In my day job I think a lot about helping people to connect in meaningful ways, and while this usually involves social networking, I am always willing to try new, innovative ways to bring people together – including spending the night sleeping rough with hundreds of colleagues from the tech sector and other industries.
I have found this is a remarkably effective way to get to know people. I’ve slept out for the event for the past four years and formed significant working relationships – as well as friendships – thanks to the shared experience. This unique event is called Byte Night, and it is so much more than an off-the-wall networking exercise – it is a long-running and successful fundraiser that happens every October to support young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
The official numbers are stark – local authorities registered 15,000 young homeless people in England last year, and many aren’t recorded in this count. It is estimated that in total 80,000 young people experience homelessness each year across the UK.
Becoming homeless can mean sleeping on the streets, but for many young people it involves staying on sofas and moving from house to house. Homelessness of any type can damage young people’s mental health and make it difficult for them to attend school, find work and access support.
We can make a difference though. Byte Night raises money in aid of Action for Children, a charity which works with vulnerable young people across the UK to help them with homelessness and other issues. It supports families in trouble to prevent relationships breaking down – a major cause of youth homelessness – and provides young people with a safe place to stay while they find a more permanent solution. Since 1998, Byte Night has raised over £6m for projects like this.
Last year’s Byte Night
Why is this an issue for businesses like yours? My view is that businesses bring people together to solve problems, and youth homelessness is a huge problem. By attracting teams of colleagues from innovative companies in the technology sector and beyond, Byte Night harnesses their ingenuity and channels it towards helping young people in need.
Byte Night encourages people to make connections inside their companies and with peers from other businesses, forming a network across the UK that is incredibly effective. We aim to raise £1.3m this year for Action for Children and need at least 1,500 participants to do it. More than 250 people have already signed up to take part and they’re hard at work hatching plans to encourage their colleagues to join them or donate money.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Byte Night and meeting other professionals who have taken part before, there are free launch events happening soon in each of the eight cities that host Byte Night sleepouts.
Tiffany Williams is a member of the Byte Night London board and senior enterprise relationship manager at LinkedIn. You can find your nearest event and reserve a free place here.
This was first published in April 2014