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SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – PROFESSIONAL PARTNERSHIPS.
It would seem that in business today one of the many targets we are asked to achieve is to our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Businesses large and small are rightly expected to ‘do their bit’. We celebrate that these partnerships can and do take many forms such as sponsorship, volunteering hours or skills sharing. Thankfully many see CSR as a key part of their business plan and not just as a PR opportunity (although it is of course a very good PR opportunity!). CSR is not just ensuring that we are legally compliant but about private, public and charitable sectors engaging in actions to make the communities in which we all live better places to be.
Community Connexions is a small local business run by professionals providing community transport, we just happen to be ‘not for profit’. We too have social responsibilities but, along with many of our colleagues in the ’third’ or charitable sector invariably we spend a considerable amount of time explaining to the private sector and sadly sometimes the public sector, that working in the voluntary sector does not make us amateurs!
Our charity works within the transport industry which is quite rightly heavily regulated so our vehicles are routinely and regularly maintained and inspected to the highest of standards.
Our professional drivers also have the relevant driving qualifications with back office staff similarly qualified and experienced in their areas of expertise. Because much of our work involves some of the most vulnerable members of society our employees have an enhanced DBS check. Some of the training our staff receive is industry specific but other training courses they attend would readily be recognised within any industry or sector.
We endeavour to follow best practice in all areas which is something our business plan reflects (yes, we too have a business plan). Generally we have overheads and legal responsibilities, the same as any business however, as a charity it is our responsibility to ensure that our overheads are kept to a bare minimum – less than 1p in every pound - (no plush offices or latest IT equipment for us) so that funds are spent directly on our service users, but how many of your customers expect you to do anything for free? Managing expectations is a constant challenge for us.
One of our particular areas of expertise is working with volunteers, be they drivers, admin, general factotum or trustees. We expect our volunteers to work professionally alongside paid staff and follow the same policies, procedures and working practices as them. Managing volunteers can be challenging, especially when scheduling passenger transport, as they do of course have the right to just not volunteer with little or no notice. It is important that they get as much out of their volunteering experience as we gain from their time commitment, but is this any different from valuing team members to ensure that we get the best from them?
It is vital that in order to forge sustainable, mutually beneficial working partnerships to further our aims each sector understands each other’s challenges and goals. We in the charity sector believe we understand many of your challenges because we too are businesses. But could you learn more and achieve some of your targets by working together? True partnerships deliver better results for all concerned – the organisations and the communities in which we engage.