Liberum Capital have been working in partnership with SHS since 2011 to improve the educational outcomes for disadvantaged children and families in Islington and Hackney. In this blog post, Tony Scawthorn, Chief Operating Officer of Liberum, talks about the partnership: how it began, what form it takes now and the impact it’s had.
Liberum Capital was created in 2007. Four years on, we felt we were established enough to consider formalising our charitable giving, so we created the Liberum Foundation. As a firm, we had always participated in some element of charity activity but we were receiving more requests from employees to do more. We agreed that rather than support lots of charities we would focus our efforts on four small anchor charities – one of which was School-Home Support (SHS).
Our key objective when engaging with our charities was to contribute and participate in a structured way – not just financially. We aim to build relationships in order to maximise the value that we can add. While we’ve certainly refined our approach and learned a lot along the way, that primary objective has remained unchanged.
We chose SHS for a few reasons. We have always been very keen to support charities that are close to our offices in London and we knew that we wanted to support and promote the well-being and development of children and young people. The fact that SHS was fairly small and not very well known was an advantage to us; being a reasonably small organisation ourselves, we felt that we could make more of an impact by supporting a smaller charity. We also put great value on the opportunity to be hands on. For us, it’s not solely about writing a cheque – participation is a really powerful way of making a difference.
All of our employees get involved with SHS in some way to help disadvantaged families, whether that’s through a reading group [staff at Liberum read with children at a nearby school on a weekly basis], with aspiration sessions [opportunities for children and parents to come to the Liberum offices and speak to staff about careers], donating hampers at Christmas time or, of course, taking part in fundraising events. This is extremely important to us and our employees: they definitely value the involvement with SHS and it deepens their connection with the charity and the company, as reflected in a survey conducted last year where SHS found that 82% of our staff feel more connected us as an organisation as a result of the partnership (whether they’ve volunteered directly or not). Some of the quotes that came out included that the partnership “brings a nice team spirit to Liberum and all for a good cause” and that “the reading sessions are one of the most rewarding things I have done, thank you.” We expected this to be a view held by our employees, but perhaps not to that extent – it’s a great source of satisfaction to me that it is! We have also had employees confirm that it has helped them to develop public speaking, communication and teamwork skills, so other business benefits.
In terms of our funding, SHS have been able to demonstrate the clear, quantifiable impact it has made, improving behaviour at school, engagement with learning and attendance for children in the local area. I think this work, alongside the aspiration sessions, has helped our employees to understand the challenges that others face literally on our doorstep, and to appreciate that they are fortunate to have the advantages that they have, which shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The trustees of the Liberum Foundation maintain a hands-on relationship with the charities. This has been rewarding in many ways: it’s been interesting to see the similarities in the challenges we face, particularly as charities now need to start behaving more commercially in a regulated environment. I’ve also enjoyed my time engaging with beneficiaries. For example, I lead the aspiration sessions for visiting groups of children and their parents, and I think it makes a big difference that parents join these sessions. We obviously want the experience to be enjoyable for the children but I hope the sessions also help parents to see the opportunities that are available for their children and to understand that they have a part in encouraging them to set aspirations and to strive to achieve them.
In terms of our own achievements, we were thrilled when our partnership with SHS secured the Lord Mayor of London’s Dragon Award for Education and Lifelong Learning in 2016. It meant a huge amount to all the trustees and I know that the rest of the firm were also really proud of the achievement. To any other businesses considering working with School-Home Support, I have to say – definitely do it! It’s hugely satisfying, and you really do get out more than you put in.
Chief Operating Officer