Top law firm’s tie-up with social enterprise works both ways

David Morgan, left, David Duke, centre, and Peter Lawson reflect on the relationship between social enterprises and corporate business in Scotland. Picture: Ian Rutherford
David Morgan, left, David Duke, centre, and Peter Lawson reflect on the relationship between social enterprises and corporate business in Scotland. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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In partnership with Burness Paull.

The relationship between legal firm Burness Paull and social enterprise Street Soccer Scotland is a positive example of how responsible business is becoming embedded in corporate Scotland. David Duke of Street Soccer Scotland and Burness Paull partners Peter Lawson and David Morgan talk about their relationship.

Glasgow hosted the Homeless World Cup in July 2016. Picture: John Devlin

Glasgow hosted the Homeless World Cup in July 2016. Picture: John Devlin

Peter Lawson (PL): David Duke met David Morgan and other Burness Paull staff at a Scotland football match in 2013 and they really connected. They were totally inspired by David’s story about how he went from being homeless himself to founding Street Soccer Scotland and creating new opportunities for those who find themselves homeless for all sorts of reasons.

David Duke (DD): At various events I kept being impressed with Burness Paull and the passion of their people – the chemistry felt right and everything pointed me towards working with them.

David Morgan (DM): We were keen to do something with Street Soccer and decided to do a corporate event with a difference, offering staff and clients the chance to play against Street Soccer teams and find out more – with all proceeds going back to Street Soccer. 

PL: There were 24 teams at the five-a-side tournament at the Powerleague in Sighthill, Edinburgh [Powerleague is a supporter of Street Soccer]. We showed a motivational video from Street Soccer’s ambassador Sir Alex Ferguson beforehand – and it was a great way for staff, clients and others to network and support the charity. Our Aberdeen office won on penalties, which Sir Alex will be proud to hear.That led on to lots of other initiatives and we joined the Street Soccer Scotland Business Club.

Young people want to make a difference and be part of a business which is also making a difference.

Peter Lawson, Burness Paull

DD: We launched the business club at the end of 2014. We’d had real interest in Street Soccer from corporate businesses and with the Homeless World Cup coming to Glasgow, it was an opportunity to build a different kind of community to support us.

Members of the business club got a positive association from linking with Street Soccer Scotland, but it was more than that – you get greater employee engagement when the networking is based on something you are interested in, whether it’s football, homelessness or wider social change.

DM: We wanted it to be a two-way thing – a real partnership. We saw the opportunity to create a long-term relationship with Street Soccer. It wasn’t just about giving money, it was about creating a genuine, meaningful partnership.

PL: It was a great fit for us. The Burness Paull brand is aligned with passion, values, integrity, energy and a willingness to drive change – and that’s exactly what we saw in David and his Street Soccer team. I saw the chance to do something different at the annual awayday for our 100 corporate lawyers.

David Duke came to speak (in January 2016) and was really inspiring – and he brought along four Street Soccer players who told their stories. The room was electric – there was real passion there and some tears at the stories they told.

DD: It was a daunting experience for them, but they were great – and three of them have now got jobs.

Things were moving in a really positive direction and the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow (co-hosted by Street Soccer Scotland) in the summer of 2016 was massive for us. It was an international social change event in the heart of Glasgow and it really helped to change perceptions.

Homelessness is one of those things it’s easy to turn your back on. Some people cross the road to avoid a homeless person; it’s seen as a negative.

This summer, we shut down Glasgow city centre for a week and brought in talented football players, who happen to be homeless, from all over the world. Instead of avoiding homeless people, you are watching them, engaging with them. We had 80,000 spectators throughout the tournament, which was phenomenal. People were buying the shirts – imagine that for someone who has experienced really difficult times; seeing people buying and wearing the same shirt you are playing in.

The legacy for me was a greater awareness of sport as a movement for change, but more importantly it helped to change perceptions around homelessness. You can lose a lot of hope in that situation – but the Homeless World Cup sent out a clear message; with support and nurturing, you can get out of it. 

