The Prince’s Seeing is Believing Programme sparks increase in business-led community action - Business in the Community

The Prince’s Seeing is Believing Programme sparks increase in business-led community action

Business in the Community (BITC) has today published its annual Seeing is Believing report, capturing the actions and impact from this year’s visits. The Prince’s Seeing is Believing programme brings senior business leaders to communities to understand the challenges that need to be addressed, and the power of driving change through business action. This year, nearly 100 C-suite business leaders attended a Seeing is Believing visit, showing an increase in CEOs wanting to engage and make a difference in local communities.

The 2023 visits included Blackpool, Coventry, Newport and Sheffield, places where deprivation is higher than the England and Wales average.[2] The programme also brought leaders to South London to understand the importance of breaking down barriers to work for young people and those with criminal convictions.

Business leaders heard from community groups working to tackle some of the challenges facing these communities, such as the rising cost of living and poor-quality housing. Many of the visits this year focused on breaking down the barriers people face when trying to access employment and skills. Business leaders met with a number of community organisations supporting people to gain the skills they need to succeed in education and employment, and to help them excel in their careers.

Data shows that the unemployment rate in all five of the places visited this year is higher than that of the UK average (3.8%), highlighting the importance of BITC’s work in these communities. The unemployment rate is 4.3% in Sheffield, 4.5% in Blackpool, 4.7% in London, 5.4% in Coventry, and 5.7% in Newport.[3]

Economic inactivity is also high in these places. 21.5% of people aged 16 to 64 in the UK are economically inactive, compared to 21.7% of 16-64-year-olds in Newport, 24.1% in Coventry, 24.3% in Sheffield, and 25.4% in Blackpool. In London, the rate of economic inactivity is marginally lower than the UK average, at 21.2%.[4] These figures showcase the importance of business leaders understanding the opportunities available if they take action to address barriers to employment.

Business leaders who led a Seeing is Believing visit this year include Zahra Bahrololoumi CBE, EVP and CEO of Salesforce UK and Ireland; Amanda Blanc, Group Chief Executive of Aviva plc; Tara Foley, Chief Executive of AXA UK and Ireland; Paul Lewis, Firmwide Managing Partner of Linklaters LLP; and Tim Roberts, Chief Executive of Henry Boot plc.

Zahra Bahrololoumi CBE, EVP and CEO of Salesforce UK and Ireland, said:

“Through the Seeing is Believing programme, I have seen first-hand some of the barriers so many people in the UK are struggling to overcome around education, skills development, and social mobility. I led a visit to Coventry as a board member of the programme’s Coventry Leader’s Network and met with brilliant people in the local community to better understand the challenges they face trying to find opportunities in the area.

“Crucially, the programme focuses on the decisive action businesses can take to help communities in need – and it has created transformative change both inside and outside UK workplaces over the past three decades. I am very proud of Salesforce’s support for Seeing is Believing and look forward to seeing the impact of our collective efforts from our continued partnership.”

Mary Macleod, Chief Executive of BITC, said:

“It’s not very often that a programme launched 30 years ago is still as relevant and important today as it was when it was first created by HM The King. This year’s visits came at a pivotal time for the UK, with many people struggling to make ends meet due to the rising cost of living. Community groups are also under increasing pressure, with more people having to rely on their support to get by.

“The impact that this year’s visits alone will have on people living and working in the communities we visited, is truly remarkable. The continued success of the programme is made possible by the incredible business leaders that take time out of their very busy workdays to listen, learn and act. I believe that we’ve only just touched the surface of what this programme can achieve, and I know that with the continued support of leaders across the UK, we can transform even more lives and help more communities thrive.”

Impact from this year’s visits includes:

  • Following Amanda Blanc, Group Chief Executive Officer of Aviva, leading the visit to Blackpool, BITC has partnered with Aviva to help increase its long-term support for 50 of the most disadvantaged communities across the UK.
  • Following Paul Lewis, Firmwide Managing Partner of Linklaters LLP, leading the visit to Newport, Linklaters hosted an employability day at its London office, whilst setting aside five places for KidCare4U students on its work experience programme, promoting employability amongst young people in Newport.
  • Following the visit to Sheffield, Bettys & Taylors Group has continued its funding of a chef at Endeavour, a charity which promotes literacy, academic development, and health, to deliver cooking classes for the young people, and is working with the Council to explore offering online vocational courses.
  • Following the visit to Coventry, Worldline is working with BITC to explore the opportunity for a national programme on social mobility, emphasising access to skills, work experience and employment opportunities.
  • Following the visit to London, JLL is using insights from the visit to review its Social Value and Social Mobility strategies.

The Seeing is Believing programme was established by the then Prince of Wales in 1990. The programme, supported by Salesforce, was born from a simple but powerful belief that the best way to close the gap between the boardroom and the community was to take business leaders out to the communities and, through the power of experiential learning, to inspire and challenge participants. The visits are designed to encourage business leaders to think strategically about the implications for their own businesses and the practical actions that can be taken in response, leading to meaningful and sustained impact for both businesses and communities. To date, over 25,000 business leaders have taken part in the Seeing is Believing programme which has led to various long-term strategic initiatives being set up, including Business Action on Homelessness, Ban the Box, a campaign to get employers to remove the criminal conviction box on job applications, and Unemployed Mentoring Circles in collaboration with employers and the Department for Work and Pensions, a programme that supports Black, Asian, Mixed Race and other ethnically diverse people to find employment.  


Notes to editor 

  1. Read the full 2023 Seeing is Believing report here.
  2. Census 2021 – Household deprivation
  3. Unemployment rate data from the Annual Population Survey June 2022 to June 2023.
  4. Economic inactivity data from the Annual Population Survey June 2022 to June 2023.

For further information, please contact Aoife Butler Nolan, Head of Media, Public Affairs and Policy, on 020 7566 8681.