Partnerships: regional renaissance?

October 01, 2001

Landmark new partnership for RBS

The Royal Bank of Scotland is embarking on one of the largest business-charity partnerships ever: a £3.7 million package of support to youth charity, The Prince’s Trust, together with a £6 million loan to support long-term investment in small business start-ups. The three-year investment, announced on August 15, will support a new one-stop shop called Route 14/25, to skill up disadvantaged young people (aged 14-25) for starting out in work. The bank is also incorporating a 20-day version of The Prince’s Trust volunteer programme into its graduate training scheme – building on its current employees’ support for the Trust’s Business Mentoring Programme.

Route 14/25 will involve close liaison with other service providers, such as the Employment Service, and an ongoing system of tracking by the Trust to ensure each young person continues to get the support they need. It will be piloted in three regions before roll-out across the UK. Contact Allan Watt, The Royal Bank of Scotland, on 0131 556 8555 (

…and it’s also CREATING.

The Royal Bank of Scotland and Natwest are encouraging their UK staff to use their IT skills as mentors to applicants for CREATE IT, a new £1.2 million award scheme launched on September 18 by The Parkinsons Disease Society. The awards are open to all people with Parkinson’s disease in the UK who want to realise an ambition or benefit their community. The organisers are particularly targeting socially excluded people with the disease – younger people, black and minority ethnic communities and those living in rural areas. Contact Allan Watt, RBS, on 0131 556 8555 (

Barclays backs rural community.

Barclays reported that it is donating £48,000, spread over two years, to the National Association of Farmers’ Markets, which promotes locally-sourced produce. The contribution, announced at the beginning of September, comes from the bank’s £1 million Rural Regeneration Fund, set up in April to fund economic regeneration projects in areas impacted by the foot and mouth epidemic.

On the business front, Barclays is also introducing a more flexible approach for farmers and businesses affected by the foot and mouth crisis over the next 12-months. The package, announced on September 12, will include loan deferrals and extended overdraft facilities. No ceiling has been placed on the value of support available, and Barclays stresses that where business plans look bleak in the long term, they will offer help through their own business ‘intensive care’ unit, or fund ten hours’ advice from an independent Business Links advisor to try to find a way forward. Contact Alistair Smith, Barclays, on 020 7699 4505 (

Banks back Scottish charities.

Four Scottish banks – Lloyds TSB Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, The Bank of Scotland and The Royal Bank of Scotland – are joining forces with the Scottish Executive to provide loans and business support to voluntary organisations in Scotland. The banks are making a £3 million loan to the venture, launched on September 18 with the title Social Investment Scotland, whilst the government is adding an extra £2 million to cover administrative and management costs. Contact Scott Anderson, SIS, on 0131 343 7401 (

New CSR network in Scotland.

A new cross-sector CSR network is being formed in Scotland by the charitable organisation, Agenda, following an initial strategy meeting on September 27. Aegon, IBM, KPMG, Scottish Business in the Community and the Social Investment Forum are among organisations involved.

Agenda aims to complement existing CSR initiatives in Scotland by convening a range of stakeholders, representing consumer and investor interests, for example, as well as large and small companies. It also seeks to help challenge organisations to look at CSR in its broadest sense (not just community), to share information and signpost its members to current trends and activities in this field. Contact Kyla Brand, Agenda, on 0131 446 0992 (

BBC bolsters volunteering.

The BBC is using its network of local radio stations to encourage Britain’s eight million regional listeners to undertake social action initiatives. As part of a £2 million programme, launched on September 20, the BBC will donate airtime to scale up the Action Desks initiative, which it has developed with volunteering advocate, CSV. Action Desks provide information on local volunteering opportunities and run health and education awareness campaigns. The new funding will enable national coverage. The partnership also receives funding from the European Social Fund and the Department for Education and Skills. Contact Sarah Green, CSV, on 020 7643 1338 (

Consignia delivers.

A new partnership between Consignia and UpMyStreet, a leading UK online information provider, aims to provide citizens with free access to local and national information and services through their local post offices – ultimately through the internet. Over two hundred and fifty post offices will pilot the new information service as part of a £30 million, government-backed project called Your Guide, which flows from the government’s review of the Post Office network in June 2000, and which is due to roll out nationally if successful. Information will be available through a variety of media, including touch-screen kiosks, leaflets and print, phone hotlines and face-to-face advice from counter staff. It will cover seven subject groups:

– Jobs and training;

– Benefits and entitlements

– Retirement

– Money and legal matters

– Local government services

– Local information, adverts and notices.

The pilot, in Rutland and Leicestershire, will last six months, from early September until March 1, 2002, and scale up to a national level from the summer of 2002 if working well. Contact Michael Dalton, Consignia, on 0121 212 7027 (

New from Cable & Wireless.

New projects announced by Cable & Wireless on August 1 are:

n A project with the World Resources Institute to offer technical support and business advice to social entrepreneurs in developing countries through a global volunteer mentoring scheme. Volunteering opportunities will be offered to Cable & Wireless employees world-wide;

A project to support the training of trainers, who provide one-to-one, home-based computer/internet training to disabled people in London. The partner is Wigram Aid to Ability of Critically Disabled Internet Students (WAACIS). Contact Charlotte Wolff, Cable & Wireless, on 020 7525 2000 (

news in brief

• British Gas’s long-term partnership with the charity, Help the Aged, is an exemplary model of cross-sector partnership say judges of the 2001 UK Charity Awards. They named it Corporate Partnership of the Year on September 6. Contact Simon Henderson, Centrica, on 01753 758 000 (

• Lessons in business partnerships with civil society groups and others will be the subject of a second report by Business Partners for Development, a World Bank initiative. The report, to be published in January 2001, follows a preliminary study released earlier this year, Endearing Myths, Enduring Truths. Contact Julia Lewis, BPD, on 001 202 458 2046 (

• The business-led group, the International Business Leaders Forum, is backing a one-year postgraduate programme on partnership capacity building, in conjunction with Cambridge University and the Copenhagen Centre. Contact Louise Kjaer, TCC, on 00 45 3395 4664 (; Stuart Reid, Cambridge University, 01223 342 115 (


In the run-up to devolution, expectations grew, especially in Scotland, that self-government would herald a new era of focused regional involvement by business. There was even talk of a new Companies Act for Scottish-registered companies, requiring a higher level of disclosure about social responsibility than the limited and 30 year-old charitable donations disclosure.

Then nothing much seemed to happen. A few conferences were held. A number of companies beefed up their Edinburgh and Cardiff-based communications functions. Just a few went further; for example ScottishPower, BP and Diageo, to name three, undertook and published studies of their economic, social and environmental impact specifically in Scotland.

So does the cluster of developments we report above now reveal a new energy? Certainly the whole regional agenda in the UK is ripe for development. After a bumpy start, the Assembly in Wales is functioning well. In England, the RDAs are getting into their stride. Some cities are following London and voting for elected mayors, though none of the big ones yet among them. Major companies have long been good at site-based community relations. In recent years, major national schemes have come to the fore. The regional tier has been weak, hindered by the ‘hollowing out’ of management tiers in many companies. Time for a reappraisal.