The launch is just the start of the journey

As I reflect on 2018 and look towards 2019, I remain firm in my belief that people and technology are critical to Cancer Central’s success. I am also extremely proud of we have been able to accomplish together, in a relatively short space of time. This therefore leaves me with renewed optimism about the opportunities which lie ahead.

With this in mind, we reached a critical milestone in our journey, launching the first iteration of our online platform which looks to intelligently signpost people affected by cancer to organisations who can provide advice and products. Our platform, called Ave, underscores the growing use of data analytics and machine learning in the healthcare industry.

This could not have been achieved without the support from countless individuals and organisations which really speaks to what Cancer Central is all about – an organisation built on an ethos of cominovation (community + innovation), connecting with experts from different fields across industries to achieve a common vision, meaning it is built by you.

Our progress and results

It is not an over statement when I say 2018 has exceeded my wildest dreams and we still have over a month to go. Why do I say this? As during this time over 10,000 hours have been donated to further the cause with major contributions from TechFINIUM and ROQ.

But with the success of 2018 comes high expectations for 2019. To ensure we start 2019 on the right footing, I have been fortunate enough to work with 10 incredibly talented people for 5 days from a global financial services organisation based in the south, to define what the next stage for Cancer Central should look like, taking all of the learnings, and we’ve had a few, into account.

When defining the next steps for Cancer Central I thought it is critical to get a fresh pair of eyes / perspective so the objective of my time with the team was to understand the good, what to change, where to go next and what the 2019 vision / roadmap should be. This included:

  • How to make it easier for providers to sign up, can we reduce the number of steps?
  • Can we devise a repeatable process for volunteers to follow when assisting with spreading the word, when targeting potential providers to register?
  • What should the product roadmap be in 2019, focusing on Ave’s evolution
  • Create design briefs for next year’s scheduled hackathons and
  • Growing and expanding my marketing, PR and social media strategy

What we have been able to achieve in 5 days is phenomenal and I could not have done this on my own without it taking a couple of months. We were also able to generate new ideas taking different perspectives into account which is critical for the growth of Cancer Central. I therefore wish to send big thank you to the 10 individuals involved and the wonderful people who helped organise this!

Importantly, it was also fun with plenty of scrummy food to go around. Lunch now is certainly not the same!

Impact and Opportunity ahead

So, we’ve launched, and we have a roadmap for 2019 but now comes the difficult part. We have to deliver on the vision again leveraging the power of cominovation. If you want to help, there are 3 ways you can join in and support our journey allowing for Cancer Central to continue evolving:

  1. Ave is a search engine that uses artificial intelligence to deliver proactive and personalised data real-time and provide valuable information to the users. To deliver such targeted outcomes, Ave needs data. Sadly, there is no single list readily available and so it is a challenge is to find all the incredible businesses and charities who support individuals affected by cancer. Therefore we need your help to find these organisations and get them to register for free so that they can be found easily in time of need. Any organisations wishing to add their details to the Cancer Central can do so via this link:
  2. I view myself as custodian of Cancer Central. Ideas about what functionality you’d like to see on the site or guidance on where we can further support those affected by cancer comes from you. Please share your suggestions and ideas with us:
  3. I also cannot do this on my own, therefore if you or your team / organisation wish to join the cause and cominovate with us, utilising your skills for #TechforGood, I would welcome a chat!  Please email me at, every little helps even if you can only spare a day!

And finally, please remember #HelpisHere you just have to #Ask4Ave

Have a wonderful festive season everyone


#startup, #entrepreneur, #technology, #socialenterprise

Community + Innovation = Cominovation @ Cancer Central

As Cancer Central approaches its launch, which is a monumental milestone, I felt it was a good time to look back on our achievements since January and reflect on how we are slowly creating a new way of working.

Cancer Central is a new technology start-up and Community Interest Company (CIC). We are a technology Social Enterprise connecting with experts from different fields across industries to achieve the vision of Cancer Central.  Our aim is a relatively simple one – we want to provide everyone affected by cancer a central source of information where results are guided from an individual’s specific need.

The key to Cancer Central’s brand has been community and innovation. A new word to describe this working style is Cominovation.

Cominovation is not just about problem solving, it is the complete process of finding solutions – from identifying a need, developing ideas, sourcing support, to delivery. It involves individuals giving their time, skills and/ or expertise to something they are passionate about and coming together with like-minded people to innovate for a common purpose.

Cominovation can work in different ways, it can happen within a workplace or it can be non-work related. It can be paid or unpaid. It can be in person or online. Essentially, it’s as rewarding to the individuals concerned as it is important to the cause/ common purpose being developed.

