Hertfordshire-based housing association Thrive Homes has launched a trailblazing initiative to help contractors deliver social value to communities.
The social landlord recently ran its first GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) event, bringing together four local charities and two businesses which have recently signed new contracts with Thrive.
In what is believed to be a unique scheme, representatives from the different organisations talked about their work before discussing how the contractors could provide the charities with long-term practical support.
The event, held at Thrive’s Watford office, began with formal presentations followed by group sessions to brainstorm ideas on how the private companies could best help the charities meet the challenges they are currently facing.
It involved Pinnacle PSG, which recently signed a new contract with Thrive to provide cleaning services, and Thrive’s new grounds maintenance contractor Lotus Landscapes Limited.
Under the new Lotus contract, some gardening work is sub-contracted to Let’s Talk Grounds Maintenance – a social enterprise, run by the Hertfordshire Mind Network charity, which provides work, training and volunteering opportunities for people who have experienced mental health issues.
The GIVE initiative aims to build on this kind of community partnership working, which recently won Thrive first place in the national Social Value Awards, launched by Procurement for Housing to recognise projects which demonstrate the importance of social value within communities.
Local charities represented at the GIVE event were Watford-based homeless charity New Hope, Watford Women’s Centre, Rickmansworth-based 9 Lives Furniture and Mill End Job Club.
Thrive Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie said: “Thrive is committed to generating social value, as demonstrated by initiatives such as our community grants scheme, staff volunteering programme and our partnership work.
“But we want to take this work a step further, encouraging our contractors from the private sector to invest in local charitable and voluntary organisations, with the resulting benefits for our residents and communities.
“Our first GIVE event is unique in bringing these organisations together, focusing on the particular challenges the charities are facing and how best our contractors can help them overcome those challenges.”
She added: “The event went really well, with everyone coming up with lots of ideas. Now the contractors are going to look more closely at how and when they can provide support, then meet again with the charities to finalise their plans.”
The charities flagged up various areas where they needed help, including IT support, HR advice and health and safety training, as well as hands-on projects such as window cleaning and gardening.
Rob Edmonds, Head of Services at New Hope, said maintenance and gardening work would be ‘invaluable’ in helping the homeless charity launch a new accommodation service later this year.
He said: “GIVE shows how active Thrive is in the community. It is fantastic that they are leading this initiative, linking local charities with private companies, and we are grateful to be part of it.
“It is only when organisations come together to work in partnership like this that we can really make a lasting, positive impact on our communities.”
Ali Dunstone, Manager of Watford Women’s Centre, said: “We are quite a small charity so we were delighted to be asked along – it was nice to meet the other charities and share our experiences. The project is brilliant and it is great to see how passionate Thrive is about it.”
Marie Frost, Manager of 9 Lives Furniture – which restores furniture and provides work experience and training for people with learning disabilities and mental ill health – said: “GIVE is a really forward-thinking idea which I would like to see being taken up by other organisations.
“Rather than companies providing a charity with a day of support or a one-off grant, the GIVE scheme offers help over a year, so it is about building a longer term relationship which will have more far-reaching benefits.”
Claire Davis, of Mill End Job Club, said: “This is such an exciting project for small charities like ourselves. Funding streams are increasingly limited, so we are always looking at alternative ways to get the support we need to continue our work.
“We are hoping the contractors will give us help with things like IT advice but also by providing work experience placements for our young jobseekers. It was good to meet the other charities, too – we can form positive relationships, encouraging and helping each other along the way. It really is a ‘win, win’ situation.”
Louise Richards, Business Development Manager at Lotus Landscapes, said: “GIVE is a completely new way of delivering social value and we are delighted to be involved.
“Hearing about the work these charities do was inspiring and the event generated lots of ideas of things we can do to help them that we’ve never thought about before.”
Seundouss Laroussi, Business Manager at Pinnacle PSG, said: “Thrive’s approach – inviting us all to meet up in this way – is truly innovative. It was a really interesting day and we are very privileged and happy to be part of it.
“To have the opportunity to meet some of the charities Thrive works with and understand their needs gives us a platform to work from, helping us to focus our efforts on initiatives which will be of most use to them and make much more impact.”
Following the success of this first event, Thrive’s next GIVE event will take place at the end of June with contractors Jewson Ltd and Sovereign Business Integration Group plc.