Inspiring Communities Network
There is much talk about Corporate Social Responsibility and even more about the Third sector developing partnerships with businesses as one way of making CSR a reality.
The conversations around community benefit clauses add into that mix along with employers looking to create opportunities for staff to take part in activities which express deeper values and a social conscience. All of these add value to the traditional fundraising or “charity of the year” model which has its place and is much appreciated, but is not always sustainable in the long term; relationships that last need to be about more than money.
Cyrenians have developed many partnerships over the years which try to go beyond the expected or traditional models and into a place which strengthens both organisations and those who work for them, whilst allowing each to better meet the needs of those they serve. These are just two examples;
Black Rock International began to come to Cyrenians Farm in West Lothian for some “Team challenges” – working on the Farm and building their team by doing so. They liked it so much that they began to take a longer term view to develop the relationship, try to think strategically about what would be a win – win for both organisations and do something which would have the potential to be the basis of a longer term relationships. Discussions began between the Blackrock and Cyrenians staff and they developed an ‘Apprentice’ type challenge where the participants used produce from the farm to make products which they sold in their office. This created a unique team building exercise and earned significant money for the farm. It played to strengths and held a sense of equality about the partnership
With Grant Thornton IP, the idea of playing to strengths took a different tack. Cyrenians worked with Grant Thornton IP to create opportunities for vulnerable clients with limited resources to access expert and professional advice on matters of debt management. At times this could make the difference between people losing their homes or not. Advice was normally delivered at Grant Thornton’s office and clients were treated with respect and taken seriously. Feedback to Cyrenians staff was that clients were reassured by the knowledge that high level professionals were taking their case seriously. This was an added bonus; supporting the self-confidence of the clients is as important as helping meet their financial needs.
It worked because time was taken to build good relationships with the people at Grant Thornton and work on how needs on both sides could be met by playing to strengths. The commitment of staff in both organisations to the primary goal; helping vulnerable people overcome chronic debt problems was also important. The advice was provided completely free to the client and this sort of advice was made available to people sections of the community that would normally not have the resources to access it.
The relationship is ongoing and had been built into a community of voluntary sector advice agencies attending networking and learning events at Grant Thornton.
One involves raising money, though by using Cyrenians product, the other doesn’t. Both are equally valuable. Both worked because took time to explore the relationships, the expectations, the strengths and the needs of both organisations and the opportunities that understanding created.
The journey we take together with partners from the business sector is fundamentally a human one. It might be because of our employment that we begin the relationships but the purpose is beyond the name about the door. This is about who we are and what we believe to be important.