Winston Churchill when asked about a particularly difficult campaign during the Second World War remarked, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps the end of the beginning”. So with a little artistic licence, this is how I view my year with Business in the Community.
The Business Connector programme has grown from humble beginnings, but with stellar support from Lloyds Banking Group, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Post Office, Greggs, Fujitsu, Waitrose and others, we are starting to build a national programme which is different than anything that has ever been attempted before.
The challenge should you choose to accept it, is to get involved. Giving money and sponsoring people is great so please don’t stop. What I am asking is for you to think about what else you could give. Your experience is what sets you apart and how you deploy it is what will make a difference in the communities in which we live.
From a Lloyds Bank perspective, it has been gratifying to see so many colleagues asking to help and their knowledge being harnessed to help in some rather tough situations. One colleague in our Leeds office approached me and asked how she could get involved. After a brief discussion about her interests and looking to make the best use of time, we looked at community organisations local to where she lived. I am really proud to say that she and her daughter are now working with an older people’s charity at weekends and from the discussion we have had, I think it is fair to say they are both getting an awful lot from it. Go on, give it a go!
By Royal Appointment
On the 12 July I attended Business in the Community’s inaugural “Big Connect”. There were 800 charities, community groups, social enterprises and companies in one large exhibition centre in London. When I entered, the scale of what was possible was not immediately apparent so I along with my community guests from Leeds found our table and awaited instructions.
Before too long we were all networking and trying to find out who was there that could help us with our projects, or were something that was already operational in one part of the country could help us achieve our goals.
In between we were visited by BITC’s President, HRH the Prince of Wales. I do appreciate that he has had a little practice at meeting people; but to see and hear how engaged he was with the attendees was extremely refreshing and also helped so many people engaged in their communities understand the support the Business Connector programme has.
My favourite MP Nick Hurd was also in attendance (not a political comment, before you ask) and he very kindly agreed to help Sporting Memories Network with their funding journey. Follow up meetings have been arranged and my fingers are firmly crossed for positive news.
Finally, after 7 hours we headed for our train back “up North” and I sat in the carriage and marveled at the 10 people I had taken down in the morning, many of whom were meeting for the first time talking about what they had learned and how they could help each other, very powerful.
This isn’t the forum to talk about the monetary value of connections (though if Lisa Cunningham from BITC is reading, yes I have updated “Connect”) as I will mention some of the specific projects a little later, but it is important we have some measures to gauge what works and why. I have learned so much from fellow Business Connectors and many of those I have worked along side, all of which I feel will make me more effective in my future career.
So the positives:-
- Strong personal development – you don’t get many 52 week management programmes!
- Opportunity to showcase what the corporate world can bring to the community
- Community engagement – it is all too easy to forget about others when we lead such busy lives.
- You can make a real difference – my wife reflected on how excited I was when we secured some funding for a community paint charity. I think that is because I have seen what can be done by dynamic, driven people who are determined to help others make a difference.
- The bureaucracy surrounding almost everything we do – Leeds is a big city with a very pro-active council, but we can all get better. One vision, one purpose = positive outcomes for all.
The list is long, but yet distinguished!
This is the part were when you win an award and walk on stage you try and deliver a witty monologue capturing the journey and those who have helped you along the way, well I don’t intend to list each and every person who has helped and supported me (there really are so many) but you do have my deepest gratitude and respect.
There are though a number of key projects which I am very proud of and which have the potential to make a huge difference to people’s lives. In terms of Education the Turnaround Foundation’s backing of the David Young Community Academy is amazing and reflects in particular on their MD Chris Clegg. Thanks for your perseverance.
Not forgetting Arcadia and DHL getting behind the Co-op Academy of Leeds, with both cash and practical support of the curriculum. Tony Warren from Arcadia is a real find and hopefully with the work he has commenced with the Federation of Small Businesses, we will strengthen the enterprise links with other local business people.
The Canal project I have long championed continues apace and Trevor will make this work. As an aside, if you have not been on a barge before then I would encourage you to. Somehow you forget about everyday issues and time! Not only that but we only utilise 5% of the waterways, with our roads so clogged surely it is time for us to make use of this amazing resource?
In Employment the two apprentices that Arcadia and Lorien Resourcing are going to take on will make a huge difference to those young people’s lives. I have talked about destinations before and I know so many of you have agreed with this, it is worth pushing hard for.
Also and this isn’t being biased but I was very proud that Lloyds Bank created 48 new jobs at Lovell Park in Leeds. More importantly they were full time 35 hour contracts, not as we have read of late the mercurial and often unhelpful zero hour’s contracts. Sue Wynne and Alice Winter from Leeds City council helped in getting the message out to the most deprived communities, again another example of working together.
LS14 Trust continues a pace. Nic charging forward and Joanne making sure it all works! This tiny organisation in Seacroft makes a huge difference to a number of people’s lives, from Work Clubs, IT training or just access to a printer, it all matters.
End of the beginning
It may be a little indulgent of me to quote Winston Churchill at the beginning of this blog, but it really is the right sentiment. My year is done and now Susan Pollard picks up the mantle, new projects and she will build out the Connector programme even further.
I have really enjoyed writing the blogs and cannot believe that so many people have read them. If they have encouraged you to get involved or helped validate what you are already doing then that alone makes it all the more worthwhile.
Very best wishes for the future.