Working with Business

It’s 20 years since we started our Working with Business strategy. I don’t know if I was remarkably forward looking or just desperate for help. The latter probably. Way back then in 1992 Britain was deep in economic recession. Unemployment rising to nearly 3m. The Government was imposing cuts in council spending and welfare. We were putting down mattresses on the office floor at night to help youngsters thrown out of B&B’s in Leith as a result of housing benefit changes. I sent out an emergency appeal to businesses for sleeping bags and food parcels. The response was amazing. It made me realise that businesses were full of people who cared as much as I do, not hard hearted capitalists.

In the two decades since we’ve developed long-term relationships with dozens of companies, large and small. We’ve long since left the Robin Hood approach back in the woods. It’s about respecting businesses and the people in them, enjoying finding the win-wins and doing things that make a satisfying difference.

We have a remarkable variety of partners and partner activities: Team Challenges, regular volunteering, donations of goods, help in kind, being material for in-house talent development programmes, pro-bono help, Special Projects, development secondments… (Notice I haven’t even mentioned financial donations or fundraising, but they’re nice too). We also enjoy working with partners like Scottish Business in the Community and Three Hands who bring these partnerships together.

JP Morgan Team Challenge creating a polytunnel at Cyrenians Farm

Working with business is central to Cyrenians vision of a socially successful and sustainable Scotland in which the extremes of exclusion, like homelessness, would not be accepted. We achieve this by bringing the community together in practical action to do things to help. Businesses are a fundamental part of the community.

We’ve just started a fresh promotion of Cyrenians Working with Business. Over the coming months we’ll be taking it around our many business partners and looking for new ones. We’re not just trying to punt our current Menu of Opportunities. It’s about having a conversation out of which might come fresh, revolutionary ideas about how the business can both help their bottom line and use their assets to contribute to a more caring community.

Over and above the traditional CSR menu we have inspiring examples of where social enterprise can grow – with a bit of commercial acumen – from where business need and social need coincide, like Cyrenians FareShare and CORE. We’re also working with retail, construction and social care companies to recruit and train day-one ready employees for their up-coming vacancies.

I’m sure there are possibilities we haven’t yet thought of and am keen to hear ideas and more examples. Just as I am to have those conversations.

Des Ryan (CEO)


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