Community impact index: The view from the experts

This section of the impact index is based on interviews with experts in the community investment and CSR field. With examples of good practice and thoughts on main...

This section of the impact index is based on interviews with experts in the community investment and CSR field. With examples of good practice and thoughts on main trends for the future, it will be useful for organisations and individuals with established practice in community investment. The latter section includes tips on getting started and warnings about some common mistakes to avoid.

To complement the case studies of good practice in smaller co-operatives which can be found through this index, we asked CSR and community investment experts to highlight examples – either of ways of working, or specific business examples – from both the largest UK co-operatives and retailers.

Andy Melia, community investment manager at Business in the Community (BITC), put forward Midcounties Co-operative as an example of a business connected to local needs: “They do some amazing work locally – that is a key aspect of their approach. They do a combination of projects which work across the organisation, but at the same time are good at understanding local needs.”

He highlighted the charity partnership between Boots and Macmillan Cancer Care as another example. He says that rather than using the conventional one or two year charity partnership model, Boots has worked at a high level, and over a sustained period of time, to maximise benefits for both sides.

“An increasing number of people will be affected by cancer over the next 10 plus years, and Boots has been working with them to maximise who Macmillan can reach. There are a number of levels to their partnership – fundraising, awareness, dedicated support and training for staff.

“It’s quite a long term partnership too – it’s been going on for about four years now.” The depth and variety of the partnership is a result of high level commitment on both sides: “It was something that was developed for 18 months with both boards sitting down to explore what they could do. They spent time working out how they could make a difference.”

David Pritchett, head of Europe at AccountAbility, felt that good practice was in the improvements made in measuring impact: “Companies are measuring these things more professionally now, for instance through London Benchmarking Group. Something which, five or six years ago, they wouldn’t dare to do it as they wouldn’t feel confident in the veracity of the data.

“It’s quite daring as it’s quite emotional, sensitive data they are putting out so they have to be sure that this information is accurate.” He also gave some advice for the wider co-operative sector: “Co-operatives might look to copy this kind of model in a similar sector and see if they can replicate – it’s easier if someone else has already done the ground work.”

Jon Lloyd, Assistant Director and Head of London Benchmarking Group at Corporate Citizenship, highlighted the greater focus that some organisations are developing: “The main change has been about developing a focus and goals – educating however many thousand people, or improving health or education – and making sure that people have a framework in which they can operate.

“Increasingly companies are getting better at reporting on one thing: what is the one thing you’d like to be famous for?”

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