These included facilitating mental health workshops, work placements, donating surplus IT equipment to local community groups and support for charities working with refugees and tackling local homelessness.
And now businesses large and small are being invited to follow in their footsteps – with help from a new website aiming to encourage links between communities and local enterprises across Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife and Borders– whether donating to a grass-roots community group or a large firm wishing to organise volunteering days.
The new site has been supported through funding from the £1.3bn Edinburgh & South East Scotland City Region Deal – a joint investment between the UK and Scottish Governments.
UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: "The UK Government is investing £1.75 billion into regional projects across Scotland to level up communities and bring prosperity to everyone.
"Platforms like this new website are important to getting the most out of these initiatives, and I encourage organisations across the region to register."
Scottish Government Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government is investing £300 million through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. The portal ensures we capitalise on this funding, by helping charities receive support from businesses involved in public sector projects which wish to undertake good deeds.
“We greatly welcome this initiative, which will help the Scottish Government create a fairer, more prosperous and productive economy for all.”
As well as supporting the realisation of community benefits from many of the Deal’s major developments, the portal will also promote the wider value of community benefits amongst businesses and third sector organisations in the region generally.
Naila Akram, Head of Social Impact for Balfour Beatty’s regional business in Scotland, said: “At Balfour Beatty, we want to leave a lasting, positive legacy for communities, wherever we operate. We welcome the introduction of Edinburgh City and South Region City Deal's forward-thinking portal, which will further streamline our community benefit offer and deliver what local communities want and need.
The work by Balfour Beatty came about through a community benefit. “Community benefits” are clauses which are now mandatory in the awarding of most public contracts. Examples include businesses committing to apprenticeships, engagement with schools and using local supply chains. It is hoped the new website can extend support to groups focusing on recreation, wellbeing, the environment and social enterprises.
Claire Pattullo, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise Edinburgh and Chair of the Regional Enterprise Council stated: “Community benefits can help people and communities to understand how they can positively benefit from public spending. I would encourage all community groups to visit the ESESCommuities.org portal to find out how they can register their request.”
But you don’t have to be under an obligation to provide a ‘community benefit’. Whilst funded by the City Deal, the portal is open to use by all businesses in the region – including those in any public sector supply chains, as well as those who are not.
And whilst businesses can fulfil requests already on the portal, firms are also encouraged to reach out to the ESES Communities team with any offer of support to local causes – such as sponsorship, fulfilling staff volunteering days, donating excess resources or skilled services.
Case study - NSL
NSL Parking, a provider of parking enforcement services to local authorities Edinburgh, East Lothian and Midlothian, engaged with the portal having seen a request from Project Scotland – who support young people aged 16-30 to undertake volunteering. The charity had made a request to provide staff with mental health first aid training. NSL kindly donated the time of an employee who happens to be a qualified first aid mental health trainer – putting 7 members of Project Scotland’s team through their Level 5 qualification, with the company also paying for their certification
Paul Reddish, Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters (who are undergoing a merger with Project Scotland) said: “By posting our request on the ESES Communities portal, our team were pleasantly surprised to receive this invaluable training through the generosity of an organisation which may not otherwise have crossed our radar. Through simply donating the skilled time of their staff, NSL have equipped our team with the essential skills to support the wellbeing of our inspiring young volunteers.
Gerry Rooney, Client Account Manager, NSL: “As a national organisation, we are proud to support the communities in which we work – including in Edinburgh and the Lothians. Having attended a briefing session on the launch of the ESES Communities portal, we then registered and immediately saw an opportunity to draw upon the skills of our team. Offering staff the chance to volunteer for such good causes is a small way of giving something back locally, but also an excellent way to acknowledge the value of our own team and boost their morale. I’d encourage other firms to sign up for the portal.”
The workshop was delivered by Ross Gallier – NSL’s Skills Trainer, who said “Mental health is an important subject – at work, at school and at home. Those attending this training discussed strong examples of this new knowledge can benefit their team and the support they can offer the remarkable young people they work with.”
Case study - GMP
GMP Print Solutions, a signage and print manufacturer based in Midlothian, contacted the team with a pro-active offer of support in-kind through the free donation of small services, staff time and/or discounted rates to local causes. Several local community groups responded – including The Edinburgh Remakery – launching their new premises at Ocean Terminal. The Remakery is an award-winning environmental social enterprise with a mission to reduce waste through circular economy practices and repair and reuse; providing local people with the skills and services needed for them to become more sustainable.
Roger Parry, Founder of GMP Print said: “GMP pride ourselves on being an ethical organisation, regularly making significant donations to initiatives such as tree-planting in the region. The ESES Communities portal is now allowing us as a business to look at how we can support other community causes. We were delighted to work with the Remakery in manufacturing several items of signage and branding, and installing these free of charge.”
Elaine Brown, CEO of The Edinburgh Remakery said: “GMP came to us with an offer of support right as we were fitting out our new premises, and we are delighted with the visual experience they have created for those visiting our exciting new premises. Their generosity has saved our charity a significant amount of money, which wouldn’t have been possible without the connection through ESES Communities.org”
Led by Capital City Partnership and created by Fife-based web development firm Horisk Leslie, the site will also host updates on City Deal projects. The portal will be open to all businesses within the region interested in supporting communities, regardless of they are currently in the public sector supply chain or unfamiliar with community benefits.