On Friday 7th September, The Future Melting Pot was privileged to be invited to attend the 6th Birmingham Corporate Social Responsibility Summit, held at Aston Business School. The event was collaboratively organised by Dr Judy Scully of Aston Business School, Dr Nick Venning of Thrive and Joel Blake OBE of Cultiv8, and turned out a resounding success. It proved to be a fantastic opportunity for networking, the exchange of ideas and productive debate, assisted by the summit’s forward-thinking focus on the future of CSR in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands.
The summit began with an engaging opening address by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, who cautioned attendees that while ‘lots is going right’ in the region, ‘mega challenges’ remain. The issues of youth unemployment, lack of qualifications and the low social mobility in the Black Country are all extremely pertinent to The Future Melting Pot’s work, and it was heartening to hear the Mayor highlight these concerns. Street went on to insist that ‘growth must be inclusive’, which he explained in terms of ‘linking cranes to communities’, with Birmingham’s big city-centre developments not necessarily meaning a great deal to the city’s hard-to-reach communities. However, it was in housing that Street conceded his Mayoralty had fallen somewhat short of its aims, although the foundation of the WMCA Homelessness Task Force demonstrates that the homelessness crisis is being recognised and tackled in the West Midlands.
While there were stimulating workshops run on Education and Social Isolation at the summit, The Future Melting Pot’s focus was on the Homelessness workshop, due to our ongoing youth homelessness project (more information here). The workshop was run by Jean Templeton, CEO of homelessness charity St Basils and Chair of the WMCA Homelessness Task Force. She stressed the ‘structural, systemic issues’ that cause homelessness, often ignored in favour of blaming individuals for the issues they face, while highlighting the extent of the rise in rough sleeping and homelessness in general since 2010 (the difference between these two categories is explained here). Templeton emphasised that rough sleeping is indeed just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the wider homelessness crisis, which the Homelessness Task Force aims to combat through ‘designing out homelessness in the West Midlands’: tackling the systemic problems, including the housing shortage, at the root of the crisis. It was made clear that this process of ‘designing out’ would need cooperation from businesses in the private sector, third sector organisations and the public sector.
After a fascinating afternoon of discussions, including from Haley Batt of TV studio Lime Pictures, who revealed how her company aims to make socially responsible programmes for Britain’s youth, Rosie Ginday of Miss Macaroon, a CIC which re-invests its profits into helping disadvantaged young people in Birmingham access employment and training programmes, the summit was rounded up by organisers Joel Blake and Nick Venning. Thanking all delegates for their contributions, their take-home message was bright and optimistic about the future of Corporate Social Responsibility in the West Midlands. Given the exciting discussions that were had and connections that were made at the summit, it would appear that their optimism was warranted.