Yesterday I was taken to task that too many of my blogs have a negative theme. This came after a blog I had written on the rather stupid and negative comments by George Osborne that Businesses need to press the case for commerce, because so many charities and lobby groups are in opposition to this. I chose to critique the Chancellor and his failure to understand his audience rather than make a case to prove how wrong he is. So here is the positive response that I could just as easily have written yesterday.
This week around 200 6th form students from across Sussex and a similar number of veterans from the Royal British Legion and RAFA attended the lovely Hendall Manor Barns between Uckfield and Crowborough. The host for the meetings which were to discuss the impact of the first world war on society, was the High Sheriff of East Sussex, Christopher Gebbie. When Mr Gebbie was considering organising this event, Peter and Nicola Young who own Hendall made a very generous gesture to enable the event to take place. They approached their own suppliers and similar generous gestures were made enabling the event to take place with the costs shared amongst various organisations.
One of the businesses that was willing to contribute its own services free of charge for the event at Hendall, also provides free accommodation for a local foodbank, enabling them to store food and run their offices at little cost to the charity. The foodbank in question was founded in part due to links between one member of staff and a food distribution scheme in Brighton & Hove. This charity relies extensively on volunteers for its existence, and some of the volunteers are people who are homeless and have not worked in a paid capacity for many years. As a result of the hard work of these volunteers, and their willingness to turn up on time regularly to do their shifts, and due in part to the training they receive, last year seven of them were able to obtain paid work for the first time in many years. In several cases their new jobs are in the private sector. These vulnerable people volunteer alongside members of various rotary clubs in the City, and the interaction between the various individuals is part of the way in which some of the volunteers are better prepared for work.
The food distribution scheme operates on an industrial scale, last year over 450 tonnes of food were distributed to charities that otherwise would have been forced to raise funds to feed their clients and residents. The food comes from businesses that would otherwise have been obliged to pay for the food to be destroyed. However making a decision to work with the charity comes at a price. The businesses have to determine which food is still edible and which is inedible, a much more complex process than when they simply put everything in a skip at the end of the working day.
George Osborne was speaking at a meeting of the Institute of Directors about his view that there is conflict between businesses and charities. I suspect that the High Sheriff is the Director of a Company (or has been). Peter Young at Hendall is probably a Director, as is the Managing Director of the Company that provides host to the Foodbank, as are the Trustees of the foodbank (of which the MD is one) and the Trustees of the food distribution charity. Some of the rotary club volunteers are Company Directors, as are the senior executives at the food businesses that donate food to the scheme. Whilst I suspect that few of these Directors and Trustees attended the talk by Mr Osborne, they would all know that business and charity shouldn’t be treated as organisations at war with one another. That each depends on one another. Perhaps Mr Osborne needs to spend a bit of time away from his special advisors and visit the real world that exists in places like Sussex where we have many good news stories to tell. As those attending Hendall Manor Barns this week discussed, the wars we face are rarely if ever caused by business or charity.