My reflection on how Cominovation has created Cancer Central

Cancer Central has been created through the kind generosity of individuals and organisations who want to be a part of what we are trying to achieve. Subject matter experts have contributed to everything from the ideas, suggestions, design, processes, build, testing, policies, data and so on.

Our CIC has gained support through Cominovation from organisations such as IBM Watson, Expedia, American Express, Barclays Eagle Labs, TechFINIUM, ROQ,, Sullivan & Stanley, eSynergy Solutions, reThink Digital Gurus, Skills Matter, CodeNode, DWP Digital, Pearce Marketing, Roar Media and over 100 committed individuals who believe in our vision. This is our Technology industry at its finest.

I simply cannot thank everyone enough individually.

Many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart



Cancer Central will launch in 2 phases.

  1. Information Provider – 18th September 2018 in conjunction with Expedia’s Day of Caring. Do you provide products, services or support to those affected by cancer? If so, please register on Cancer Central for FREE so that your services and products can reach those that need them the most.
  2. Information Seeker – late October 2018. This is where you will be able to ask ‘Ave’ cancer related questions using the next generation search powered by IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence and be signposted to relevant results fast, by location and cancer type.

In time with increased Cominovation, we will grow the platform to help other important health areas, such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Stroke.


Definition and examples of usage

Cominovation [noun] – The skill of utilising community and innovation of organisations and individuals to jointly contribute to creating and delivering a vision.

“Our Cominovation policy sets out the principles of engagement that we use to collaborate with organisations and individuals to deliver…”

Cominovate [verb] – The act of creating and delivering a vision utilising your own innovative skills in collaboration with the community.

“I’d really like to set up a meeting with the team to cominovate how we can develop this further”.


Thank you to Sandhya Sharma (HR Consultant) who helped conceive and define ‘Cominovation’.

Tomorrow is already here. Do you want to be a part of it?

This is an opportunity for you to be a part of something big. To map the unchartered and to help millions affected by cancer, with thanks to your involvement.

Cancer Central is offering you 3 ways to shape the future; Innovation, Revolution and Connection. Share your involvement and spread the word.

1.      INNOVATION. ‘next generation search’

Cancer has no boundaries, it doesn’t care about your age, your gender, your ethnicity or your abilities. Next generation search can connect people to information, experiences, communities and organisations, delivering answers at speed when you most need them.

Cancer Central will be the next generation search.

Gone are the days of form filling websites. The new world will be driven from conversations, explorations and machine learning, making sense of all the information in the online world then presenting it back to you, personalised for your needs. It will be using approaches that are only now coming of age, partnering with industry giants, leading data platforms as well as the sharpest minds in high tech start-ups.

You will be able to interact with Cancer Central in 3 distinct ways;

1.      Direct search = ‘I need to find a wig in Brighton’

2.      Conversational search = ‘my wife has been diagnosed and I need to stay strong, yet I am falling apart. Who can I talk to?’

3.      Guidance search = ‘I have no idea where to start, this is all overwhelming’

Cancer Central is being built ground-up with the latest cutting-edge technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at its core. We are currently developing our first iteration website for launch and as of today, we need to begin training Cancer Central’s intelligence engine, initially through the following link

If you, a family member, friend, colleague have been touched by cancer, please share your questions from point of diagnosis, during treatment and beyond. Your questions can be specific or vague, all are important, and all will be logged in our library.

Together we can teach Cancer Central and feed the innovation.


2.      REVOLUTION. ‘we are the community’

The organisation will be led by the community, for the cancer community. Not only will the direction of the company and its roadmap be influenced online by you, we will operate with experts across different industries from each field coming together to form one community team.

This means the Cancer Central team will consist of 1-year secondments from organisations showcasing their talent for the greater good and working with others for the millions affected by cancer. To continue to stay fresh with innovation, the community team will renew itself each year, led and guided by me, my Non-Executive Board and Advisory Panel.

To get us started, we had a successful Hackathon demonstrating the power of the community for the community. Showcase video can be found here

Cancer Central is being formed as a Community Interest Company (CIC) legal structure and will reinvent the social enterprise and Not for Profit space. We are currently recruiting for the community team of 2018. If you are interested, and your strengths are in data, security, product development, finance / compliance or marketing / PR, then please get in touch

Together, we can become Cancer Central and be a part of revolution.


3.      CONNECTION. ‘#HelpisHere’

For the first time, cancer information will be centralised into one place. Cancer Central will signpost to products, services and support available from the private, public and not for profit sector. It will intelligently share details on counselling, complementary therapy, respite care, insurance products, hats, wigs, lingerie, skincare, financial help, nutrition advice, local societies or communities, meals on wheels, local hospital taxi services and so on, based on your location and cancer type.

