Activity centre project shows how CSR can become mainstream business activity
It’s not mentioned enough that Bristol is blessed with more residents aged under 16 than over 65 – this is a major opportunity and so the future of these children and young people has been identified by the new Mayor, Marvin Rees, as a high priority over the coming years.
Kingcott Farm is located just outside Bristol - far enough away from the city to feel like it’s in the country yet within easy reach of one of the youngest cities in Europe.
Young Bristol has been providing community based youth services for almost ninety years now; its aim is to provide positive activities where young people can have fun in a safe environment whilst at the same time building up their confidence, skills and self-esteem, which will in turn help them along the way to gaining employment or a place at college or university.
Kingcott Farm is one of the sites from which Young Bristol is able to give children and young people access to all sorts of outdoor experiences, from High Rope courses to The Leap of Faith!
Burges Salmon are a large city legal firm who have been pioneering ways in which they can give support local charities – both practical and financial. We featured Burges Salmon earlier this year for the work they did with Avon Wildlife Trust as part of the My Wild City project.
Between the 12th and the 16th of September around 120 staff from Burgess Salmon went to Kingcott Farm to improve the site and prepare it for use in time for the autumn half term. According to Lee Williams, Young Bristol’s Director, the idea started as a ‘traditional’ painting offer which, after discussion with Burges Salmon, developed into a “much more sustainable proposal around supporting outdoor activities” at the farm.
As it was a big project, quite a bit of preparation was required with Burges Salmon providing their own Project Manager to ensure not only that the project was delivered well, but also that it benefitted all concerned. In addition they provided £3,000 towards the support that Young Bristol provided to deliver the week successfully. They also received support from What Happens Next, a local charity that works with Schools in the Bristol area.
Jamie Cameron, Senior Associate and Head of Community Engagement at Burges Salmon, told us “the week was fantastic, you could see the improvement from day one, making the site more accessible…a better space all round…it looks like a full-on activity centre now”.
By the end of the week, Jamie and his team had secured the high rope anchorage, built a composting toilet, created a wormery (apparently worm wee is very valuable!), built new pathways and cleared exiting ones. To cap it off they held a Fun Day at the end to celebrate what they had achieved!
If I ended there it would be a great tale, but it would only be telling half the story. The approach taken by both Young Bristol and Burges Salmon is symptomatic of a major change in the way that companies are approaching their philanthropic work. There is an increasing recognition of the mutual benefits these sorts of projects can bring and of their potential to create more meaningful relationships between charities and business which are based on a deeper understanding of partnership and shared objectives.
Jamie told us that his company are now looking at how they can move on from this project, possibly using what has been learned to inform their plans to establish an Associate Development Centre, where they can work with organisations like Young Bristol on projects that complement their work. "Simply putting people into a different environment challenges them, it’s good for employee engagement and it raises the profile of the company”.
Lee’s advice is “there’s nothing wrong with companies being a bit selective” so work with the charity on what works for both of you.
Burges Salmon have now agreed to provide professional help for Young Bristol, helping them to review their policies and procedures and becoming part of their Associates Programme.
A great result all round…and it’s not the only example; increasingly companies are looking at their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes and asking “How can we bring this into line with HR functions?” A well planned bit of employee volunteering offers the opportunity to bring these two elements together to the benefit of all concerned.
If you would like more information about this project or Employer Supported Volunteering in general, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Dom Murphy on 07584480615.