Why my fellow CEOs should join me in working to help create a better society

How humanitarian charity Movement on the Ground is partnering with corporations to empower change, according to Scottish founder Charlie MacGregor, who is also chief executive of hybrid hospitality brand The Social Hub.

The journey of fleeing might end, but the stigma of being classed a refugee can last for generations. Refugees come from all walks of life, yet they share the experience of being stripped of everything. While refugee camps do provide necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, they generally lack dignity, suitable living conditions, and providing those living there opportunities for growth.

This has always been something I have been aware of, but it was the events of 2015 that flicked a switch in me. With the rest of the world, I watched in horror the images of Alan Kurdi (born Alan Shenu), a toddler washed up on a beach in Turkey, trying to flee with his family from Syria. Alan was of similar age to my son, and I felt compelled to do something.

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As founder and chief executive of The Social Hub – a concept fusing hotel and student accommodation with several branches across Europe including Scotland, which opened earlier this year – I had an army of incredible people around me to help make something happen. Within 30 days we were collecting clothes, money, food, and I was busy calling the ministry in Holland offering to shelter refugees in our community – but I had an overriding feeling this wasn’t enough.

'At MOTG, we are a team of like-minded individuals determined to bring change to the humanitarian field,' says MacGregor. Picture: contributed.'At MOTG, we are a team of like-minded individuals determined to bring change to the humanitarian field,' says MacGregor. Picture: contributed.
'At MOTG, we are a team of like-minded individuals determined to bring change to the humanitarian field,' says MacGregor. Picture: contributed.

I went out to the Greek island of Lesvos to see what I could do to help. I have never worked harder in my life. With 10,000 people arriving each day, we helped them off boats, we cooked meals, we gave them clothes, and it was here that Movement on the Ground (MOTG) was born with co-founders Adil Izemrane and Johnny Mol.

We realised we needed to go beyond as what was being done wasn’t the only option. At MOTG, we are a team of like-minded individuals determined to bring change to the humanitarian field. It was driven by the belief that we need migrants in our world, but how can we help them better successfully integrate into society? How can we reduce costs for all parties and get more efficiency, but with more care and a better way of doing things? Give individuals at their lowest a sense of purpose, and the tools needed to integrate smoothly into their future society and home.

We therefore turned to the refugee community to help us create our own refugee camp. Following our “camp to campUs” philosophy (where activities can operate without our physical presence), we removed the fences, the barriers, and replaced them with dignity and trust. Our philosophy is that residents are active in creating their community and having it thrive with education, spaces to meet each other, health care, nutritious daily meals, sport facilities and a centre for arts and music.

On top of that, we’re committed to ensuring the village’s sustainability, self-sufficiency, and innovation, with our residents engaging in various initiatives such as cooking with local ingredients, and even participating in sustainability engineering projects such as installing solar panels.

The entrepreneur is calling on his fellow CEOs to empower change within their companies and help create a better society. Picture: Rachel Ecclestone.The entrepreneur is calling on his fellow CEOs to empower change within their companies and help create a better society. Picture: Rachel Ecclestone.
The entrepreneur is calling on his fellow CEOs to empower change within their companies and help create a better society. Picture: Rachel Ecclestone.

Today we are active in eight villages across five countries and partner with governments and organisations like the Red Cross to pioneer a better way of running refugee camps. Our goal for this model is to be embraced and implemented worldwide to address the growing needs of refugee populations.

However, this doesn’t happen with goodwill alone. Corporate partnerships are key to MOTG’s continued success. Since 2015, 35 corporate sponsorships have been established with MOTG, raising €1.8 million (£1.5m) and adding over 500 volunteers to the team. As MOTG is a small organisation, corporations have clarity on how their money is being used.

Individuals, specifically younger generations, seek to join companies that make meaningful social impact. The Social Hub is MOTG’s first and oldest ongoing corporate partner. This partnership is a natural fit for The Social Hub, given its core values reflecting inclusiveness, unity, and social responsibility.

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As part of this partnership, at The Social Hub we developed “the Elevator”, a talent-recognition programme where team members can spend a week volunteering on the island of Lesvos. Volunteers get to support the residents by helping them create their CVs, running trial interviews, and joining them in classes covering English, construction, tailoring, cookery, IT, and more.

Our team members at The Social Hub currently dedicate more than 75 days annually to volunteering with MOTG, and all participants remain connected and supporting the charity. As founder of both The Social Hub and MOTG, I am as actively involved as I ever was, and visit Lesvos regularly – in fact I was there recently, working hard to pitch in with other volunteers and ensure the village is running as smoothly as possible.

A message and call to my fellow CEOs would be to embrace a partnership with organisations like MOTG, or similar, to empower change within your company. Together, we can create a better society.

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