Partners in shaping social change
Focus on the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation
City Year UK was still in its infancy when we got an enormous boost. Credit Suisse had supported City Year in the US since 2004 and its EMEA Foundation was interested in our London launch. Ten years later, the partnership has played an intrinsic part in supporting our growth from a small pilot, into a charity operating across three cities.
Kate Butchart, Head of Corporate Citizenship EMEA, gives an overview, while Patrick Flaherty, Managing Director, Credit Suisse and a Trustee of City Year UK and Colin Hely-Hutchinson, Chairman of the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation and a former City Year UK Trustee share their personal experiences.
“At the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation we seek to support early-stage organisations, helping turn ideas into reality. Our focus is on improving the educational attainment, aspirations and employability of young disadvantaged people, so when we first met City Year’s pilot team in London, what was then an embryonic organisation, it seemed too good to be true – a win-win which ticked every box. We did our due diligence: ‘Is this tried and tested? Have you got a model that’s going to work? Have you got the right support, the right platform, the right management team?’ Every step of the way, City Year UK was something we were confident we wanted to get involved in.
“Alongside multi-year funding, the next step was to work out what we could add to the partnership. We believe that to be a catalyst for social change, we need to look for ways in which we can bring our knowledge, expertise and networks to bear and where our employees can actively volunteer. We see it as a vital part of deepening our partners’ impact and building capacity but we also wanted to be part of City Year UK’s community.
“Ten years on, over 60 Credit Suisse staff, drawn from every level of our organisation, are involved with City Year UK on a yearly basis. We offer skills-based support for City Year Mentors and we’ve been delighted to reach out directly to pupils. We’ve hosted primary and secondary school pupils in our offices for a transatlantic video call with pupils from New York and facilitated a four-year partnership with the National Gallery. Focus list pupils from London and the West Midlands have had the chance to visit the Gallery and engage with paintings to create their own artwork, with sessions coordinated by City Year Mentors.
“Just as rewarding has been our involvement in back office projects, covering everything from HR and how to lay an office out, to helping with performance management systems and internal communications. Such a range of ‘hands-on’ volunteering opportunities has been hugely motivational for our own staff and supported their own personal development. One of our staff said that mentoring a young volunteer for 12 months was the most rewarding thing they had taken part in all year. That one person’s experience sums up our whole partnership – It has been a win-win for everyone.”
“I remember my first personal experience of the charity. I was asked to join a Q&A panel as part of a career development session for City Year Mentors and I was blown away by the interest the young people showed in what I had to say. At that point I totally got what we were doing to help employability because as a volunteer you get experience. A City Year covers everything from the basics, like getting up early every morning, to developing your emotional intelligence – really seeing what you’re like at interacting with other young people and colleagues.
“I was also asked very early on to go into a school and I began to see the other side of the equation; how important City Year Mentors are to children and how they are differentiated from teachers. City Year Mentors represent everything a child might need – they fill in the gaps they have in their lives.”
“Over the years, Credit Suisse staff, myself included, have had the opportunity to become truly involved with City Year UK in a meaningful way. We advise on top-line strategy and governance but also take part in skills surgeries, career exploration panels, mock interviews and year-long mentoring of volunteers. One school team sponsorship led to over 70 of our staff signing up to help City Year Mentors run a breakfast club. As we walked in, dressed in suits and ties, the children looked at us as if we were in the wrong place. It was astonishing to watch how the children changed when we put on the red City Year jackets. There was a little boy, about six years old who, as soon as I put the red jacket on, came to me, took me by my hand and wouldn’t let go of it for the whole time I was there. He felt perfectly at liberty to tell me everything about what he was doing that day, the good and the bad. That was a very touching moment and one that perfectly sums up the importance of our partnership.”
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