The Prince’s Seeing is Believing Programme

Immersing business leaders in place-based regeneration

Over the last 40 years, Business in the Community (BITC) has worked with its members to tackle some of the most pressing issues faced by local communities across the UK. Today, it is described as “levelling up”, but it has always been part of BITC’s DNA.

Established in 1990 by HRH The Prince of Wales, The Prince’s Seeing is Believing programme has played a vital role in shaping BITC’s place-based approach. This year, the Seeing is Believing visits will once again offer a powerful experience for senior business leaders, showing the unique challenges faced by these local communities. Most importantly, the visits will demonstrate how collaborative business intervention can achieve significant and long-term positive change.

The Prince’s Seeing is Believing visit series 2022


Led by Alison Rose, Chief Executive at NatWest Group plc, this visit will focus on the need for a thriving and diverse SME (small- and medium-sized enterprise) community and the interventions needed from businesses.

Much of the UK SME sector is still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with many businesses struggling to find adequate support and adapt to new ways of conducting their operations. As a bank, NatWest have always said that SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy, and now more than ever it is imperative that we support the UK’s businesses as we look to recover. This opportunity, NatWest’s research highlights, could be worth £140 billion to the economy1.

Bradford is home to almost 16,000 businesses employing 200,000 people, with an economy worth £10 billion2. The young, diverse, entrepreneurial and growing population provides Bradford with a unique asset that can drive innovation and business growth. Bradford is on the shortlist to become UK City of Culture 2025 and plans to build on its existing cultural assets and heritage, as well as attracting significant investment, jobs, and new opportunities. With the right support Bradford could become a UK economic success story.


Led by John Allan CBE, Chairman of Tesco PLC and Barratt Developments PLC, this visit will focus on skills and employability and tackling inequality and deprivation.

Despite the many opportunities for education and skilled employment in Coventry, the city has a working age employment rate of 71%, below the national average of 75%3. Nine per cent of the city’s population has no qualifications at all, limiting their ability to take advantage of opportunities within the region. Just over a third (34%) are qualified to a higher education level (Level 4 or higher), compared to an average of 39% across England4.

There is a need to address skills shortages, from raising school children’s aspirations to retaining skilled professionals and graduates in the city. The 2019 English Indices of Deprivation report assesses that nearly 15% of Coventry neighbourhoods are among the 10% most deprived in England. Although this is a 4% improvement on the 2015 report, there is still much work to be done5. Across the city, 22% of Coventry children lived in low-income families in 2018/19 compared to 17% at a national level. However, this masks deep inequalities between wards in the city. For instance, 42% of children lived in relative poverty in 2018/19 in the ward of Foleshill compared to just 8% in another ward, Wainbody, just 4 miles away6.


Led by Steve Rowe, Chief Executive Officer at M&S, this visit will be focusing on business’ role in addressing social mobility and building resilient and connected communities.

Norwich, a city with idyllic charm, is known as one of the friendliest cities in the UK, yet this hides the enduring challenges it faces. Its social mobility levels are in the bottom 10% in the UK. There are life expectancy differences of up to seven years depending on which ward you live in. One fifth of neighbourhoods in Norwich are considered amongst the 10% most deprived communities in the country7.

Working in partnership with businesses, the local authority and community organisations, we aim to help address the inequality and lack of opportunities that exist in Norwich, through a coordinated, city-wide approach to employability, wellbeing and reconnecting communities.


Led by Allan Lighton, Chairman at The Co-operative Group, Pizza Express, Element, Simba and BrewDog, the focus for Rochdale’s visit will be on skills development and nurturing and supporting the workforce of the future.

Rochdale Borough contains the most deprived wards8 and has the highest number of people with no qualifications across the Greater Manchester conurbation9. Despite its industrial legacy and strong manufacturing presence, the borough of Rochdale in 2022 is not the booming town it once was. Its economy is one of the least economically complex parts of Greater Manchester, business growth is slow and gross valued added per head is 41% lower than the Greater Manchester average. It also has the highest population without any qualifications at all10. Deindustrialisation and the adoption of technology has left residents across Rochdale dependent on low skill and low wage jobs. Many of those who do acquire some level of qualification leave the area and do not return.

Next steps

If your organisation is a BITC member, speak to your Relationship Manager to find out more about The Prince’s Seeing is Believing programme. Log in to MyBITC to find their contact details.

transform placeS through genuine community engagEment

  1. NatWest (2021) A springboard to recovery: Building back better together.
  2. Invest in Bradford (2018) Economic Strategy: Unlocking Bradford’s Economic Potential
  3. Coventry City Council (2019) Coventry Joint Strategic Needs Assessment
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid.
  6. ibid.
  7. Lauren Cope (2019) ‘We’re living on £10 a day’: What deprivation means to Norwich families, Eastern Daily Press, 13 June.
  8. Rochdale Borough Council (2021) Deprivation performance in Rochdale borough.
  9. Greater Manchester Combined Authority (2017) Greater Manchester Key Facts 2017.
  10. Rochdale Borough Council (2019) Rochdale Borough Local Economy Report.