Representatives from 50 local companies attended the launch of the new responsible business group Reciprocate. At the event, which was generously sponsored by Reciprocate member Withy King and hosted by The Ashmolean, participants were inspired to work more collaboratively to help the local community.
The event was the first opportunity for members of Reciprocate, who now number over 40, to meet each other and to find out about the proactive community engagement projects that have already started as a result of the new initiative.
Reciprocate is the brainchild of senior local businessman Tony Stratton, who was High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 2014-15, and spent his shrieval year encouraging local businesses to take part in his High Sheriff’s Challenge, raising over £300,000 for charity in the process. Several of the challenger companies are now Reciprocate members, with many other businesses joining or considering doing so by attending the event.
Reciprocate is hosted by Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF), which is providing the infrastructure for the project by bringing together people and resources to facilitate collaboration. Jayne Woodley, OCF’s Chief Executive, commented during her talk: “For the community foundation, Reciprocate is all about coming together to find solutions. We only work in partnership. We can’t do everything ourselves, so we really believe that the best way for us to make a difference is to get more people thinking about these things together. Because together we can have fun, we can make it easy, and it can be effective.”
Alongside Tony and Jayne’s welcome and introduction to Reciprocate, the evening opened with talks by Lycia Lobo, Corporate Director at the Ashmolean, and Tracy Norris-Evans, Partner at Withy King. You can see a video of these talks here:
Tracy’s talk described how the company operates its ‘Charity of the Year’ programme, which for Withy King goes beyond fundraising to business support and development, including introductions to other companies during the course of the relationship that will allow the charity to continue to benefit over the long term. At the end of the event members received a welcome pack that included a one-page best-practice guide for running a Charity of the Year, with top tips contributed by Withy King and Finders Keepers. Tracy commented: “We look at it strategically, in terms of how will it benefit our business. It helps us with engagement, it helps us with recruitment, and it helps us with retention. So I would urge you to think about what a difference you can make to your business by making a difference to your community; and that collectively, we should stand together and provide a platform so that charities can build from that and reach those in society who are vulnerable.”
During the event guests were given the chance to sign up to three collaborative projects that have already been kicked off by members: employee volunteering, enhanced work experience and the provision of business skills workshops to charities. Each project was championed by a member business who will take the lead alongside those who signed up.
Members could also take advantage of a free leadership development workshop provided by member Leadershape, and sign up to enter a team into the Reciprocate Choir, which will be performing towards the end of the year courtesy of John Lubbock, conductor of the orchestra of St Johns.
The event ended with closing remarks from Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Tim Stevenson:
He commented: “This evening is a bit of a rite of passage really! You’ve engaged with great vigour, there’s a wonderful buzz in the room. The trick now is to keep the momentum going – for all of you to go away and spread the gospel amongst all of your business contacts, so that this thing can really take off and make a difference and keep the third sector alive and healthy at the centre of our community.”
If your company would like to become a member of Reciprocate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.