I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
John Lewis - U.K. Department Store That Is Full of Social Innovation
The U.K department store John Lewis is full of social innovation: it's inviting charities, health and arts groups to use spare rooms in its stores across the country. This scheme is called 'Community Rooms,' and is part of a plan to get more involved with local communities. It superbly shows how businesses can build strong links with their local area. Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis, says, "When we have the available space in our shops, we should open our doors to charitable organisations which are crying out for the space. We'd like our shops to become a place where the community is happy to spend time, for use as a genuine resource."
This social innovation project was trialled in five stores in 2011 and is now being rolled out to 19 branches across the U.K. It gives various charities from cancer support groups to local hospices the use of rooms around the country for free. Plus, in some places, John Lewis staff offer their expertise and time to those using the rooms as well.
The whole ethos of John Lewis is based its founder's vision of a successful business powered by its people and principles. it is known as the John Lewis Partnership, where its 81,000 employers are known as 'partners.'. The 'partners' own this leading U.K. retail business, which is made up of two brands , John Lewis and Waitrose. The profits and benefits created by its success are shared by all the 'partners,' who also comment and vote on actions planned by the company. This social innovation thinking is further enhanced by the store's community 'liaison co-ordinators,' who are located in every department shop. They work with local charities and community groups to build long-term relationships and provide practical support via staff volunteers.
The retailer also strengthens links to local communities by allowing shoppers to vote on which causes their local department store supports. This particular social innovation scheme has been running in John Lewis's sister retailer Waitrose (a grocery chain) since 2008. Shoppers are given a green token, which they can use to choose between three charities by putting them into special collection boxes in the store. Every three months, each cause is given a share of a £3,000 donation proportional to the number of green tokens they receive. Waitrose has given around £8m of its profit to more than 24,000 charities and organisations across the country, since this scheme started. It has now launched in John Lewis stores at the start of July 2012. In total 444 groups will receive donations through the voting scheme each year.
John Lewis as a whole spent £10.9m on community projects in 2011 including social innovation, welfare, health, education, environmental causes as well as arts and culture. The largest proportion of the company's community investment is given in direct financial contributions, followed by time donated through volunteering projects.
Photo Credit: John Lewis Website at John Lewis at home in Newbury, UK