Thursday, 15 December 2011

Woodingdean in Business

So we are nearly there - James (our no.1 apprentice) is just working on the final stages and I am busy working on the content... of what? Woodingdean in Business that's what.

Earlier this year I was chatting to Robert Griffiths, Director of Fundraising at The Martlets Hospice. He was talking about how hard it was to engage with businesses in and around the City (Brighton and Hove). And whilst I gave him as many suggestions as I could I knew that I hadn't really nailed 'it'. I hadn't really worked out a sustainable and relatively low maintenance way of engaging businesses and raising funds for the Martlets.
So the Summer came and went and Autumn firmly descended.
James joined Frank! in October and as part of his Business Administration course he needed to put together a database that we could use within the company. Trotting along to the shops that afternoon I was thinking about the sort of thing that it would be useful for James to do - something that would stretch him and add real value to the company. And like the preverbial bolt of lightening I had an idea. What if.. what if.. we set up a very local business website - one where all the local businesses including the shops, the cafe's the pub, the plumbers could have a listing - for free on the site - but we ask them all for a £25 contribution to The Martlets.

In return we publicise the site to the local people - through traditional posters and postcards that will be door-dropped locally and in addition we use twitter, facebook and twitter to encourage local people to visit the site. Everyone who has a listing can (if they so choose) upgrade it and have a page of their own to promote their business and to post special offers and news items. We will put together a quarterly newsletter with local business news and mail this out to our (by then hopefully) expanding user database.

We have worked with Sharon at cre8ideas to develop a design that is incredibly simple and could be ported across to any locality with very little effort, very simple, very clear - totally to our Frank! ethos (straight talking, smart ideas, real results).

Our next challenge is to start finishing the content management system, finishing the 'words' setting up a 'just giving' page so donations go directly to the Martlets and getting all the local businesses on boar - I use the words 'start finishing' because projects like this never actuall finish.

Our dream is to take this idea and really develop it, so that hospices all over the country could engage small local businesses by using this model. We are starting with Woodingdean - and if all goes well will look to Hanover, Patcham and other areas around our city - if (and it is only an if) the model works it will engage local businesses with the Martlets and help raise much needed funds - win win? I'll let you know.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Going back to school

About 6 months ago a friends daughter was saying that she was trying to organise some work experience for a week in the Autumn term. I mentioned that if she didn't manage to find something she really wanted to do she was more than welcome to work with Frank!. Her other options gradually disappeared and I was delighted that she was able to take up my offer. Well delighted and a bit worried to be fair. What on earth would she do for the week. As it happened - a lot. I decided that the best thing to do would be to find a project - something she could get her teeth into, could learn from and ideally something that would result in some positive results.
So - the project was to review and then make recommendations on improving her school website. We interviewed staff, developed a questionnaire, interviewed parents and pupils, collated the responses, put together a powerpoint presentation and today.. we presented her findings to the Head and the team responsible for the schools' communications. The findings were really interesting - having a year 11 pupil in the office for a week was absolutely charming. The input from other pupils was insightful and amazingly perceptive.
But the thing that really got me thinking was how much everyone we spoke to wanted the school to be, and to be seen as, something they could be proud of. And, they wanted the school to be proud of them. They wanted the school to say - look at our students, look at what they can achieve, look at how we work together to give them the best opportunities we can.
I think that one of our challenges every day is to help create companies and organisations that people can like. So the thing I will take away from this process is 'give people an opportunity to like you' and you know what? Often they will.