Katie Redfern enjoyed interviewing Joel Cohen from BeyondMe who gave a fascinating insight in to the creation of this amazing movement which is dedicated to strengthening the social sector. We discussed how it has grown to almost two thousand members across the UK working together on projects to make a difference to over one hundred charities. Plus, advice was given which will be of interest to those of you who are working in social impact jobs.
What inspired the Founders to start BeyondMe and how did you all make it happen?
Our founders, Adam Pike and Michael Harris, were exploring opportunities to act generously but struggled to find anything that allowed philanthropy to become a more active part of their lives. They knew they wanted to contribute to causes with the time and skills they had to offer; they knew they wanted a more active relationship with an important organisation than a monthly donation; and they knew they could motivate their friends to get involved and make the experience more enjoyable. Nothing was available at the time to help them, so they founded the model in 2011 for giving BeyondMe uses today.
How many projects have started and how many people are involved across which locations?
To date, we’ve enabled 180 long-term partnerships between teams of skilled volunteers and 120 organisations in need of added capacity, expertise and funding. Our movement is 1,850 people strong and while near all our teams are London-based, their work impacts projects locally, nationally and globally – from Newham to Nepal.
How many hours of business skills have teams donated?
We’ve found that it’s easier to give when you have a real understanding and first-hand experience of the difference you can make. On average, our skilled professionals in our partnerships each give around 2-3 hours a month. But when matched by their team-mates social sector organisations receive far more than any single individual could provide. In six years, 15,000 skilled-volunteer hours have been committed to supporting organisations in need helping build a strong foundation for their success.
Why is this venture so important?
Charities consistently suggest that this year, they expect a higher demand for their services without an increase in their funding. For these organisations, the support of a BeyondMe partnership enables our most important and innovative civic groups to meet their critical needs, care for the well being of those who rely on their services and provide new opportunities for us all to take ownership of social and environmental challenges shaping our future.
Do the BeyondMe partnerships rely on skills already developed by participants or will volunteers learn new skills during the project?
To take part, each member of our movement has to decide which of their skills they are confident using to deliver real value to the social sector and which they’d like to develop. But within each partnership, in our workplaces and across different sectors in society, collaboration always gives us opportunities to learn new skills from one another. Our movement has come together because we recognise the role generosity can play introducing us to those we can learn from and provides new opportunities to teach and lead one another for a shared purpose. Perhaps this is why BeyondMe’s unique model for giving is so effective.
What advice do you have for people looking for social impact jobs?
Communities are the heart of any social impact job because working for ‘the good’ is never general, it always relates to someone specific you are trying to help. Often, solving a complex problem will require multiple interventions from many different organisations to support someone in need. So the best things to ask yourself are questions like: Who am I trying to help? What part of the support eco-system do I feel best able to contribute to? And most importantly, what kind of organisation do I need supporting me so I can provide for others? As the kinds of organisations working in an area you care about will increasingly include social enterprises, purpose-driven businesses and governmental organisations, the main advice is to keep an open mind about exactly what kind of organisation could deliver the social impact you’d like to make.
What skills and resources do charities and social enterprises in the BeyondMe portfolio rely on and do you think these will change in the future?
As wealth changes hands and it falls to new generations to support the social sector it is certain that ways of reaching them will change too. We hope that new forms of support, like skilled volunteering, and new sources of funding, like the business community, social investment and crowdfunding, will enable social impact projects to thrive. We’re excited about these because we know they have the potential to offer new ways of serving those in need. To master them the social sector will definitely require new skill sets in technology and digital communications. But it can’t succeed without the sources of support, openness to learning, experience and confidence that already exists in the social sector.
If you’d like to know more about working with BeyondMe go to www.beyondme.org or send any queries to firstname.lastname@example.org . Feel free to contact Katie for more information at email@example.com.