Over time we will begin to understand the gaps in the availability across the UK and work with the private, public and not for profit sector to share where support is most needed.

#HelpisHere with Cancer Central’s next generation search

#HelpisHere with the Community team

#HelpisHere in terms of the shop in Cornwall, mobile service in Yorkshire and respite care in Scotland.

#HelpisHere from you. We are crowdfunding and looking for financial contributions from individuals and institutional investors looking to back a leading-edge technology start-up.

Please contribute here –

Together, we can support Cancer Central and build connections.


Tomorrow is already here. Do you want to be a part of it?

Avril, Founder & CEO

If you want to become a ‘Friend of Cancer Central’ and receive a monthly newsletter, register via our holding website

Follow and support the journey, from idea to concept and beyond @CancerCentralUK on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Plus watch this space for a Cancer Central’s Intelligence Engine naming competition. Our AI needs a name!

Avril’s Next Book

Documenting the story from technical executive to hopeful entrepreneur, a business book with a sense of humour.

Author of Be with me, It’s C, and 2018 Women in IT Awards finalist Avril Chester is going it alone. Embarking on her new social enterprise and tech start-up called Cancer Central, she is writing her next book along the way.


It’s nearly midnight and my mind is still buzzing. Pretty annoying as I have calls in the morning and big ideas to update within my business plan however I just can’t stop. I’ve taken that leap of faith, jumping into the mythical world of entrepreneurs and magical tales of start-ups and quite frankly, it’s a joint emotion of sheer excitement and utter fear of not securing funding and seeing my dream fail…

What have I done?

I feel a dear diary moment coming on. Remember the secret diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾? I am considering resurrecting it as; the surprise diary of Avril Chester aged 39 and nearly ¾ (yes, I’m in denial). A surprise as I genuinely have no idea how it is going to end. I’m writing this book from the very start, to accompany my journey. Writing during the good times, the bad and hopefully the big wins.

So here we go. Here’s to the new world of launching a start-up.


Follow and support the journey from idea, to start-up and beyond
Founder & CEO #AdviseAvril @CancerCentralUK on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

Your time is valuable

With December and the festive season fast approaching where those who are lucky take precious time out to be with family & friends, we also tend to reflect on the year and think of those less fortunate. At this time, we may even donate more to a charity of our choice.

As a fellow professional, I’d like to ask (if you are not already) have you considered becoming a Trustee of a charity?

The feel-good factor of volunteering, donating or taking on a challenge for charity is invigorating. Becoming a Trustee is not as obvious, yet there are wonderful rewards for both parties.

Benefits for the charity

Charities play an enormous role in society, they are under continual pressure not just economically but to deliver against their charitable purpose in a transparent, trusting and relatable way. This includes engagement, support & advice, innovation, championing issues and challenging our perceptions. Having a Board of Trustees from a breadth of industries and disciplines provides terrific insight, leadership, networking and advice. A collaboration of individuals safeguarding the direction and achievements of the charity.

Benefits for you

Your expertise and knowledge learnt and still learning throughout your career will be used for a cause you are passionate about (not all of us get the luxury of working full time for a Not for Profit). You will maintain vision and values, play a part in setting the strategy, promote the organisation and cause, ensure compliance with the law and provide a friendly ear to management. Skills and behaviours generally required in career growth. This is also an opportunity to work with others from different industries and backgrounds.

Benefits all-round

Undoubtedly our lives are becoming busier and busier every year as if the treadmill is stuck in run mode and whilst technology has been a revolution, we are as a result always switched on. So, in this ever-hectic world how about seizing the opportunity to spend some time working on one of the fundamentals of life? Be it humanitarian, health, education, environment, nature, animal or other. Why not take a chance to focus on something that brings balance and broader fulfilment?

I’ve been a Trustee for 2 years now and for me, it has honestly been both rewarding and challenging.

So how about it, shall we make 2018 the year we donate our time and experience?

My recommended summer read – Technology vs Humanity

If you believe Digital Transformation is the next big thing, according to Gerd Leonhard, ‘it is just one of ten Megashifts that will interact and alter the face of human life forever’.

Science fiction is fast becoming science fact, so where do you stand on important issues such as Digital ethics?

‘Are we the last unaltered generation of humans?’

‘Who is mission control for humanity?’

This is, ‘no longer only about devices, gadgets, services or connectivity. Increasingly it’s about us, our bodies, our minds, our humanity’.

