“ This investment of £4.8 million to the Business Connectors scheme provides a game changing opportunity to harness the traditions of the Voluntary and Community Sector with the power of business to escalate positive social change at a local level and have a lasting impact on people and communities most in need ”
BITC Business Connectors are individuals from business, trained by BITC and partners, to build local partnerships between business and community organisations in neighbourhoods of greatest need across the country. The Big Lottery Fund grant will allow BITC to harness the power of British business through this programme and transform communities at a local level. Business Connectors has been backed by the Prime Minister, David Cameron and was originally the idea of BITC’s President, HRH The Prince of Wales.
Business Connectors was conceived in 2010 when HRH The Prince of Wales, through his experience of visiting communities across the UK, realised that in order to develop sustained and productive relationships between businesses and communities, one person was needed to join up the dots and make things happen. At the same time a BITC consultation revealed that the most effective way businesses believed they could make a difference to communities of need, was through an individual connecting local businesses with local communities.
Big Lottery Fund England Chair, Nat Sloane, said:
“The Voluntary and community sector has been asking and wanting to build better and more purposeful relationships with business. This investment of £4.8 million to the Business Connectors scheme provides a game changing opportunity to harness the traditions of the Voluntary and Community Sector with the power of business to escalate positive social change at a local level and have a lasting impact on people and communities most in need.”
Stephen Howard, chief executive, Business in the Community said:
“Connectors is an example of British business at its very best. We are thrilled to receive this grant from the Big Lottery Fund as it means we will be able to unlock more private sector support to help communities and voluntary sector organisations across the UK. With youth unemployment at over 1 million and one in seven shops on UK High Streets standing empty, it is vital to leverage private sector support to increase enterprise, employment and support education in the UK. Business Connectors has already proved to be an extremely successful way to make this happen.”
The following companies have signed up to Business Connectors:
Accenture, BT, Carillion, Dairy Crest, E-On, Everything Everywhere, Fujitsu, Greggs, Lloyds Banking Group, M&S, Midland Heart, Royal Mail, Sainsbury's, SHM, United Utilities and Waitrose
Gwyn Burr, Customer and Colleague Director at Sainsbury’s, Chair of the BITC Community Investment Leadership Team said:
"Sainsbury's are delighted to have been involved in the Business Connector initiative since its inception. In Dec 2010 we were challenged by HRH Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister to leverage business resource to affect social change at a local community level in a new way and at a new scale. We believe that business collaborating together and with local community organisations can make a profound difference to some of the hardest to reach parts of our society. It is a critical time for business and the voluntary sector to stand together to affect lasting social change in the often complex and difficult situations that our communities face."
In February 2012 Lloyds Banking Group announced that they will provide the infrastructure and training for all new Connectors as well as placing up to 20 senior employees from Lloyds Banking Group for an entire year and covering at least the next three years.
Graham Lindsay, Retail Director of Community and Social Responsibility at Lloyds Banking Group said:
“We are proud to have played a part in helping secure the Big Lottery Fund for Business in the Community. Lloyds Banking Group is the biggest corporate investor in UK communities and therefore we are in a powerful position to help local communities across the UK tackle the issues they are facing. Our Group's ambition is to help Britain prosper and become the best bank for customers. To do so, we recognise that we must be the best bank for communities. To help advance the Business Connectors we are delighted to announce that as well as seconding 20 colleagues, we have committed to fund the training of all Connectors, whichever business they come from with a £600,000 investment over three years.”
In February Fujitsu also committed to join the Business Connectors scheme, in addition to its ongoing support since 2010 in providing the cloud-based BITCConnect software platform, which enables the Business Connectors to collaborate and share best practice.
This announcement is made after a successful pilot of the Business Connector programme, which began in 2011. It was funded with a grant from the Office of Civil Society who championed the way the scheme connects charities and business. The pilot saw 20 business connectors working in 20 areas in England. There are currently 22 Connectors.
Commenting, Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive, The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) said:
“Voluntary sector organisations are under increasing pressure to do more with less resources, so effective collaboration and partnership working is crucial. Business Connectors is a simple yet effective idea which takes the concept of a broker on the ground to scale and enables business to really make a difference on the ground by bringing invaluable skills and expertise into communities to meet their needs. We look forward with working with Business in the Community as the programme expands nationwide.”
Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society said:
“We seed funded business connectors to make better links between local business and charities. So we are delighted that Big Lottery have backed the concept and that their funding will allow BITC to deploy 670 Business Connectors to work in over 200 disadvantaged areas within 5 years."
Achievements from current Business Connectors include:
- Launching an enterprise incubation space for young entrepreneurs in the centre of Middlesbrough. 14 new retail businesses are now trading successfully
- Creating 150 new job opportunities for young people in Lambeth
- Assisting 60 riot-hit small businesses to access vital funds to rebuild in Tottenham
- Securing 100 business volunteers to rebuild a community centre on a deprived south London estate
- Connecting 25 young unemployed graduates with business mentors in Bristol