It also helped us cement important relationships with business – with airports, banks and legal firms like Burness Paull.

PL: We jumped at the opportunity to sponsor the Scotland team’s shirts. When we announced it to our staff and clients, we had a more positive response than anything we have ever done.

The Homeless World Cup being hosted in Glasgow really caught the attention but it was the fact that a law firm was supporting a brilliant social enterprise focused on homelessness which really caught the eye. Lots of people were very pleasantly surprised.

DM: We streamed the event into our Aberdeen office and arranged for lawyers to take clients to watch the games and our staff helped to sell merchandise. There was a massive buzz from people wanting to get involved. We received unprecedented positive feedback from the business community on our support for Street Soccer when we announced it to our wider network.

DD: We had a brilliant response. It’s not just Street Soccer. I think people, especially younger members of staff and new recruits, expect their firms to have positive values and to do good. There is real value in that staff engagement.

DM: It’s an immersive thing. Corporate social responsibility used to feel like a tick-box exercise. It was about having a policy, not actually about what you did. This relationship took us to a new and better place and helped us to embed responsible business across the firm; it was about doing, not just saying.

I was proud to be asked to join Street Soccer Scotland’s advisory board and as an employment lawyer, I have been able to help in a practical way too.

DD: All charities need a range of skill sets. They have lots of heart but sometimes need a bit more head. That support from firms like Burness Paull is invaluable.

PL: Where we can really add value is by making proactive introductions through our business networks. We try really hard to use those networks to mutual benefit. We organised an Inspiring Leaders event in Glasgow and David spoke to 60 business leaders and many have connected with him.

DD: I’m giving talks to other corporates on the back of that. It all helps to raise the profile with another audience and I charge a fee which is donated back into Street Soccer. Everybody has the power to effect positive social change in their own way.

I am immersed in it and that’s my contribution – but everyone can play their part, in many different ways. I have constantly told my story about how football helped me. Seven-and-a-half years on, we have four former players who are now Street Soccer staff doing talks and that allows me to focus on a new enterprise.

I’m working to develop a change centre in Glasgow which aims to make a massive difference to how homelessness is dealt with. We are constantly putting on sticking plasters and not getting to the root causes. The centre will be a community facility housing people who are homeless built around a football centre, but with facilities to deal with those with addictions and mental health issues.

There will be an emphasis on physical activity but also on engaging with the local community – not on shutting homeless people away. Everybody has been really positive and receptive about it and I think it can be a real change-maker.

PL: David is really helping to change attitudes across society. When we held an event for potential new recruits, I spent 50 per cent of my time talking about Street Soccer.

People had looked at the Burness Paull website and that’s what jumped out – and they can see our involvement is genuine, authentic.

There is less interest in becoming a corporate lawyer now; young people want to make a difference and be part of a business which is also making a difference.

Street Soccer Scotland

Street Soccer Scotland is a social enterprise which uses football-inspired training and personal development to help people affected by social exclusion and homelessness to make positive changes in their lives. 

It believes sport can inspire, motivate, develop and unite people from all backgrounds – and most importantly, offer hope.

David Duke, founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, whose ambassadors include Sir Alex Ferguson, says: “When someone has no hope it becomes dangerous. I have experienced this and can only describe it as being locked in a cold and dark room with no doors.

“Waking up everyday with a feeling of hopelessness can lead to poor mental health, addiction, crime and in some cases death.

“That is why we are totally inclusive, respectful and understanding while offering opportunity to anyone who needs it. We do not impose a time limit or any other expectations, only reassurance that we are here to inspire people to be all they can be.” Since Duke founded Street Soccer Scotland in 2009, it has grown to employ around 20 people, the majority of whom have experienced homelessness.

This article appears in the WINTER 2016 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version can be read here. Further information about Vision Scotland here.