited to get stuck in and work collaboratively with colleagues at Studio 3 and LivesthroughFriends this year!

Written by Rob Fountain, COO of LivesthroughFriends

and Claire Fennell, COO of Studio 3

To get in touch with Studio 3, contact us at 01225 334 111 or drop us an email at


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