Steph Hagan, Community Impact Director, Business in the Community, reflects on the Big Ticks, Highly Commended and Winning entries to the Building Stronger Communities Award 2014.
The social consequences of inequality are costing the UK economy an estimated £39bn per year*. The consequences of this are far reaching and there is a growing body of evidence showing how these inequalities manifest themselves in ways that include reduced life expectancy, higher rates of illness including mental illness, and higher crime.
Many efforts to tackle these sort of problems focus not on the root causes but instead on the ‘symptoms’. But this can be expensive and ignores the question of how we stop problems occurring in the first place, rather than keep dealing with the consequences. The Building Stronger Communities Award has identified those companies that are tackling what are often complex issues in partnership with others; reflecting the fact that the problems facing the UK’s most disadvantaged individuals and communities are both complex and multi-faceted.
This year, the companies receiving a Big Tick in this category have demonstrated how they can be part of a wider solution, and how important it is that they work in partnership across sectors. These Big Tick companies have demonstrated how their skills, knowledge, experience, networks and reach can be applied to a wide range of problems, tackling the ‘root causes’ and enabling long-lasting change. Areas covered include healthy lifestyles, parenting, financial literacy and tackling poverty.
Another feature of these programmes is their flexible, needs-led approach – tailoring activity to the specific needs of either individuals or organisations rather than offering ‘fixed’ programmes. Non-financial investment, particularly in the form of employee time and skills, also remains a strong element of these successful entries.
Achieving the overall category winning accolade is New Charter Housing Trust Group for their Inspire programme, which supports and empowers tenant families in Manchester to address issues such as unemployment, poor health and low educational attainment. It is a brilliant example of why problems shouldn’t be tackled in silos, a lesson that can be applied across all sectors and in many programmes.
Mind Gym was highly commended for their Parent Gym programme, which provides free courses for parents to increase their skills and confidence in providing a nurturing family environment.
Both New Charter and Mind Gym show how often the simplest of ‘common sense’ interventions can have substantial knock-on effects that build individuals’ resilience and ability to play a full and active role in their communities.
Our Big Tick companies are from a wide range of sectors and have taken a wide range of approaches. Each story is an inspiring example of what companies like yours could be doing to increase both the health and wealth of communities and give a chance to the most disadvantaged people in society. Perhaps, most encouragingly, many Big Tick programmes have been designed in ways that improve the chances of long-term and sustainable changes long after the original activity or intervention has taken place.
Do take the time to read the case studies and find out more.
*The Cost of Equality, The Equality Trust, March 2014