A load of cobblers

Delighted to read the use of words in a recent article I spotted which included 'profit with purpose' - exact same words I used for a presentation I made a few months ago. 

I am also struck by how much they seem to resonate with other work we have just completed on behalf of our Reciprocate businesses, collecting their impact pledges.   These make for inspiring reading and are further testimony if ever any was needed that businesses across Oxfordshire are not only making an economic profit but perhaps even more importantly are making a huge contribution to the wider community around them.    

If you know of a business who shares these values then please do introduce them or share my appreciation with them only I believe profit with purpose can play a big part as we search for our Common Good ... 

In the Huffington Post I explained why I am a firm believer that you can do well by doing good and that businesses could grow more sustainably if they integrated purpose into their mission.

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting James Timpson who are famous as cobblers but have a vibrant business that encompasses key cutting, photo printing, dry cleaning and much more. I’ve rarely met a more inspirational business leader who is living proof that the legendary employee oriented practices of the Wedgewoods, Cadbury’s, Leverhulmes etc are even more relevant today as being good for business, as they were in the past. Whilst many businesses chase revenue and profit, James and his team have shown you can do well in low tech/no tech businesses by focusing on culture above all else.
Future reimagined

The below is nothing we haven't actually already considered - co-locating services in an intergenerational setting, which has such potential to help solve two social problems at the same time.

In our recent work supporting a number of Children's Centres across Oxfordshire we have been keen to see business plans that work to 'join up' services, especially where facilities could meet the needs of all in their community rather than be purposed exclusively for one specific segment e.g. children or the elderly.

A pity then that it is Wimbledon and not Oxford leading the way on this...  

For the first time in Britain, a nursery and a home for the elderly are to be located on the same site, in a move intended to tackle the “age apartheid” that increasingly keeps generations apart. The idea is popular overseas.Nightingale House, a residential, nursing and dementia care home for elderly Jewish men and women in Clapham, southwest London, will open its doors to 30 children a day in September.The nursery will be a second site for the existing Apples and Honey nursery in Wimbledon.Across a week, there will be about 100 children aged between two and five and the old and the young will take part in activities including singing, cooking, gardening and story-telling.
Greater diversity on charity boards can only be a good thing

I spent most of yesterday at RSA Motivate - a first of its kind event that offered anyone in Oxfordshire with a slight inkling towards social action to come along and find out about all the good stuff happening around them, and how they can get involved. It was a fantastic showcase for the many brilliant initiatives being championed by RSA members and others locally.

With the hung parliament result still very much a topic of conversation on everyone's minds, it provided me with the perfect context to talk about how we all need to step up and contribute our energy and creativity towards benefitting our 'common good' (society rather than self) if we really want to see the social change that is needed right now.

For those who have heard me speak before, I often share a few shocking statistics about the stark disparity in some people's lives and an inability to participate in things many of us take for granted, and yesterday was no different.  

I also found myself appealing for younger trustees to join charity boards to improve decision-making, ensuring the strategic challenges now faced would benefit from a variety of perspectives and expectations. With around 50% of trustee vacancies currently unfilled, I believe there is a real urgency for charities to find a way of appealing to a different kind of individual - those would like to add board-level skills to their portfolio whilst they build their career. Perhaps the potential for bringing in the digital skills of a younger generation will enable the sector to really embrace this change. Trustees from younger generations are a brilliant complement to the more traditional type of trustee, who is giving their expertise back following a successful life and career (and making an extremely highly valued contribution, I might add).

We must start to look at greater diversity on our not-for-profit boards to ensure that the charitable sector remains sustainable, something that is absolutely vital given the central role it plays in supporting our common good.  

In recent years there has been a lot of research on the benefits of volunteering, both on a personal and professional level and there is even compelling research suggesting that it is literally good for our health. Trusteeship, however, is a unique form of volunteering and brings its own distinct brand of challenge and reward. With up to 50 per cent of charities currently having vacancies on their boards and with charities facing unprecedented challenges, let’s revisit some of the many reasons everyone should consider joining a charity board.
Belonging - finding your tribe

About two years ago I joined the RSA and became one of more than 27,000 fellows worldwide.

However, given we've a global population of around seven billion it's unlikely that many people will ever have heard of the RSA.   Yet I did and do still believe it definitely has real potential in helping to bring about positive social change - something we desperately need right now.

Whilst TED talks might have been seen by many millions on YouTube, there are an infinite number of other great ideas being shared and often in ways more local than you might imagine.   So if you have ever struggled to find the answers and reasoned arguments that politicians rarely seem to provide these days, then I would recommend CEO of RSA, Matthew Taylor's blog posts https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/matthew-taylor-blog.

One of the things that the RSA are currently looking at is the continuing, disruptive and changing world of work and how we could as a nation bring about quality work for every citizen.

They are asking whether government, businesses large and small, employers, employees, individuals and communities could come together to create an economy that offers people the opportunity of work that is decent, fair and fulfilling?

If this sort of challenge appeals to you then why not google for more information or better still if you are free on Saturday 10th June, why not be brave and come along to the Oxford Town Hall, where local fellows have organised RSA Motivate.   