17 years on from my dissertation about cyborgs and the disease called beauty, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It challenges the very heart of what it is to be human in an ever-increasing exponential technology world (AI, Cognitive Computing, The Singularity, Digital obesity, Printed food, IoT, the end of work-as-we-know-it).

The ultimate question is, what team are you on? 

I choose Team Human.


Technology vs Humanity by Gerd Leonhard



Relay for Life, Eastbourne

Here we all are
At Relay for Life,
United and together
Showing we’re strong in strife.

This is a message for you, dear Cancer
Believing we’re compliant,
Suggest you sit up and listen
‘Cause this message is defiant.

Whilst you put us through fear
And uncontrollable tears,
Whilst you made us weak
As we went to sleep,
Whilst you watched all smug
As we were sliced and drugged,
Whilst you put our lives on hold
As we tried to be brave and bold

Let me tell you
Let me tell you now,
We’re a force to be reckoned with
Just look at this crowd.

We are standing together
Declaring we’ll never give in,
We’ll rise from the ashes
Flames fuelled from within.

You will not take our future
Or our happiness or joy,
For our friendships combined
Is something you cannot destroy.

So why don’t you just run along now
For we’re celebrating our highlife,
Full of love and compassion, singing
We’ll be triumphant in life.

~ © 2017 Avril Chester

Still don’t network? My 4-step challenge to you

I’m always amazed when people tell me, “I don’t network”. Typically, this bold confession is swiftly followed by, “but I know it’s important”.

Asking you to trust me so soon is a little daring, instead I am inviting you to keep an open mind when reading this.

The most difficult step is breaking the cycle and get started with networking. To manage your expectations, it never becomes comfortable, but over time it does becomes easier. For those of you who know me there is a belief that as I am more on the extrovert scale and slightly chatty, networking is second nature to me. Indeed, you are massively mistaken. I find it just as hard to enter a room full of complete strangers, to make small talk about an interest in common, as many others. Typically, I am also one of the few females in the room – IT as we know tends to be male dominated. Therefore, on any dynamic it is tough. At the end of the day it is still a room full of complete strangers.

STEP ONE – I suggest not focusing on whether you are an introvert or extrovert. If you constantly bring attention to this character trait it turns into a barrier. Nobody finds networking easy (OK there are a rare few but these people are extremely exceptional).

The rise of networking is dizzying. It started as a couple of drinks between the senior executives and has developed into something integral in today’s working world. Nowadays it laughs in the face of CVs and traditional methods of communication and is seen as a job opportunity moment.

OK let’s stop here.

STEP TWO – Please do not fall into this second common trap. This was the sole purpose of networking at least 5-10 years ago. Networking can be about finding your shiny new opportunity but it is much more than that now.

Networking is no longer a random breakfast, lunch or evening event where you congregate apprehensively, in a room full of people with a similar(ish) job title as you, clutching a drink for support and occasionally a wafer-thin plate with food you can’t eat without the use of a third arm.

It has matured.

Meetings now focus on specific topics with the primary objective to share. These events take place in many forms, from big away days to roundtables to a mini presentation and discussions. Usually under Chatham House rules.

Yes, not so long ago sharing was an absolute no, no. We hid the projects and strategies we were undertaking and no-one ever disclosed if things went wrong. Heaven forbid. Thankfully we have moved on and we are now in a new era where sharing is essential.

We now embrace lessons learnt, spark up business ideas, discuss evolution of technology and chat with peers about similar obstacles.

STEP THREE – In the context of networking being the new sharing, have a think about the following:
• If you do not hear what is going on around you
• Or put yourself in a situation where you can be influenced by new concepts
• Or seek alternative ways ‘outside of your company’ to tackle a problem

Then how are you genuinely making changes, learning, shaping and growing in your current role? You do not have to be on the job hunt to attend a networking event, use the meeting as an opportunity to develop.

OK so you’ve been brave and taken the first step, you’ve realised it’s not all about new roles and you see opportunities to learn and share. But you still feel stuck.

Perhaps at the end of the day it’s the word networking that sends shivers down your spine and makes your legs freeze the very moment you are meant to walk into that room.

STEP FOUR – Simple, ditch the word networking. Call it collaborating instead.


