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Sharing business expertise for social impact

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Make a difference to your local community.  Could your business share your skills, expertise and time with a community organisation?

There’s a wealth of knowledge and expertise within the Kirklees business community which could be used for the benefit of our local communities and community organisations.

We spoke with two local businesses, and the organisations they’ve supported, to find out more.

Paradigm Creative – Sharing expertise and time for social impact.

Paradigm Creative use the power of storytelling to create content for brands and businesses who want to move their audiences – incorporating film, animation, video, photography, copywriting, design, events and live streaming.

The founders, Owen and Ian, had been trying different approaches to generating social impact, such as offering flexible rates to charitable organisations and working alongside a charity partner, but wanted to adopt a more consistent and effective way of working for greater impact. Following conversations with local voluntary and community sector support charity TSL Kirklees, about how Paradigm could make the most impact locally, they settled upon the idea of a Community Partnership.

Paradigm Community Partnership was established in 2022 with a target to contribute 1% of the company’s billable time (which currently equates to 27 days per year), absolutely free, to local charitable and community organisations.  This means that organisations, who would normally find the cost of commissioning quality creative work prohibitive, can benefit from Paradigm’s expertise. It also means that any member of the creative team at Paradigm has the opportunity to share their skills and time as part of the Community Partnership.

How does it work?

Organisations are asked to submit details of their intended project and the promotional support they need, via the Paradigm Community Partnership website. This starts a conversation which enables both parties to explore how they can work alongside each other, sharing the necessary skills and expertise to create the content needed.

Paradigm generate an internal zero-rated invoice to track the hours they have contributed to each project they support, and can easily see at the end of each year how they have performed against their social impact target.

What difference has this made locally?

One example is how Paradigm Community Partnership have supported TSL Kirklees themselves.

TSL were already offering free promotional support to local organisations, particularly smaller community groups, but were getting asked more and more for help creating video content and they were able to signpost people to the new Community Partnership offer. In addition, they wanted to create video case studies to show how VCSE organisations in Kirklees are working together to make a difference in local people’s lives, through partnerships such as the Community Anchor Network and Community Champions.

The collaboration with Paradigm helped achieve both of these, but it also helped put the voluntary and community sector in Kirklees on the map by showing health and care colleagues across West Yorkshire how we can work together to improve health and wellbeing (via initiatives such as West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership’s #VCSEPower Showcase).

After a discussion about the projects and intended outcomes, Paradigm Community Partnership were able to offer their support in a number of ways, free of charge or at a reduced rate, including:

  • Upskilling TSL staff in how to produce video content and to use certain pieces of equipment.
  • Loaning TSL professional equipment for them to use ‘on-location’ for photos and videos.
  • Providing studio time and staff time for video shoots.
  • Bringing TSL team members in to use the Paradigm voice-over booths to record narratives for their videos.
  • Producing creative content for the campaign videos such as caricatures and animation.
  • Pulling together visual content provided by TSL into a final product.

You can see some of the videos on the TSL Kirklees YouTube Channel.

What tips or advice do they have for others?

Both Paradigm and TSL gave very straightforward advice to anyone looking to share their skills and time for social impact.

Owen’s main point is ‘Just get started and try something out.’

Whilst Lisa Holmes, Communications Lead at TSL advises

‘Sit down and have a conversation to find out how the relationship can work for both parties.’

Torchbearer provide their skills and time to support Uniform Exchange

Torchbearer realised that they typically had some time each month which wasn’t being used on client work and they wanted to ensure they used this effectively and kept staff engaged, they were also conscious that they wanted an altruistic element to their offer.

They took the idea of using their latent time for charitable purposes to the Board, some of whom had prior experience of this type of approach, and it was agreed that they could offer their services for free to VCSE organisations, when capacity allowed.

Uniform Exchange were looking for a software solution to improve how customers request uniform items.

Kate France, Founder of Uniform Exchange, explains

“Our paper and computer-based form was a barrier to many parents accessing our help, we needed a solution which meant they could submit requests on their phone, no printing or emailing required”.

Torchbearer invited Uniform Exchange in to talk about how they operate and what they thought they needed. They wanted to streamline and centralise the process for how customers request uniform, improving the access point for parents and ensuring that the Uniform Exchange team received the correct information.

Torchbearer created an intuitive web application which looked and felt like other online ordering systems which customers might use. They offered to host the web application for free and made it available on the Uniform Exchange website.

Although Torchbearer haven’t formally measured the impact of their work, they have built the product with good intentions, knowing it will be used for good intentions and that it continues to be used.

Jon Langley, one of the Technical Directors and Founders says

“It’s been very satisfying for the team at Torchbearer to develop a product which does what the client needs and which they use, and which people benefit from. All the staff who have worked on this and other pro-bono projects have been glad to give back and use their skills in this way.”

“On the commercial side the product is a testament to the team’s capability, having created a good tool which proves their skill set and has a marketable value.”

Kate also commented on how the new approach has benefitted them and their customers.

“The Torchbearer team’s support and ideas has been instrumental in enhancing our processes and expanding our community outreach as a local charity. Moving to an online form has improved the access parents have to good reusable school uniform. Removing the need for a third person to complete the form on the parents behalf meant asking for help could be anonymous and much quicker. Due to the improved processes we have seen substantial growth from 1,900 requests per year coming in via schools and partners supporting families to over 7,000 requests, 80% of which come directly from parents. The online request format has also enabled us to communicate with parents on a seasonal basis, keeping them up to date with delivery expectations and collection points. Additionally, we now have a log of every order at our fingertips, without the need to search through mountains of paper and folders. We couldn’t have done it without Torchbearer’s unwavering support and guidance.” Jon’s advice to any business wanting to offer their skills and time for the benefit of the broader community is to make yourself available in the circles where these organisations are present, such as making connections at networking events.  Listen to what people are saying they need and explore opportunities to support them. Torchbearers approach is to do what fits at the time and always consider additional pro-bono work if they have the capacity.

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