Established in October 2011, Project Central Hackney is a partnership between the East London Business Alliance (ELBA), KPMG, Societe Generale and UBS, whose aim is to support the regeneration of the Dalston, Hackney Central and Homerton areas of Hackney, the second most deprived local authority in England.
Since its inception, Societe Generale employees have been very involved in the project. To date, over 170 employees have donated over 1,050 hours of time. This includes 20 volunteers who have taken up mentoring positions with Hackney community groups, 5 acting as Trustees on charity boards, and 48 volunteers involved with employability sessions. One of PCH’s core programmes is the one off business planning sessions, which provide support and strategic advice to community organisations and small businesses in need of some assistance.
In the past year alone, 66 voluntary and community groups and 20 enterprises received business skills support. Over 30 volunteers have shared their expertise with community leaders in order to strengthen their organisation and increase their impact over the course of three-hour workshops. “Some of the people I met were very passionate about their business ideas but lacked financial skills and my role involved reviewing business plans and discussing ideas with them,” says Sandip Yadav, a business auditor from Societe Generale, who volunteered at a session in September 2013. Kathy Wilson, Chief Country Officer at Societe Generale Securities Services, commented “I certainly thought the sessions are a good idea after my first experience; I can see that they would be invaluable to the community partners.”
Volunteers offer one-to-one support on business and financial planning, or providing a second opinion on funding bids and proposals or pitching ideas. The ‘drop-in’ clinics are extremely varied depending on the needs of the community group and can be anything from creating a cash flow statement to tips on how to present ideas or restructure a proposal. “It’s interesting to have the corporate perspective, we have received finance training, we are better organised, and managers understand more about planning budgets,” says Stephanie Orel, General Manager of Latin American Women’s Aid, one of the organisations benefitting from Project Central Hackney.
During these sessions, volunteers meet with entrepreneurs from all sorts of industries and get to put their skills to use in completely new contexts. At one of these sessions, Sandip Yadav met with community organisations whose projects “ranged from opening a coffee shop, making cupcakes, mosaic tiling courses, to non- for-profit initiatives such as starting education academies to teach local ethnic minorities children English.” And while volunteers can choose to participate in one-off sessions only, some, like Sandip, also get the chance to stay abreast of progress made by the organisations they helped: “Some of the people I met have kept in touch and also invited me to the opening of the shop!” There are always many opportunities for ongoing mentoring positions and many volunteers want to continue the relationships they have built and see potential to continue to help.
Project Central Hackney is continuing to grow, and next year’s calendar of business planning workshops are already booking up!
SG employees in the UK: Feeling inspired? Get in touch at email@example.com to find out how you can get involved!