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Give & Gain Day


Not just there for the tweets

Rachel Morton reports on the housing and regeneration contribution to Give & Gain Day 2015

Let’s be honest, it’s a very photogenic event. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Give & Gain puts together businesses and community groups to work on projects for a day, this year Friday May 15. Give & Gain is international, hosted in the UK by Business in the Community, running since 2008, and now claims well over 21,000 employee volunteers taking part worldwide.

Over 1,000 of those volunteers were here in Wales, representing upwards of 30 companies (figures are still coming in as I write). At least five who joined in were housing associations – RCT Homes as a sponsor, and projects coming from Cynon Taf, Hendre Group, Newport City Homes and Valleys to Coast. Also spotted on Twitter was Vale of Glamorgan housing and building services.

The vast majority of social housing providers work year round with their contractors to deliver benefits to the communities they work in. Most contracts look to include an element of targeted training and employment (TR+T) and a nice side order of the ‘corporate social responsibility’ activity – fix up a community hall, plant a sensory garden. This goes on all year. So why would we bother to ramp up for Give & Gain Day?

Looking at the upswing of involvement worldwide is a good indication. It has increased year on year and has a good chance of becoming fixed in the public’s mind as ‘an event’. Some of the most successful brands are Macmillan Coffee Mornings, Race for Life, Red Nose Day and London Marathon. They are mass participation events that require no further explanation.

When those of us who work in Housing say ‘community benefit’ or ‘corporate social responsibility’, we know what we mean. Does the general public, and specifically our tenants, get the idea? Contractors contributing their staff time and materials to a local community project is not a difficult concept, but it requires explanation. We may get a small corner of Page 23 in the local paper “Housing Association contractor helps local group paint community hall”. But this year, V2C and Hendre Group shared a double-page ‘Give & Gain Day’ spread in our local Gazette.

Tracey Cooke, community regeneration project manager at RCT Homes, summed up their involvement: ‘Businesses are getting smarter with the way they work. Social value and community benefits are embedded into their programmes and higher on their agendas, particularly in the tendering processes for larger businesses. Advantage can be made of time, materials and skills provided on Give & Gain Day projects, with the results being shared with others via social networks. Our communities become more empowered, taking more ownership and responsibility for where they live. We have seen this in a project RCT Homes have undertaken in Penygraig, regenerating the town centre in the heart of the Rhondda Valley.

‘Our vision is to carry out a number of ‘mini-Give & Gain’ volunteering days throughout the year utilising Give & Gain Day in May as the launching pad.’

A brand like ‘Give & Gain Day’, once it is fixed in the public consciousness, says it all. In years to come, we hope that communities can say ‘we had a Give & Gain Day this year’ and they will feel a pride in their community at being part of something international.

Noted psychologist Martin Seligman put forward that part of a meaningful life is ‘using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are’. And Steve Jobs said ‘we don’t know where it will lead. We just know there’s something much bigger than any of us here.

I’m planning on a larger V2C presence during Give & Gain next year. I expect we’ll see more of you in housing on social media at #giveandgainwales for 2016, being part of something even bigger.

Rachel Morton is community regeneration officer at Valleys to Coast Housing


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