Building responsibility into your business

Last week, Drive Forward Foundation hosted an information and networking event for London-based SMEs in cooperation with virtual start-up launcher AGORA. Hearing from young people themselves about the challenges they faced throughout their journey in care, participants were able to gain an understanding of the care-experience and its potential impact on an individual’s education and career. A panel discussion with Maggie Collier – Co-founder of Flamingo, Rihards Simanovics – Drive Forward Ambassador & Web Development Assistant at Module Studio, Floyd Steadman Executive Head at Clifton Lodge and former Saracens Rugby Player and Lucy Elamad, Head of Corporate Engagement at Drive Forward Foundation, then provided insight into why small-and-medium sized businesses are well placed to support care-experienced young people with their career goals.

Small and medium sized businesses make up over 99% of all businesses in the UK, employing 60% of the working UK population. And whilst

Floyd Steadman, Maggie Collier, Rihards Simanovics, Lucy Elamad, Miranda Reilly

they’re smaller in size and have access to fewer resources, they’re faced with the same challenges as their larger counterparts; from continuous uncertainly about Brexit, to infrastructure, to recruitment and staff retention rates. Nevertheless, when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility, SMEs appear to be ahead of the game. Less bureaucratic structures as well as being more embedded in the local area and community allow for more flexibility, adaptability and innovation; consequently, yielding a more natural approach to creating a socially (and environmentally) responsible business.

At Drive Forward, corporate partners are essential to our approach to enable care-experienced young people to achieve their full potential. Their employees donate their time and skills to support young people; they volunteer at our lunch clubs, participate at Interview Prep & Pizza, fundraise for us or become professional mentors. But our corporate partners do so much more than that. They make a commitment of being at the forefront of creating a more diverse, inclusive and responsible economy. They open up their recruitment structures to allow people from different walks of life to actively contribute and bring their experience and perspective into the business, thereby gaining as much as they give.

Company values, ethical trading or socially minded-business are common catch-phrases when it comes to attracting new talent, increasing staff satisfaction and appealing to more co-ordinated and socially aware consumer groups. Maggie Collier, Co-founder of Flamingo and an active member of the Board of Trustees at Drive Forward highlights:

Maggie Collier

“By employing young people from Drive Forward we were living up to our values. At the same time, we became a more informed and diverse employer, giving us the advantage of learning from many different perspectives. The two people we employed full-time became true culture-carriers for the whole business.”

Whilst we work with partners of all sizes, small-to–medium sized businesses like Flamingo or Module Studio have demonstrated time and again that they can provide a truly nurturing working environment for young people. Their employees are often motivated to increase social mobility and provide hands-on support to young talent. In conjunction with more flexible management and leadership structures, this has enabled the creation of purpose-built programmes, tailored to the diversity care-experienced people. A partnership with an equally adaptable and local charity like Drive Forward offers a real win-win strategy; they can reach a truly diverse candidate pool as well as provide quality opportunities to improve young people’s work readiness and career options.

To learn more about how your business can empower care-experienced young people and boost their careers get in touch with Miranda Reilly, Strategic Partnerships Manager.

Juno Schwarz, Director of Fundraising & Communications

Juno Schwarz


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