Andy Melia, Head of Community Investment, Business in the Community gives his thoughts on this year's entrants to the Experian Building Stronger Communities Award in recognition of Sir John Peace.
The Experian Building Stronger Communities Award in recognition of Sir John Peace recognises business initiatives that are investing time, money, skills and resources, to deliver long term social and economic benefits to their communities. The award is about strong and sustainable partnership working, with evidence of mutual benefit for both the business and community partner.
The joy of this award is that it isn’t constrained by a narrow issue. So this year’s Finalists alone included everything from JTI UK's work tackling isolation among our elderly population, Investec's incubation of social enterprises, PwC's initiative on helping homeless people into work, and Skipton Building Society's programme getting people to think about their retirement at a younger age.
Some clear trends emerged. The ways organisations contribute positively to their communities continue to evolve, and encouragingly, we are seeing activities becoming more integrated into ‘business as usual’.
Strong partnership working was an element in all succesful entries, and was particularly apparent in the Finalists. Partnerships characteristically engaged partners in projects early and worked with them as they developed over the long term. Businesses stressed the importance of finding the best partner for a project and then working with them to fully understand the issues. They found that great partnerships are built on open and honest two way dialogue, managing expectations and nurturing strong relationships.
Inclusion of excluded groups has always been a strong theme within this category but this year it has grown further, particularly around older people, a response to the UK’s aging population. Three out of the six shortlisted entries dealt with older people in one way or another.
Finally, traditionally employee volunteering has been central to entries, but we have seen a distinct shift towards employee volunteering being recognised as a driver of personal development for staff, with the strongest entries tracking the types of skills developed.
This year’s winner, Investec, is an exemplar of many of the trends that we have seen from an exceptional group of finalists. Partnerships sit at the heart of their project, and their relationship with the Bromley by Bow Centre, which is integral to the delivery of the Beyond Business programme, has been developed over a number of years. This has enabled Investec to really build their understanding and engagement with the Centre, and ensure that the project really complements with the company’s expertise and heritage.
In addition, the involvement of their supplier network, alongside their employees and local enterprises, has enabled them to multiply the effects of this programme. This has resulted in an inspirational track record in supporting the development of sustainable enterprises, with a 90% survival rate, in areas which traditionally experience low enterprise growth.
It's great to see this emerge from amongst our four fantastic finalists, in a very competitive category. These four organisations are addressing quite different social issues but in really innovative and impactful ways.