Think of the world of difference we could make if all seven billion of us committed to belong in this way....

The RSA is the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, there are over 25,000 Fellows (FRSAs) worldwide.
Its mission is to enrich society through ideas and action. The RSA network and innovation ecosystem is a powerful tool for active collaboration and supports many projects across Oxfordshire and beyond.

Join us in Oxford for an enjoyable day of projects, talks, competitions, good food and fellowship. Over 30 Fellows & Friends will be there to showcase their innovative projects. These initiatives make a difference by:

Encouraging Enterprise
Moving Towards a Zero-Waste Society
Fostering Resilient Communities
Developing a Capable Population
Global Citizenship

Whether you’re keen to find out about an existing project, or share your ideas – in Oxfordshire and beyond – this is your chance to generate interest and support!
Finding Neo

Last week I attended a Housing and Homelessness workshop, organised as a day of 'Continuing Ministerial Development' for clergy in the Oxford Diocese, which works not only in Oxford but across the whole of the Thames Valley - an area where housing and homelessness seem to have increasingly become very visible signs of the challenges faced by many of those living in our communities.

When one of those assembled introduced himself as Neo, a homeless man, I immediately felt this was going to be a training day like no other.  It seemed we suddenly had an incredible opportunity to leave our fears at the door and to talk honestly about how we and the current systems seem ineffective in helping those who find themselves sleeping on the pavement.

We started the morning by exploring what having somewhere to call home actually means. In its simplest form, everyone seemed to agree it was a place of shelter, safety and hope; yet perhaps too it was also somewhere to keep any possessions that reminded you of who you are - providing you with an identity.

For my part, I had prepared a presentation on the findings of Oxfordshire Uncovered, which highlighted that almost 50% of the population earn an annual income less than the amount needed to afford the average market rent. This had also led me to review the recent government white paper, 'Fixing our Broken Housing Market'. This was one of those many lightbulb moments - but there in the title was the real problem.

Somehow through the passing years we appear to have boiled down our most basic human need for shelter to a 'market' that needs fixing.

In its opening pages, the white paper highlights many economic arguments to illustrate why the housing market needs fixing:

  • Low levels of house building mean less work for those involved in construction (architects, decorators, brick manufacturers), reducing receipts from employment income tax and corporation tax.

  • Lack of housing supply results in high demand for limited stock, creating high rents; those in private rentals therefore struggle to pay, and the taxpayer has to pay out more in housing benefit.

  • A higher percentage of income spent on housing means less money gets spent in the wider economy.

  • Housing is one of the few investments that can be bought with debt, making it easy for some to ‘get a foot on property ladder’; but this is creating an ever-widening gap in the property 'haves' and 'have nots'.

Yet, whilst these are of course all true, for me they miss the very essence of why housing matters, and how this is affecting the lives and wellbeing of so many in our communities.

In particular, wherever there is an acute shortage of housing, this creates opportunities for exploitation and abuse - for example, non-ethical letting of dangerous, overcrowded properties. Indeed, the loss of a private sector tenancy is now the most common cause of homelessness - depriving many of safe, secure shelter.

This is a really important issue, and one I would urge everyone to consider during the election campaign period that we now find ourselves in. We should all ask ourselves: "What do the various manifestos say about plans for providing affordable housing?"


Neo lives what many would find an unconventional life.
Homeless by choice he can often be found busking on the streets of central Oxford.
Listen to the songs, say hi, and pick up a copy of the album if you like it.
How a little investment of money and attention can get the best out of deprived youngsters

This project by Thrive is an exemplar of the sort of investment OCF is making in children and families. As we revealed in our Oxfordshire Uncovered report, 21% of children in Oxford city are living in poverty, which we find wholly unacceptable. The county council is doing its best to support nearly 3,000 vulnerable families, but with limits to the scope of funding available we still see around 3,000 14-17 year-olds self harming, 14,000 children with mental health problems, and 22% failing to achieve the requisite levels in reading, writing and maths.

Investments via grants, but more importantly via the care and attention the grant enables, make a huge difference to young people's wellbeing. Barton-based Thrive is a fantastic charity that has had the vision to merge with the former Leys Youth Project, enabling them to share their mutual resources and expertise, cover a wider area and do more good. Just like OCF, they are putting collaboration at the heart of everything they do - and inspiring projects like this one are the result.

SNAP-HAPPY youngsters with an eye for the perfect picture are preparing to fight for the crown of Leys Young Photographer of the Year.

Since last year the project has been run by Oxford charity Thrive, which has merged with the Leys Youth Programme and provides support to young people on the estate.

Development director Robin Peake said: "This taps into the creativity that we see in young people in the Leys, some of which isn't realised as much as it should be. It provides an outlet for young people, who have as much potential as everyone else, to showcase that.

Thrive, which previously supported troubled young people as a community group in Barton, expanded into the Leys in early 2016.

It has just received £5,000 from the Oxfordshire Community Foundation to continue its mentoring programmes on the estate.
view more posts