Any intern that has the opportunity to work at the BIG Alliance will have a flying start to their career. Corporate Social Responsibility is a very niche sector that connects the community and voluntary sector to the business world. My time as an intern has enlightened me to ways in which businesses can directly improve the communities around them. Employees gain a richer experience of their workplace by volunteering, it is a chance for experiential learning and development opportunities. Volunteers build new connections with charities and get to understand the plight of some charities that do so much within their communities - but are limited by their resources.
There is a strong need for businesses to focus on social and environmental goals with the total cost of meeting the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) requires $1.7 trillion a year of funding. There is a need for governments, the third sector and businesses to work together to make the SDGs a reality. On an individual level, business volunteers realise their own power and usefulness in their participation in volunteering initiatives and programmes. The question of how our programmes can be broadened is constantly an underlying theme in the office; everyone is invested in broadening the BIG Alliance’s offer to an even wider scope of beneficiaries in Islington.
The BIG Alliance’s mission
Islington is the 6th most deprived borough in London, out of 32 London Boroughs. 28% of under 18 year olds are living in households facing income deprivation and 34% of older residents. Also, this means that the life expectancy of people across the borough is lower than the London average. Islington also has the least green space in the UK. Businesses operating in Islington recognise the need to use their resources to generate positive social and environmental outcomes for the most deprived groups in the borough. At the BIG Alliance, it is our job to deliver programmes to support businesses in meeting their strategic goals of developing the communities around them according to the communities’ needs and interest.
The interns working in our parent charity, East London Business Alliance (ELBA), and I presented a Lunch and Learn to our BIG Alliance and ELBA colleagues, where I discussed how the 4th Industrial revolution has the effect of reproducing inequality. Marginalised communities and some community organisations that are not given the tools and resources to keep with technological changes. I also interviewed one of our community partners to gain further insight into how it affects BAMER communities and community groups in Islington and beyond. Also, how the BIG Alliance community team could play our role in addressing this phenomenon. Read more about it here: http://www.thebigalliance.org.uk/news/big-interns-insight-what-community-impact-can-big-alliance-have-fourth-industrial-revolution
We are a small team so we help each other out. I accompanied Luke Brown, our “team challenge” volunteering lead to check-ins. I learnt about “Meanwhile Gardens” and how they enable local residents to interact with nature even within a “concrete jungle”. I also helped the Education Team, consisting of Ayesha Begum and Marina Khan, at our Mentoring Works programme launches. I listened to students speak about their goals and passions for the future. One notable experience was a discussion I had with a student about the future of work, how technology is increasingly integrating into our human lives, and their aspirations in the fast-paced, ever changing new world. Needless to say, I was blown away by their insights.
We are also a team that invests in fun. From (almost) weekly table tennis at the office to bowling sessions. In ELBA, I am able to contribute to WELBA, our wellbeing committee, which is all about how we can boost happiness in our offices amongst our colleagues. And at the end of week, on “Dress-down” Fridays, we finish the day listening to our favourite songs according to the category of the week.
The internship experience
No two days on the internship are the same - as cliche as that sounds. In my first week, I was responsible for the photography and filming of the end of the Community Resourcing (CoRe) 2019 celebration event. Later, I edited the photos and drew tweetables from the filmed content to commemorate the event on our Twitter page. Soon afterwards, I accompanied my line manager, Tom Browne, as he interviewed the community leads and business volunteers who took part in CoRe 2019. I transcribed the interviews and logged the content, creating a bank of quotes and insights useful for reporting, monitoring and evaluation and promotion. I used my creative skills to create infographics for the end of programme report and completely revamped the activity report for Slaughter and May using Canva.
Throughout January, I have been given the responsibility of coordinating the Time to Talk sessions which we host in schools all over Islington as part of the Time to Change campaign to promote conversations around mental health. I created new scripts and presentations for the sessions. In addition, I liaised with the school contacts and the business volunteers. The challenge was keeping up with all the communication, which reinforced the importance of organisational skills. As you can note, this role requires creativity mixed in with an ability to juggle many tasks at once. Mistakes will be made but you quickly learn that it is more important to rectify your mistakes than to spend time stressing about them.
The BIG Alliance reinforced future-thinking through my weekly personal development meetings with Tom. He encouraged me to create a personal development plan to better understand what I want to achieve during my internship; consider what my goals are and how the team can support my professional development. It is also a space to be given constructive feedback on how I can improve and be a more capable employee.
My internship has reinforced existing skills and the different tasks pushed me to gain new skills. Examples of some skills I have developed are:
- Communication skills
- Project coordinating
- Interviewing skills
- Strategic thinking
- Organisational skills
- Questionnaire design
- Account management skills
- Social media management
- Report writing and design
Consider this internship with the BIG Alliance if you want to be challenged to build your skills and support building resilient communities in Islington. CSR offers you the opportunity to learn about the strategic vision of member companies as well as community needs. The job of the broker is to mediate competing interests in its delivery to ultimately serve what the community needs. The transferable skills you can gain will live beyond your time here, there will plenty of experiences you can discuss and show off about in future interviews for the next job. I would strongly encourage recent graduates curious about this internship to apply!