Why business leaders should get out more; lessons from the outer suburbs
Submitted by United Way Australia, 25 Mar 2013
With all of the shenanigans that have been going on in Canberra in recent times you could easily be excused for ‘switching off’ at the mere mention of any of our political leaders. This is totally understandable but also a shame because sometimes we can throw the baby out with the bathwater. Take for example the PM’s visit to Western Sydney, it’s easy to be cynical about the politics of this but the principle of leaders listening first-hand to people in these often overlooked communities is a good one. And here’s something you may not have considered: Leaders of Australian Corporations would do well to follow the PM’s example and spend some time in the outer suburbs of our cities. This would bring insights to businesses and opportunities to provide support to communities grappling with significant social and economic challenges.
As a resident of a suburb on the fringe of south western Sydney, I travel every day to the CBD and know only too well the tremendous potential in these communities. In many ways they represent the future Australia – in 2010/11 the ABS found that the outer suburbs represented two thirds of the growth in the Australian population. These suburbs are characterised by many young families settling for greater housing affordability, young adults choosing to stay close to home and start their careers and new migrants investing their skills and capabilities in the local economies. All of this is borne out in the entrepreneurial energy of these communities which are the heartland for business in Australia.
Corporate leaders would do well to take notice of the opportunities these communities present to Australia because it’s in the outer suburbs that they will find their future customers with their increased discretionary income, their future skilled workforce will the have the luxury of choice in a labour market fighting for the right skills and a growing group of small businesses ready to compete as suppliers.
Of course the picture in the outer suburbs of our cities isn’t all rosy. As we keep hearing, there are significant infrastructure challenges that make it difficult for residents in outer suburbs to access goods and services and to commute to work every day- and they’re just a few of the challenges! A good number of these communities would be classified as disadvantaged and we know that only 43 per cent of kids from disadvantaged communities will continue into higher education. One in three will leave school without any career prospects. If the new frontier in our national economic debate is going to focus on improving productivity then here’s the low hanging fruit.
Australia is surprisingly one of the most urbanised communities in the world. Focusing on our outer suburbs will be critical to strengthening the social and economic capital of our cities. These issues are not solely the domain of our political leaders but require the attention and commitment of corporate leaders. Why? Because you can’t operate a successful business in a failed community. I’m sure most of our corporate leaders know all this but seeing the potential and the challenges of our outer suburbs is a different thing altogether. You could do this by having your next executive retreat in one of these communities, commuting with some of your employees one day to work or getting to know your future workforce through one of the local high schools. Perhaps the PM’s onto something in getting first-hand experience in the Rooty Hill’s of Australian cities.
Doug Taylor – CEO, United Way Australia
Tags: Australia's outer suburbs, Collective impact, Community Impact, corporate engagement, Corporate Social Responsibility, corporate volunteering, CSR, Employee engagement, Evidence-based need, Outer Suburbs Sydney, professional volunteering, Rooty Hill, Social Exclusion, social return, Sydney, United Way
Creating impact through volunteering – our Corporate Connect® journey: part 5
Submitted by United Way Australia, 6 Mar 2013
In this fifth blog on corporate volunteering, we discuss the impact the last ten years of our unskilled team volunteering program has had on ourselves, United Way Australia, and how we have used this to deepen our engagement with our corporate partners, their employees and our communities, to create greater impact for all these stakeholders.
Back in 2009 United Way produced a report with the Centre for Social Impact, Common Cause, looking at Sydney’s key social issues. Looking through the lens of United Way’s Community Impact strategy focusing on Income, Education and Health and building on this evidence United Way identified innovative and collaborative strategies.
In 2012, over 500 corporate volunteers told us they want to volunteer again. In addition, 56% told us they want to volunteer more and make a larger contribution. This desire fits in well with the new United Way Community Impact Strategy that is based on a collective impact approach , bringing collaborations of interested people and organisations together. United Way has built in opportunities for corporate volunteers to do more, engage more deeply and make greater impacts.
The new volunteering approaches United Way has developed to support the Community Impact strategy are Engaged Volunteering and Strategic Volunteering.
Engaged volunteering provides opportunities for corporate volunteers to use their personal and professional skills, to mentor and motivate Year 10 high school students. Focusing on our more vulnerable communities where many families don’t have a history of working, this exposure to professional working people is helping students to stay focused at school and plan for positive pathways after school.
