His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has called for more UK businesses to sign up to the Business in the Community (BITC) Business Connectors programme, which is designed to create "connections" between local organisations to tackle needs in communities.
The programme is supported by £4.8m from the Big Lottery Fund and aims to recruit and support more than 670 UK business connectors over five years.
The Prince of Wales urged more businesses to pledge their commitment during the Big Connect 2013 event, focusing on projects and groups that support young people in education, boost employment and enterprise, or increase community cohesion.
In partnership with Fujitsu, Lloyds Banking Group and the Big Lottery Fund, the Big Connect event took place at the Business Design Centre in London on 12 July.
Present at the event were 1,000 business representatives, charities, voluntary sector organisations and local authorities.
Thanking those who already support the Business Connectors programme, the Prince of Wales said: "After hearing such stories of success, one might be forgiven for thinking that these wonderful businesses have already achieved their task.
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“I’m afraid there is a great deal more to be done, and we desperately need more support for their tireless efforts and a greater number of business connectors across England’s most deprived urban and rural areas."
He explained how the idea for the programme originally came about: “It would annoy me that we would have lots of meetings and there was no one to join up all the dots. No one on the ground to make the connections needed. Communities would hesitate to go and talk to a business if that person didn’t have a connection there.”
Companies already involved include Fujitsu, Greggs, Lloyds Banking Group, Marks & Spencer, Landmarc, PD Ports and Waitrose, which have jointly placed 14 business connectors.
During the event, Argos, London and Quadrant Housing Trust, Capgemini, Lorien Resourcing and DWF pledged to offer business connectors for the first time.
Fujitsu shows its support at Big Connect
Fujitsu became involved in the programme in 2012, when it pledged two employees to be trained by BITC in a bid to create connections between the private sector and community organisations.
The employees’ salaries were paid in full throughout their 12-month secondment.
In addition to the benefits business connectors have for the community, it is also very beneficial for the employees
After a rigorous application and interview process, which saw 150 employees apply this year, two business connectors were chosen.
Applicants were interviewed by Gavin Bound, Fujitsu’s chief operating officer, who told Computer Weekly: “Applicants have to show passion to develop themselves. The have to be emotionally robust, as they will get several knock-backs from the community when they get started.
“They report to me, and I am a mentor for them too. It gives them a route to management and the board if they need it.”
Duncan Tait, CEO at Fujitsu UK and Ireland, said in addition to the benefits business connectors have for the community, it is also very beneficial for the employees' CVs.
“It is a year programme for the employee, and they will learn a whole range of roles and responsibilities that they might not have got the chance to experience in their previous role. They come back a different employee – more confident and well-rounded in their skills.”
Fujitsu also provides free access to its cloud-based platform to support the Business Connectors programme. Designed with a Facebook style, the platform ensures business connectors nationwide can share information and that organisations involved in individual projects have an easy communication route.