The benefits of community investment
By Jon Fisher, Head of Communities, Sovereign
Sovereign recently committed to triple its investment in communities. This step change in investment was won off the track record set by our work in our priority communities, and the fantastic results our employment and training service deliver.
The investment means we can expand these areas of work, but also build on them. Having become key investors in education and skills in priority communities, we’ll be rolling this offer out to everywhere we have a presence. Our small programme dedicated to resident-led community action will grow and we’ll support people in some of our larger new build neighbourhoods as they move in and build community.
This investment, which will do so much good, was also won off the back of influencing key people within the organisation about the benefits of community investment. One of the milestones in this was taking some of our Board members out to meet people, to see projects and to gauge for themselves the value of our work.
My highlight was a Board member tour to Westbury, one of our priority communities in Wiltshire. On the day before we went out, I had a chat with our Chief Operating Officer and asked her advice about making a good impression. It’s fair to say she was a little surprised that this Board member had taken up the offer of a community investment tour, describing him as probably our most commercially minded. That didn’t exactly put my mind at rest!
On the day, everything went swimmingly. We introduced him to partners and for lunch ate a full roast dinner, while sitting on very small chairs chatting with the local primary school head teacher.
We showed him a number of projects and he was impressed by them all. He particularly liked the project delivered by a small car repair and body shop firm. Alongside their day jobs, they work with young people rebuilding a car every year, which is then auctioned for charity. Their commitment to young people’s development and their community, while running a small business, was a revelation to him. In fact he offered them even more investment from Sovereign – something that became a bit of a theme during the day! At one point he offered our voids team to support the refurbishment of a building the community is taking on – something that we have now made happen.
A few weeks later, I went to the Board and laid out the case for a tripling of our investment in Communities. The Board member who had gone on the tour in Westbury had already described, with some enthusiasm, his day out, the people and projects, our partners and the impact he could clearly see. This was a critical part in gaining the Board’s approval.
It’s no stretch to say that we gained an advocate that day in Westbury. We’ll continue to offer these tours for Board members and for senior leaders across the organisation, so they can see first-hand the difference we make. We gain advocates where we need them most – it’s that simple.
Now we’ve secured the investment, we can get to work – but we’ll need to keep sharing our stories of success, demonstrating the difference we make to our colleagues, our partners and our communities to make a lasting impression.