Awards nod for Southern Co-op’s partnership with homeless charity

The co-op and its partner Society of St James are in the running at the Third Sector Business Charity awards

Southern Co-op and its charity partner have been shortlisted for a national award which celebrates business contribution to UK charities and social enterprises.

The co-op, and homeless charity Society of St James, have been shortlisted for the short-term partnership award at the Third Sector Business Charity Awards 2020. Results will be announced in May.

The two organisations have been in partnership since early 2019 after colleagues at Southern’s head office voted for the Society of St James to become their charity partner of the year with a focus on tackling local crime, drug and alcohol addiction, and homelessness.

The first year of partnership was such a success that the partnership has now been extended to 2020/21.

Trevor Pickup, chief executive of the Society of St James, said: “We are really excited to have been shortlisted for a Business Charity Award alongside our partner Southern Co-op. This last year has really demonstrated for me how finding a good partner match can bring unimagined benefits for both parties.  

“Of course the fundraising from Southern Co-op colleagues is so important to us but the time spent on a more strategic approach, particularly around sharing skills and knowledge, has brought many benefits across both organisations for staff, service users and the communities in which we operate.”

Southern Co-op initially focused on the Society of St James’ social enterprise café, Café in the Park in Portsmouth, helping it to become more self-sustaining. The café provides opportunities for vulnerable adults to build employability skills and grow in confidence to help sustain their new independence and recovery.

Together, they launched an idea that had originated from the disadvantaged adults working at the café – Pay It Forward. The initiative has enabled local people to help the homeless through a voucher scheme and, between July 2019 and February 2020, SSJ sold more than 1,400 Pay It Forward vouchers.

Jessica Hughes, community investment manager at Southern Co-op, said: “Working with an organisation such as the Society of St James demonstrates the power of aligning business and societal needs, and working cooperatively together to help tackle them to the benefit of all.

“We are thrilled to be shortlisted for the Short Term Partnership Award. As a business, we have learnt so much from them, and we hope the skills we have shared will provide the charity with the opportunity to continue to grow and support some of the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Southern Co-op has offered additional support through skills-based volunteering as its colleagues have shared their knowledge and experience with SSJ. Skills sharing has including marketing, training and professional advice from property and buying teams.

There has also been more traditional hands-on volunteering and fundraising, which have provided benefits for both organisations.

Already £11,500 has been raised, 4,250 volunteering hours spent and a further £15,000+ has been pledged.

In the spirit of true partnership, Southern Co-op has also benefited from the collaboration through the expert knowledge the charity has around the subject of homelessness, drug/alcohol misuse and offending behaviour which has informed the development of strategic initiatives for the business.

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