Becoming employee owned in 2015 meant a big increase in employee engagement at Formation Architects; staff wanted to make a positive contribution in their local Lambeth community.  Taking this enthusiasm further, the practice joined Heart of the City in 2016 for support establishing a responsible business programme.

Through Heart of the City, Formation Architects developed links with local groups, keen to find a meaningful way for its employees to use their architectural skills for good, and they formed Formation Community, a group to lead their activities.  This focuses on four main areas: fundraising, community outreach and pro-bono activity, wellbeing and sustainability.  22 volunteers (27% of the practice) have dedicated over 3,000 hours to fundraising and pro bono activities since 2017.

Activities have included fundraising for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust for a year, a charity voted for by employees, and welcoming young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to learn about architecture as a career.  They’ve also worked with local social enterprise Café Van Gough which provides on the job training, employment opportunities and ‘cooking on a budget’ programmes for the community.  Formation Community re-designed their café and kitchen at concept design level, to help them with crowdfunding and to provide more training opportunities.

The motivation to establish their responsible business programme was to engage employees and support the local community, but as a business Formation Architects has also seen a positive impact: morale, recruitment and retention have all seen a boost.

A highlight for Formation Community came in 2019, when they won the Heart of the City Award at the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards. The awards celebrate businesses achieving excellence in social impact in London and for Formation Architects, the award recognised the impact they’ve made in the local community over a short period.

They also featured in the GivX Awards, a tool to help UK companies to benchmark their level of community engagement and charitable support against similar businesses. Formation Architects was delighted to be placed second in the top 10 highest ranking SMEs, first in the Architecture and Construction sector, first among Heart of the City members and first in ‘Skilled’ Volunteering.

In 2020, Formation Community continues to help young people in Lambeth to gain their footing in life and explore the world of architecture.

‘Formation Architects is a relatively small SME, so realistically the contribution we can make is always going to be modest, but one of the things that the Heart of the City foundation programme taught us is that collectively, businesses like ours can make a significant difference.’

Neil Farrance, Director and Trustee, Formation Architects

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