Sustaining business impact through collaboration

In 2011 Huw Davies, Chief Financial Officer, Wates led a Seeing is Believing visit in North Leatherhead, Surrey, which highlighted some of the key social challenges faced locally.  It prompted local organisations to form a collaboration to deliver a series of impactful interventions, recently celebrated at a showcase event. Huw shares his thoughts on why collaboration on community initiatives enable all partners to maximise the impact they can achieve.

Collaboration is something we all commit to, be it through work, business or other social pursuits. Whether it’s through a formalised structure or natural occurrence, collaboration is something that can lead to long term benefits for all involved. So, it's important that business leaders take a joined-up approach in addressing local issues.

The Seeing is Believing visit that I led in 2011 took senior business leaders from some of Leatherhead's largest employers to see first-hand some of the challenges facing residents.  Set amongst some of the UK’s wealthiest communities, North Leatherhead could quite easily be mistaken for just being part of the well-off green commuter belt.  But look beyond the physical environment and you soon discover the reality of living in North Leatherhead. One in five children live in poverty, only 37.2% of pupils achieve 5 A*-C grades (58.4% national average) and the ward has the third highest figures for the number of young people not in education, employment or training in Surrey.

As a business Wates has a long history of supporting local communities. I was keen to make a difference following the Seeing is Believing visit, but was unsure what individual offer of support we could leave as a legacy. Yes, as a business we could have easily volunteered for a one-off activity, and while that would have made a difference, we wanted to make a long term commitment and work with other businesses who attended the visit to help build a more sustainable future for all.

Like all businesses we have pressures on staff time and resources but we also hold a considerable knowledge base. We were conscious of limits on how much we could commit to on top of the other community programmes we have running across the business.  A few discussions along the line and it soon became apparent other senior business leaders felt the same.  It was at that point that we decided to develop a collaborative working model – The Leatherhead Hub.

Following its launch and further development, the Hub is delivering benefits to all parties involved. Business in the Community manage the administration and planning of interventions, then it is up to us as a collective of businesses to decide how we resource a project.  Working as a collective we are able to structure our involvement around our resources and skills. If one partner is not able to deliver for whatever reason, activities can still go ahead with the other Hub partners.

Since 2011 1,999 young people have benefited from projects delivered through the Hub.  326 employees have committed time to projects and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support and commitment in raising the aspirations of young people.

As a business we have seen a number of benefits for our staff in being involved in the projects. The projects provide a fantastic networking opportunity for staff whilst delivering a benefit to the community. We have been able to engage our supply chain and also link in to other local initiatives. It’s also been hugely beneficial to work alongside the other Hub partners to understand their approach to corporate responsibility.

I hope that other communities across the South East and UK will soon have the opportunity to benefit from this working model.

If you’re interested in collaborating to address social issues in your local community please contact Jen Beacon, Community Impact Manager, Business in the Community 07831 138257