Partnership working in CSR

Social enterprise the Twist Partnership, joined forces with city law firm Simmons & Simmons to show the power of CSR joint working.

Young people from inner city London boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Redbridge led a conference and consultation entitled ‘Changing Behaviours’. Their aim: to show how partnership CSR had made a genuine difference to their lives.

The young people at the conference were on the verge of being excluded from school. They were angry and disillusioned. One example of a CSR programme that Twist developed paired a group of boys with mentors from Simmons & Simmons.

All aged 15 or 16, the boys lived on an estate in Tower Hamlets, where gang rivalry was a problem. The CSR programme wanted to encourage these boys to develop aims and aspirations.

The programme took their anger and channelled it towards finding solutions to the problems they saw at their school. They were asked how they would run a school themselves.

The result of this was a two-day interactive workshop for 15 primary school pupils. Developed with the help of volunteers from Simmons & Simmons, it was designed to help children manage the transition between primary and secondary school.

The young people discovered that they had skills and talents and something to offer other people.

Following the workshop sessions, all seven boys then completed two weeks’ work experience at different departments in the law firm. They were given the opportunity to work in IT, finance and marketing.

Whilst working in the marketing department they were given a creative brief to work through. This gave them some real life insight into what it might be like to work in marketing. They also said they were pleasantly surprised to find that finance was not as boring as they had anticipated.

Encouragingly, the boys involved in the programme named medicine, law, accountancy and teaching as possible careers they were considering. This was a big step on from when they started.

They said it had taught them that there was more to life than fighting. Their experience also demonstrated the importance of young people in their situation knowing that there was a goal and a way of getting there.

Having completed the programme, the boys went on to become leadership trainers, helping other school children across London. This is the ultimate aim of a programme of this nature, that it can become self-sustaining – gaining a momentum of its own.

Firms are clearly seeing the value of getting involved in this kind of CSR partnership. Twist now has funding to help more young people and is seeking community organisations that can benefit.

Even in a recession, businesses can see the benefit to staff and the firm of investing resources in programmes of this nature.

Photo credit: Keng Susumpow