The whole really is greater than the sum of the parts
Every once in a while, you have those rare days where you experience a magical moment that leaves you feeling supercharged, grateful, humbled, awe-inspired even. Today was one of those days for me personally. And as I often find, it involved getting out of the office.
Myself and my colleague Becki spent the morning seeing with our very own eyes how our company investment in the Leeds Community Foundation is helping to support several communities and charities in Leeds – the city in which our Head Office is proud to be based.
For those not familiar with LCF their concept is simple but powerful: they are one of 46 Community Foundations across the UK which make a difference by bringing together local philanthropists with dynamic local organisations and community groups who need funding and other resources.
As a collective the fund can have a significantly bigger impact than any one individual business could if they were to go it alone in supporting a charity. They have a ‘big picture’ view of what the charitable priorities are across the city and make sure funds are invested where they are most needed. It’s an economically efficient and equitable way to give back.
The day started at Leeds Civic Hall with a rallying speech from Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council. Tom is a passionate advocate of compassionate capitalism and how the business community, local charities and social enterprises can come together to make Leeds a better place for every citizen – not least the future generations coming through.
We then hopped onto a bus, courtesy of First Bus (another local business who contributes to LCF) to commence our tour of 3 local initiatives that the fund has contributed to. CATCH in Harehills, LS14 Trust in Seacroft and The Old Fire Station in Gipton.
These are, without question, deprived areas where there is extreme social immobility and inequality. In some areas, such as Harehills, there are also added challenges in terms of the transient and ethnically diverse nature of the population. But as the tour demonstrated, these are also communities where residents have a desire to make a difference; to make their areas better places to live and to remove the stigma associated with living there.
On touring these 3 organisations we heard from the leaders and volunteers involved about what their mission was, what work has already been done and how our support is making a meaningful difference to people’s lives. This includes supporting those with mental health issues to giving young people who would have otherwise been destined for the criminal justice system, a chance for a more positive, empowering future.
Seeing the collective impact of our contributions as businesses via LCF was no doubt poignant for every single business leader who attended the day. But me personally, one of the standout moments was our tour of CATCH in Harehills and hearing from the young volunteers aged between 13-16 years old on how the facility had changed their lives profoundly for the better.
Many had come to Leeds as children of immigrants – from Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Poland and beyond. In school they faced daily struggles due to English not being their first language and their different cultural backgrounds. They were, in many instances, misfits who with lack of green space to play outside and lack of role models in their community had started getting into trouble with school and with the police.
CATCH has quite literally turned their lives around – by providing a safe and stimulating environment in which to play, learn new skills, integrate and engage. From errant youths to empowered teenagers who are now themselves youth leaders and supporting the next generation of young people coming through. Hearing them take to the microphone and tell their personal stories and the impact CATCH has had on them brought a tear to my eye.
It is incredibly hard to convey through words just how inspiring the day was and how much both myself and Becki were able to take from it personally. My perceptions of those areas of Leeds has drastically changed and I’ve seen how even just small bits of funding, time and the leadership of volunteers in the community can make a profound difference.