PwC - Brigade

The Employment for Excluded Groups Award and The Experian Building Stronger Communities Award in recognition of Sir John Peace, Finalist, 2016

The lives of 850 homeless people in London have been transformed by PwC’s social enterprise restaurant, Brigade.  Previously disadvantaged people have been helped to gain skills, confidence and employment. 

Good for society

  • It's estimated that Brigade has saved the taxpayer £1.6m by helping ex ex-offenders stay out of the criminal justice system.
  • The venture has saved taxpayers an estimated £750,000 through giving previous benefits claimants the ability to support themselves.

Good for business

  • Working on the project has helped PwC develop strong relationships with the venture’s partner organisations.
  • Staff who have volunteered for the project have developed their own skills, built networks and say they feel more engaged with PwC.

PwC

Overview

The pavements around PwC’s London offices, in Charing Cross and London Bridge, are often used for shelter by some of London’s 7,500 rough sleepers. In September 2011, PwC opened Brigade, a social enterprise bar, restaurant and venue in central London to support this disadvantaged group.

The idea behind the project was to provide high-quality training and developmental programmes for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Some of the participants were taken on to a year-long apprenticeship at the restaurant. This helped build their skills and work experience in preparation for a career in the food industry. 

PwC, which specialises in building business relationships to solve problems, identified Beyond Food, a charity that supports homeless people, and its founder Simon Boyle, as suitable partners for the project. The firm then used its own experience to help the charity scale up its services and develop a sustainable business model for the restaurant.

PwC leveraged its relationships to bring the other partners to the project. The firm also provided a venue for the restaurant at its newly-formed Fire Station social enterprise hub in London Bridge. As well as underwriting the entire venture, PwC provided marketing and legal support to help nurture the restaurant to self-sufficiency.

In its first three years of trading, Brigade generated £3.6m of social value. This included £1.6m saved by helping ex-offenders stay out of the justice system and £750,000 saved by helping people who were previously receiving benefits to become self-sufficient.

As a result, PwC has also developed new business relationships with its partners in the venture. More than 100 PwC staff have volunteered at Brigade and mentored apprentices. Staff improved their own skills, developed networks and social awareness, and reported feeling more engaged with PwC. 

Why tackle homelessness?

PwC is a professional services firm, set up to solve important problems. Homelessness is an important problem. Most people in London will pass a homeless person on their way into work, and homelessness has huge social and financial costs for society.  The Bridge is an opportunity for PwC to use its skills and convening power to help alleviate this important societal problem.

The purpose of the Brigade to help this vulnerable group of people to get back on their feet, gain employment and gives them the opportunity for a brighter future. It came about because the company wanted to use its skills, experience and passion to make a tangible, sustainable difference to communities. 

Building a partnership

All partners in Brigade brought something different to the partnership. PwC managed the initial development of the venture, co-ordinating the efforts of the partnership and drawing on PwC’s legal, financial, procurement, marketing and facilities management expertise. 

De Vere brought invaluable, practical restaurant expertise; Beyond Food brought the training programmes and beneficiaries; Big Issue Invest brought investment and credibility with the social enterprise sector; and the Homes & Communities Agency provided critical start-up funding, as well as helping us to raise awareness of Brigade with the public sector. 

Regular meetings brought the parties together to co-create and shape the venture. 

Always learning, always improving

Now that Brigade is operational, it is managed and monitored through a formal body, the Fire Station Operating Committee (OpCo), but even as the project was being developed, there were regular meetings between the partners. 

The monthly meetings enable all partners to regularly monitor progress and to deal with any problems as they arise. Because Brigade was a new concept there was no template to follow and so there has been a lot of learning along the way. 

What PwC's Chairman and Senior Partner said:

“People wouldn’t naturally associate a professional services firm with a social enterprise restaurant and I must admit that when it was first proposed to the Board, it was not an obvious project for us. But Brigade has been a phenomenal success, for everyone.  

As well as being a great restaurant, it’s also the embodiment of PwC’s values – a tangible example of ‘doing the right thing’ and being a catalyst for change. It’s changing the lives of many homeless people, often excluded from society, particularly through the apprentice programme. I hope it will encourage more corporates to do something similar.’’ - Ian Powell – Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC UK

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