‘The Small Company Citizen: Networks of Community Engagement’ is Tom’s latest report on the reasons and desirability of smaller companies engaging with communities (May 2015). Building on ‘The Social SME’ (2013), the new report looks at 14 different local networks in England which have the aim of better engaging business and community and asks what lessons can be learned from this pooling of their experience – in respect of content, starting up and sustainability.
The report was launched at the NCVO Evolve Conference in June, 2015 and is available free of charge here. (In 2017 it was re-titled ‘The Small Company Citizen’ to avoid confusion with Tom’s book of the same name).
150613 Company Citizen FINAL #CompanyCitizen
Here is the press release about the launch of The Company Citizen:
Networks Release the Power of ‘Company Citizens’
Communities should develop cross-sector networks to pool resources and enable ‘company citizens’ – especially smaller businesses – to contribute more, in a business-efficient way. This is the call from Tom Levitt as he publishes ‘The Small Company Citizen’, an analysis of 14 existing local business engagement networks across England.
‘There are many good reasons for constructive engagement between voluntary organisations and businesses within local communities,’ says the former Member of Parliament turned consultant on business-charity co-working, ‘not least the development of employee skills and their engagement with their employer. Charities too often have low expectations of local businesses, but should be able to borrow employee time and skills to create capacity, improve services and utilise other resources that businesses can spare.’
Across England, from Darlington to Swindon, Cheshire to south-east London, a number of networks have emerged in recent years in which businesses have pooled their employee volunteering activity, both time and skills, shared other resources and raised money for local charities. No two of these networks have evolved in the same way and it is a sure sign of success that some models are now being franchised to new areas.
Whilst several groups centre on a local Council for Voluntary Service other network hosts include a Chamber of Commerce, two universities, the City of London Corporation, a group of corporates and a social enterprise. Only two, in Shropshire and Oxfordshire, have emerged from the SME community itself. Most find it necessary to employ an administrator, at least part time, though funding that post and others is a major challenge for most of them. Networks which charge membership fees tend to be smaller and whilst the looser affiliations grow quicker they lack sustainable funding and some are struggling with finance, although two had received government funding. All of them have web sites and most utilise social media. All were achieving enough to claim to make a difference and justify their struggle for existence!
Involve Swindon and Tameside 4 Good emerged as the most dynamic and sustainable network models although the most impressive single project was found in St Albans, where businesses, schools and charities work together for their mutual benefit in the Dragons Apprentice Challenge.
The new report, launched by Mr Levitt as he addressed a workshop at the NCVO Evolve conference in London (June 15th), brings together good practice in SME engagement with communities for the first time and builds the argument as to why businesses should play the role of ‘company citizens’:
‘Citizens care about their neighbours, their environment and their families and they act when there’s need to do so; it’s in companies’ interests to do the same,’ he said.