Each of our departments has its own contribution to make – our Research team is providing innovative ways of measuring the impact the voluntary and community sector makes.
We are active campaigners and key to the delivery and management of the Community Investment Coalition which campaigns for fairer finance across communities and our training and consultancy provides local authorities and businesses with the skills they need to successfully engage with communities.
Why did we develop Love Your Community?
Developing the Love Your Community quality mark, then, to recognise the work that small businesses do in their own communities felt like a natural progression of our other work. Love Your Community sprang out of discussions to decipher the best way of supporting and encouraging best practice particularly in small business. We wanted to be able to help celebrate unrecognised good work, encourage more businesses to engage locally and help them to increase their commercial success as a result.
After months of preparation, our fledgling new venture was finally launched at an event we held in September at CCLA’s offices in Central London. And what we wanted most of all was the opportunity to discuss the issues that business faces when trying to improve their community engagement and demonstrate social value.
How can businesses and communities collaborate?
Whether you’re from a local authority, a non-profit, a small business or a larger corporation, each of the representatives at the event had a common goal: to discuss how businesses and communities could collaborate; how firms could expand on the traditional CSR model to develop valuable relationships; and how businesses could work with local authorities and use the Social Value Act to undertake contracts which have a positive local impact.
We were conscious that large businesses’ supply chain organisations should have access to the same kind of quality assurance frameworks available to them, but appropriate to the size, resources and activity of small business. And CDF is in an ideal position to launch Love Your Community which recognises when businesses are getting it right. We have the lived experience of working directly with grassroots communities for nearly 50 years and we can bridge the gap between communities and businesses.
How does Love Your Community work?
The mark itself can be achieved for a whole organisation, or for one project or programme that an organisation is really proud of. Even if community engagement practices aren’t embedded yet in an organisation we know there is excellent work going on that can and should be recognised.
To help us develop the quality mark we consulted with our 12,000 contacts from community groups because we wanted to find out a bit more about how people in local community groups felt about the interaction. We found that 50% of those who responded to the survey felt that businesses didn’t understand what their needs were, but nor did they know how to communicate what they do. This is where we come in – we can deploy our years’ experience of brokering relationships across sectors to help them improve their position.
We have also talked to many small businesses and know there are many that want to engage more with communities and so it’s our job to help make that happen. We’re now working with 12 Pioneer businesses – for profit and non-profit – to go through the Love Your Community process. The Love Your Community quality mark is robust and will accurately evaluate the quality of community engagement practices and we are seeking feedback from our Pioneers every step of the way. We have also consulted with local authority commissioners, to better understand how our quality mark will be recognisable for them during commissioning processes, helping them to recognise social value.
Better communities and better business
We are doing all of this because, fundamentally, we know that businesses that engage with their communities will benefit from it in an increasingly competitive environment. Kevin McLoughlin, Managing Director of K&M McLoughlin Decorating Ltd, an SME and one of our Pioneers, spoke at the launch event and told us that their work with communities and their apprenticeship scheme is clearly taken into account when they are bidding for new work.
But, more importantly, that their community work is critical to helping them run a successful business. In fact, every speaker at the Love Your Community launch drilled down to one key message: when you invest in your community, everyone stands to benefit; businesses, local authorities and the communities themselves can all gain when they successfully engage with each other.
Highlights from the event
Andrew Holmes, Senior Director at Asda told us that the community work he had been engaged in to develop their Community Life Programme had been one of the most enjoyable parts of his job, as the priorities centred around responding to local need. As a result the programme has helped Asda stores to support more people and community organisations locally.
Martin McTague from the Federation of Small Businesses, mentioned that local authorities investing in local business is vitally important, because it is equal to investing in the local community.
And Andrew Robinson of CCLA pointed out that being ‘better’ at business and having a ‘better’ community are in fact two sides of the same coin.
I also spoke about my own career path, starting in the private sector and then volunteering in my community in the 1990s, when my children were young. We worked with the community, local businesses and public organisations to design a community centre that could work for everyone.
All of this has led me to my current role, being able to champion community development for communities beyond my own.
CDF’s priorities and the rationale behind launching the Love Your Community quality mark reflect that: collaboration across the sectors and developing relationships between businesses and communities and celebrating it when they do, means that everybody wins.
– See more at: http://www.cdf.org.uk/launching-love-your-community/#sthash.tiiPtdlm.dpuf