Jackie was seconded from Greggs the Bakers to become a Business in the Community Connector in 2016.
In this Case Study she discusses how well she thinks the business and voluntary sector work together and what needs improving, the work she has been doing with VAC and how VAC has contributed to her work as a Business Connector. She talks about the kind of impact her work as a Business Connector has made to voluntary sector organisations.
Q. Can you explain how you became a Business in the Community Connector?
Business in the Community has a range of programmes they run with schools and businesses – employer volunteering for example. One of the programmes is called Business Connectors and it is essentially seconding individuals from companies that are members of the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. It could be individuals from the likes of Lloyds Bank, Waitrose, Carillion, DWP (Department of Work & Pensions), Greggs and so on. Usually these individuals then work for 12 months in areas that are designated as having either some degree of social disadvantage or significant community issues.
The idea is that people from businesses come into that area and hit the ground running. They go out and talk to charities and community groups about what the issues are. They talk to businesses, schools, universities and other institutions about what they might be able to offer. Therefore, this is essentially a brokering role, with the Business Connector trying to match up opportunities between what businesses can offer and what charities want.
I first got involved with Business in the Community because Greggs, the bakers (where I am seconded), are members of Business in the Community.
Q. Why did you decide to work with VAC when you set up as Business Connector?
The remit of the role is to work with charities and community groups in Camden and find out how they might benefit from working with business. I think there’s something like 2,500 charities registered in Camden.
I use existing networks and was given a list from Business in the Community with the top contacts that I should start to speak to. VAC were up there, probably number one. Being a supporting body for charities in Camden, it just made absolute sense to go to VAC. From day one VAC were very warm, welcoming and willing to share information. I think they could see the fact that I am a free resource and the benefits of potentially getting involved.
Q. How do you think the work is going so far? Have you noticed any change in your time?
I hope that organisations I have been working with directly have a raised awareness of working with business. It is slow progress, but I hope that it is going in the right direction. All of this takes time.
Q. What do you think are some of the barriers of getting small community organisations to work with local businesses?
There is a culture, expectation and language gap between what businesses do and what charities want. The impact I am trying to make is to bridge that gap and get the two different organisations to think more about what the other wants. This is so organisations can manage expectations and realise that there are real mutual benefits to gain from working together.
Part of the work I am trying to do is get charities to realise businesses are not some big scary organisations that might just have some cash to hand out. The two organisations can learn quite a lot from each other. I think businesses more and more are thinking about the impact they have on their local community. If they find good community partners to work with it can often help them. It is just finding those partners and building those relationships.
Q. How do you think the voluntary, community sector and businesses can work together to create a positive impact for local communities?
It is about finding those opportunities. For charities, it is finding out what they do that might have a strategic fit with that business. The businesses for example, could be looking to do more in the local community, develop their staff, promote their name or get quality employees. It could be work experience or apprenticeships.
There has to be quite a lot of groundwork done in the first instance to try and find out what it is. That is where sometimes it is difficult for charities, as they do not always have the resource or capacity to put the time and effort into it. They are too busy trying to deliver their front line services.
Q. What in your opinion needs to change, happen or improve to enable businesses and the voluntary sector to better work together?
I think charities should be more open to the opportunities that businesses offer – and often it is not just about cash. The old-fashioned way was to think oh, there is a business, they will have a pot of cash to give us. It is not like that at all.
Being more open to the possibilities is essential – but charities need to be more switched-on and operate in more of a business like fashion. Many charities or community groups will say, well we are not businesses, but actually I feel that charities should operate like businesses. Even though they are not there to make a profit, they are there to use their resources as efficiently as they possibly can for the benefit of what they are trying to do. Whether it is for their service users or whatever. I think charities should become more business minded and that is what I have found is needed from my work so far.
Q. How do you think VAC can help enable this? E.g. seminars, 121 work, more collaboration?
I think that VAC can help charities to become more business-minded and learn more about the culture/language of business by organising all the things you mention. For example seminars, 121 work and more collaboration. I think it would be good if VAC could get some businesses who do support local charities to come and talk at a VAC event about why they get involved and what they look for in a partnership with a charity, over and above simply donating money.
Q. What do you think VAC has contributed to this work?
Their knowledge and their support. They know far more about what is going on in Camden than me. It was their years of experience of working with the voluntary sector and their willingness to share that. If VAC were not involved it would have meant I was spending a lot more time trying to find out what was going on in the voluntary sector and trying to get to speak to charities. The main difference has been that they have saved me a lot of time and effort.
Q. What do you think was the overall impact of this work on the local community and local organisations?
I would like to think the overall impact has been raising an awareness with voluntary sector organisations of the best ways of engaging with businesses and work more in partnership with them.
Q. What other work have you been involved with over the past 18 months at VAC?
A huge variety of things, which has led on to other work. We arranged a Funding Fair at the Wellcome Collection back in September 2016 and we got about 12 local trusts, foundations, and funders along. We invited small charities and community groups from Camden and it was the first Funding Fair that was held in Camden for quite a long time. It was well attended. Gregg’s co-funded the hire of the conference facilities at the Wellcome Collection.
I have also been involved in advising quite a few member charities of VAC on their corporate responsibility. Some examples of charities I have worked with in Camden as a result of a direct introduction from VAC are Scene and Heard, West Euston Partnership, Fitzrovia Youth in Action, Elfrida Rathbone and Women in Health.
I am now on the steering group of a new initiative, Camden Giving, which is being driven by VAC and we have just recruited a new director.
I am also, through VAC, on a Shadow Board of a new initiative called the Young Camden Foundation. Later in the year, in partnership with VAC, we are going to be running a networking event between charities and businesses. This will be around the whole issue of trying to enlist more support from businesses. A masterclass on working with businesses. That is in the planning.
Q. In general, how would you rate VAC as an organisation – what does it do well?
VAC have been very helpful to me in helping me understand more about the charity sector in Camden and have introduced me to many organisations. As previously mentioned, we also held a funding fair together back in September last year, which I thought was a useful collaboration and an example of how VAC is open to look for fresh ways to support charities in Camden.
Q. What areas of work do you think VAC could do better on, and why?
On the same theme, I think that finding ways of helping charities access more business support from the huge Camden business community, in terms of encouraging job opportunities, charity trustee opportunities, in-kind and pro bono business support and fundraising support is something that VAC should look to develop further.
Edited by Hasel Hooshiar
Data and Website Volunteer
May 23, 2017