The Bank of England was among the three founders of Heart of the City in 2000, along with the Lord Mayor and the FSA. The vision was for Heart of the City to encourage more businesses to take part in community and charitable activities by sharing best practice across organisations in the City – a vision that is still at the core of Heart of the City’s mission today. The Bank and Heart of the City have built on that partnership to date. In addition to Governor Mark Carney being Co-President of Heart of the City, a number of Bank of England staff make contributions. For instance the Bank’s staff counsellor, Linda Barnard, who originally set up the Bank’s community programme, has been a involved with Heart of the City since its inception as a member of the then Executive Committee and her involvement today continues in her role as a trustee. Also Rachel Butler as our Community Lead, and myself as Head of CSR for the Bank. Importantly, beyond the Bank’s longstanding relationship with Heart of the City, it is their great mission that motivates me to get involved.
Unlike larger organisations which can draw on the benefits of dedicated responsible business professionals, the small-to-medium sized (SMEs) businesses that Heart of the City supports often do not have this kind of resources at their disposal. As a result they can be overwhelmed about how to start incorporating responsible initiatives and behaviour into their business. I feel privileged to be able to contribute my expertise to support these businesses and equip them with practical tools and advice to get them started on their journeys. For example, I was able to share insights on topics such as how to choose a charity partner or reduce environmental impacts with motive8, one of Heart of the City’s members, through their mentoring programme.
I also gain a lot personally from helping these organisations. I remember the first roundtable discussion that I led at a Heart of the City event: I was truly inspired by the passion and commitment of the attendees to make a positive impact. I was equally challenged by the range of issues they were confronting. It was incredibly gratifying to be able to apply my skills and experience to advise such diverse businesses. The stimulating discussions also opened my horizons to new ideas and innovative initiatives that I could incorporate at the Bank. For example, one was using the GivX index to benchmark our community programme.
In addition to meeting like-minded peers from diverse industry sectors and inspiring innovation in my own practice, Heart of the City has helped me develop professionally and push my own boundaries. For example, I served on my first panel at one of their events and I was grateful for that opportunity to further build my confidence in public speaking. You need to apply a range of skills when contributing at Heart of the City: be it when presenting, mentoring, or table hosting. I always felt in safe hands and well supported working with the team. They communicate clearly so you know what to expect and their events are incredibly well organised, which means my time is used very effectively. I would strongly encourage others to get involved!
Supporting Heart of the City also offers opportunities for myself and my colleagues to serve as ambassadors for the Bank of England. It means we can showcase our commitment to being a responsible institution making a positive impact on our communities, which is at the core of our mission as the UK’s central bank. Heart of the City have helped us raise awareness about some of our responsible business initiatives, such as our “This is me” films. This is part of our effort to create an inclusive culture at the Bank, which we hope inspires other organisations to do the same.
To me, it is all about openly sharing best practice, and supporting other organisations on their journey towards being more responsible and sustainable, no matter how big or small they are. Heart of the City provides wonderful opportunities to do just that!