Three ways SMEs can develop a successful community partnership

When it comes to developing a community partnership, finding the right organisation to support can seem overwhelming, but by starting small and having a clear focus your partnership will have a great impact.

Here are three tips on how to develop a successful corporate/community partnership from Marie Broad at SThree.

1 – Find your company’s sweet spot

One of the tools I find most helpful when starting out is finding your company’s sweet spot for community involvement.

By mapping out your ideas based on the following three questions you will ensure that you are working to real needs in the community and not developing ideas in a vacuum, you will also develop a partnership relevant to your business and the skills of your people:

  • What are the social needs that your business is well placed to respond to?
  • What business skills and knowledge do you have that will help tackle these social issues?
  • What business problems can you address through these activities?

    From the start you will be identifying key business drivers to evidence commercial value and designing projects that focus on the best that your business has to offer. This means high value for all involved and a sustainable approach to build upon as you move forward.

    Doing this enabled us to create SThree’s CSR vision of ‘Transforming Lives through Skills and Work’, which makes sense for us as a global recruitment business.

    Just over a year ago we also launched the SThree Foundation, which has a mission to support bright young people from underprivileged and diverse backgrounds into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) higher education and employment.

    In partnership with the charity Generating Genius, we are currently assisting 50 A-Level students over the course of two years – 70% are female, 80% are from BAME backgrounds and all meet social need criteria. We feel that this is addressing the current imbalance going into the STEM sectors and helping to create a stronger talent pipeline for the future.

    In the last year we have set up 54 STEM insight placements with 23 employers, which has been a fantastic collaboration across the STEM sectors addressing a huge skills gap and societal need. Read an update here.  Some employers had never hosted work experience before, and we were able to give tailored support to help them with HR requirements and in designing stimulating agendas for the students.

    We are now planning to replicate this programme across Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, as well as setting up STEM University scholarships to particularly encourage more girls into IT and engineering.

    2 – Have a clear focus

    I have found that having a clear focus for community activities naturally engages staff who can see the rationale and it helps them to feel confident in talking about the activities to their business contacts, which in turn builds the programme.
    By being focused on specific themes you will also be in a stronger position when inevitable requests come through from various colleagues to support new activities. This means that you can better allocate resources and time to your priority projects and then review what else can be done in addition, rather than being pulled in too many directions which is likely to water down impacts.

    3 – Start small

    This month we have Valentine’s day, and it’s a good reminder that to create a marriage we start with a first date and get to know each other over time. This is a good analogy for any corporate/community partnership which also takes time and effort to build.

    Just as you would on a first date, it’s about asking questions, listening and working through any issues together. Each partner should have something unique to contribute which over time will make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

    From a company perspective, I would rather ‘under promise and over deliver’ and put a heavy focus on making sure that I keep our charities updated. It’s better to be honest and open and do something small that really supports the charity, rather than trying to do too many things at once, which may not end up being that helpful.


    Support from Heart of the City

    For help with finding the right organisation to partner with, Heart of the City members can access the ‘Find a Charity Map’ tool to help find local charities near to your offices.  Also speak with your membership manager who can signpost you to useful organisations.

    Heart of the City looks forward to welcoming Marie to our workshop on Wednesday 15 February, where she will be providing further insights on how to build effective community partnerships.

    Heart of the City Foundation Programme and Advanced members can register their attendance here.

    You can also read Marie’s Q&A where she speaks about their partnership with Generating Genius, being shortlisted for a Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award and their relationship with Heart of the City.

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