Volunteers have told us after workshops, “we certainly got more than we gave today and it was a real privilege to be at the workshop.”
Early evaluations are showing that the impact goes two ways and students too are benefiting, with 93% of students who were unclear about their pathway post school had clarified their intention to go into secure, productive pathways by the end of the program.
Strategic volunteering, is another type of volunteering United Way has developed to enable executives to use their skills and influence to create Community Impact outcomes. Coalitions of corporate, community and government leaders have been formed to address the strategic issues affecting an identified focus area. A great example is the Homelessness Coalition, which we’ve previously written about – see blog.
Partners for Impact is another strategic volunteering program that provides executives from the corporate and community sector the opportunity to work together on a business issue posed by the community partner in a year long collaboration. As the first year winds up, there has been acknowledgement on both sides of the value of the program, “we’ve had really useful conversations. My corporate partner mentor asks “cut-through” questions to pull out the [employee] traits and she’s spot on with her assessments – she has a bit of a gift.’
With equally powerful feedback from the corporate partner mentors about their experience, we are set to offer this program for a second year in Sydney and also launch it in Melbourne in the coming months.
Community impact is a journey, just as innovation and collaboration is a journey, underpinned by the experience of all those involved. United Way’s role in gathering the evidence, getting the community projects going and harnessing the resources to achieve the outcomes is showing early wins in creating community impact.
Gabrielle Kay – Corporate Partnerships Manager
Tags: Collective impact, community, Community Impact, Corporate Social Responsibility, corporate volunteering, CSR, employee retention, engagement, leadership, professional volunteering, social return, team events, team volunteering, United Way, volunteering
Partners for Impact – realising the knowledge-sharing benefits of mentoring
Submitted by United Way Australia, 25 Feb 2013
Many corporate leaders feel that having achieved a level of success in their career, there is a strong desire to give back, to contribute to the growth and enrichment of their corporation and their community, but don’t know exactly where to start.
Mentoring programs come in a range of shapes and sizes and are a well-used tool for building skills and sharing experiences. They can be particularly valuable for people working in the not-for-profit sector, where professional development budgets and self-improvement opportunities can be overshadowed by the day-to-day demands of ‘doing good’.
In 2011, the AMP Foundation approached United Way Australia, about taking over their program, which had run for a number of years, to develop it further and make it available to other corporate and non-profit organisations.
As an organisation that focuses on mobilising individuals to create lasting change in the community this opportunity complemented our existing Corporate Community Engagement program. It specifically supports United Way Australia’s mobilisation strategy by providing a structured forum for community and corporate leaders to connect and learn how to work effectively with each other, via a community initiative.
To read more on how the program has made an impact recently for both corporate and community participants please view “The knowledge-sharing benefits of mentoring” a recent article published by AMP Foundation.
Tags: AMP Foundation, Collective impact, Community Impact, Corporate Community Engagement, Corporate Social Responsibility, corporate volunteering, CSR, Employee engagement, engaged volunteering, knolwedge-sharing, leadership, Mentoring, non-profit, Not for profit, Partners for Impact, professional volunteering, social return, Strategic Volunteering, sustainability, United Way, volunteering
Celebrating 125 years of United Way
Submitted by unitedway, 21 Jun 2012
On this day in 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, a rabbi and a minister came together to improve their community. Today those actions have grown into United Way – the world’s largest privately-supported not for profit.
United Way Australia is proud to be one of nearly 1,800 United Ways in 41 countries and territories around the world
People are often surprised at the size of United Way globally. We’re not a household name here in Australia but, through this vast global network of United Ways, we do have access to global best-practice in our area of expertise – helping our corporate partners to provide innovative and effective corporate social responsibility programs, including workplace and payroll giving, corporate team and professional volunteering, with solutions aligned to the needs of both the business and our community.
We work extensively with large and small businesses across the world. From this work we understand these businesses increasingly want to demonstrate outcomes through their community investment strategies and also leverage their work with others to maximise their social return. Many are also keen to support their employee retention and acquisition strategies with such corporate community involvement initiatives. United Way’s community impact strategies and employee engagement programs reflect these priorities.
On this special day, we want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those people and organisations –past, present and future- who have and continue to advance the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all. And here’s to the next 125 years.
Tags: community investment, Corporate Social Responsibility, corporate volunteering, CSR, employee acquisition, employee retention, Not for profit, payroll giving, professional volunteering, social return, team volunteering, United Way, volunteering, workplace giving