As the newest member of the GivingForce UK office I was invited along to The Crowd event last week. The Crowd takes place on a monthly basis, offering a platform for experimenting with ideas around sustainability, community engagement, and Corporate Social Responsibility. The theme of the event was partnerships, and how they are “shaking things up” within socially responsible businesses.
To kick start the evening Gib Bulloch, Founder of Accenture Development Partners, spoke on growing inequality across the globe and attempted to take score on the rising political tensions in western democracies. He explained how this can be seen as a symptom of the disequilibrium of wealth between different groups in society. Gib was able to create a feeling of hope and opportunity out of these ideas, and spoke of how a new breed of entrepreneurial business were redefining the social contract that binds businesses and charities. Gib opened the evening leading us to think that we had the power and opportunity to affect these issues.
Gib then joined a panel with Save the Children, GlaxoSmithKline and Interface, to discuss their socially focused partnerships and collaborations. During the conversation the partnership of GSK and Save the Children was held up as a strong example of how these new relationships could deliver more than just opportunities for traditional philanthropy. Phil Thompson from GSK explored how their relationship with Save the Children wasn’t seen by the business as philanthropy, but as a “knowledge transfer partnership” that was measured for real benefits for the business.
Tanya Steele from Save the Children demonstrated how the services that were offered through the partnership were completely outside the financial reach of their organisations without this type of partnership.
For a broader view of partnerships, the work of Miriam Turner, Innovations Director at Interface was discussed. Turner has been working in collaboration with organisations and change makers in fishing communities around the world to deliver an ecologically sustainable carpet made from disused fishing nets. By doing so Interface are able to support the environment in these communities, whilst creating a product that utilises waste as its material. Their work demonstrates how one organisation partnering with networks of people across the world can deliver real business value and social good through successful partnerships.
After the discussion, we were invited to discuss how our businesses had built successful partnerships, and what we have learnt from the process. Some of those on my table discussed how choosing a single organisation to work with can cause employees to feel less engaged with the campaign. Instead the approach of picking an organisation on a shorter term basis was seen as beneficial. Others put forward arguments in support of a single partnership that business focus could be driven towards.
The Crowd was an eye opening experience for me as a young entrepreneurial thinker interested in sustainability and social change. The event allowed ideas to be shared that were hugely engaging to the responsible businesses and entrepreneurs at the event. After being exposed to them I feel driven to make an impact as we push forward GivingForce, whilst remembering there is real value for both charities and businesses in creating partnerships that are sustainable. We look forward to exposing some of the partnerships we are planning here!