As we rang the bell for 2016,
Were we expecting such extremes?
The Tech world chose to simply march on,
From Pokémon Go to
More wearable fashion.
We saw the giants clash
There were lawsuits a many,
For Facebook and Google
Fines a plenty.
Uber and its drivers came head to head
Then Microsoft bought LinkedIn
Is it getting a bit inbred?
We lost Blackberry smartphones
and Samsung’s blew-up,
IOT expanded
Our digital imprint, just warming up.
Big data & Analytics fused with sport
Demonstrating its might
Across Wimbledon and Olympic courts.
We flirted with Blockchain
Whilst hackers rose through the ranks,
Tesco and TalkTalk
All felt it in their banks.
New bug bounty programs
Launched to save the day,
and DevOps matured
to pave a better way.
With all the above
We may pause to think,
With disruption and fake news
Will it drive us to drink?
There is a disturbance in the force
This much is true.
But it’s not all Big Brother
Or cyber coup.
There was plenty of goodness
In 2016,
A quiet revolution
Entered the scene.
AI pushed boundaries
and developed its voice,
Its advancement is giving
Disabilities a choice.
We should use Tech
To keep moving forward
But only we can fully
We saw Cancer surgery
Streamed through VR,
Let’s not forget
Nanorobots promised to go far.
Then urgent medicine
Was delivered by drones,
To those people living in
Hard to reach zones.
There is a lot to celebrate
As we move on
Just ask @ComputerWeekly
Now 50,
and the bot phenomenon.
As we ring the bell for 2017,
Suggest you prepare yourself
For brand new extremes.

How we grow from breaks in our CV – Women in IT

I feel I need to start by giving some context. Firstly, my advice below applies to any industry and any gender. Secondly regardless of role, we are all leaders. Servant leaders, line leaders and most importantly, leaders of our own lives. I am however going to frame this in regards to women in technology. We are making great strives to focus much needed attention in encouraging young girls into STEM subjects, future talent is critical. But what about today’s workforce? The pipeline into management roles and those already in leadership positions? There is a known decline in the number of women in IT post a certain age range. We can only surmise as to the various reasons but what practical guidance can we give to buck this trend?

A break from the traditional work CV can be born from many situations. A sabbatical, maternity leave and in my case breast cancer. Yes, it’s been brutal and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy but with any life event these are learning opportunities, whether you want it or not! During this turbulent road – apart from the physical, psychological and emotional hurdles – I wrote and published a book of cancer poems encouraging others to write when it is difficult to talk (@bewithmeitsc). I had and still have the privilege of being a Trustee for seAp advocacy advising on IT, Change & Transformation. seAp’s advocates are real hero’s as they provide essential support and a voice for those in need.

Whatever your life event, our behaviours, values and responses are tested more intensely than in many work situations. So how do we portray this when we emerge and look to return to the workplace?

Advice for candidates –

You will have grown in yourself during this work break and now offer fresh perspective and thinking. Perhaps you discovered some hidden talents you never knew existed or found yourself to be in such demand that multi-tasking is now plain sailing. Whether it’s time management, negotiation, problem solving, delegating, empowering, innovating, financial management, dealing with risk, resilience, patience, creativity, determination… I can go on… what behaviours, skills and perhaps value challenges have you embraced? When providing interview responses pick a previous relevant work example. Once shared, expand on how you would tackle this situation in future incorporating your recent personal development. Would you change your approach at all or are you more confident in your actions? Are you more of a risk taker or do you now apply different logic to your decision making? Have you learnt about a new culture or language since then? Have you recently encouraged a group of extremely reluctant people to come together for a common purpose? Did you deal with a different kind of politics? Perhaps you negotiated a path through a series of demands upon your time? Remember we get tested in our daily lives, your responsibility is to explain how this naturally transfers to the workplace.

Advice for recruiting manager –

I am skipping past the obvious in that I have assumed competence in the job and previous experience that demonstrate core skill set. Depending on the duration away from the workplace this could simply require a quick dusting off the cobwebs, perhaps with an initial work buddy (to assist with the odd question) or a bit more with training. Once competency is established the essential question is; do you think she is capable of doing the job? Will she fit with your culture and team? What behaviours has she demonstrated that will drive value for the organisation? If you like her style and feel she is capable but apprehensive about the ‘time off’ in comparison to other candidates, then I’d encourage you to play a small part in ending the disappearance of women in technology post a certain age. You have this responsibility. Rather than wonder why, act on it. If she can prove her capabilities and confidence in handling situations, then she will be a strong addition to your team.

A last word of encouragement to any women looking to return to work or indeed move on –

Remember, if you can do everything listed in the job spec you’d be bored within a few months. It just means you can do it all and will have no opportunity to grow. To be frank, anyone ticking every box in a job spec is over qualified as this is a dream list.

1. Have faith in yourself
2. Get your life experience lessons to enhance your old work examples polished. Then,
3. Go and demonstrate how you can make a difference.

You are an invaluable member of the team.