Kate Fergusson: Giving others a helping hand is not just for Christmas

This season of goodwill brings out the best in ­people and evidence is all around us when you consider the huge number of charitable initiatives which come to the fore in December in support of those who most need a helping hand.

Kate Fergusson is Head of Responsible Business, Pinsent Masons LLP
Kate Fergusson is Head of Responsible Business, Pinsent Masons LLP

At Pinsent Masons, we share this sentiment throughout the year and central to our corporate ethos is a commitment to carry out business responsibly when dealing with ­clients, suppliers, our own people and the local and global communities in which we operate.

Starfish, our community investment programme, is focused on inspiring young lives. Its name was inspired by a story based on the writings of Loren Eiseley. The underlying message of Eiseley’s ­globally admired work is that, while recognising we can’t bring about complete social change by ourselves, the smallest positive action can have a beneficial impact on somebody, somewhere.

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Through Starfish, we are committed to raising young peoples’ aspirations and breaking down the barriers that may prevent them from fulfilling their potential. Our support is aimed at those most in need, so we partner with schools in areas of social deprivation where academic attainment is lower than average, and work with charities and organisations to help young people build the skills and ­confidence they need for the future.

We support projects associated with education, employability and enterprise, determining the ­perceived level of need and the ­disadvantage we are trying to address. Once we adopt a project, we will provide funding, but Starfish is not just about charitable giving – as important is how our people can engage in the local community in a way in which their skills are used to make a long-term difference.

In Aberdeen, Pinsent Masons’ staff have for some years supported Transition Extreme, a social enterprise which uses urban sports such as skateboarding, high ropes and wall climbing, to help children and young people make positive life transitions. Children from a local primary school are also regular visitors to our Queen’s Road office where they ­benefit from a work experience initiative which opens their eyes and minds to potential career opportunities.

Our Edinburgh staff have similarly engaged with a local primary school with volunteers taking part in FRAN – Fun With Reading and Numbers – which supports youngsters in improving numeracy and literacy skills. Another project, with the charity Tomorrow’s People, saw Pinsent Masons’ staff working with socially-excluded young people to improve their CVs and their employability prospects. Feedback from young people and staff on both initiatives has been extremely positive and our volunteers found both very rewarding.

Various sporting activities ­provide accessible routes to ­connecting with communities and in Glasgow we work closely with SportInspired, a charity which uses sport to tackle apathy, anti-social behaviour and obesity. Aside from providing funding, our volunteers help out at sports days for several schools which showcase urban sports such as BMX and parkour, basketball and football. Each school decides on which sport they like best and SportInspired follows up with an eight-week coaching programme where experts help raise skills ­levels and encourage children to get involved. Glasgow colleagues also give up time to support a numeracy and literacy project in a local school.

Other initiatives supported by all three of our Scottish offices include the annual Kiltwalk which allows participants to walk six, 14 or 26 miles in aid of charities which benefit young people.

Globally, Pinsent Masons supports WE Charity which partners with communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America to implement a five-pillar development model focused on education, clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihood and agriculture and food security. In September, staff from our Scottish offices joined UK and international colleagues in cycling 25,000 miles (equivalent to round the world) to raise funds for WE and nominated Scottish charities.

Doing business responsibly and investing in our local communities represents a unique opportunity to collaborate with our peers, clients and suppliers, to share skills and resources and make a difference to the lives of ­hundreds of young people. Whilst we are proud of the impact our volunteers make, we recognise that we can achieve much more when we work together and look forward to continuing the good work of Starfish in 2019.

Kate Fergusson is head of responsible business, Pinsent Masons LLP.