The Council for Social Responsibility

Posted by editor 28/05/2013 0 Comment 3739 views


By Figen Gunes

The Council for Social Responsibility (CSR) is a charity run along social enterprise lines in Hampshire. It aims to transform churches by teaching clergy and lay members how to be innovative and enterprising. Also, it teaches how to engage with communities in a more productive and useful way in a bid to build social justice.

Canon Nick Ralph (pictured above), who runs CSR, has been working towards creating a church-based network that understands the values of the present generation and aims to use a better understanding of local aspirations to involve more people. Ralph’s innovative ideas included building ‘Go Ape’ style adventure parks on empty church yards to engage with residents in a better way. He says one of the key problems of our age is high unemployment amongst young people. One of the ventures which CSR has spun out is the Joint Venture Social Enterprise (JVSE). As a result of the JVSE’s work, empty offices at Portsmouth Cathedral and some other churches in Southampton and Hampshire are being let out to entrepreneurs for a small fee in a bid to nourish their start-ups as they grow, offering them mentoring support, loans and networking opportunities.

“We should be less worried about whether people are believing exactly the right things and more about whether they are doing the right things,” Ralph says. “In one church we worked, they had a list of ’13 do nots’ so we got them to create a list of ‘can dos’,” he adds. 

Nick Ralph explained their projects for the Answers from Big Issue

AFBI: What are the four main areas of CSR?

NR: For now we have the Rapid Development Programme for churches, a Good Neighbours Support Service, a Creative Leadership Programme and the Joint Venture Social Enterprise.

AFBI:What is the Rapid Development Programme?

NR: The Rapid Development Programme (RDP) is a unique programme for churches that are considering a project to engage with their community and develop new income sources. We believe that one of the ways we can help bring new energy into our churches and to the community beyond is to encourage our parishes, clergy and lay people to be creative, energised and strategic in their thinking. CSR seeks to help these churches to re-think their aims, vision and purpose by taking a fresh look at where people go and what they want now.

The results may include innovative and inspirational ways of using indoor and outdoor spaces in order to re-engage with their local communities. Some churches have lost their confidence and aren’t sure how to get noticed other than by holding a service. We particularly like to go to areas of disadvantage. These are always the best places to work because they are always so welcoming of new ideas and energy.

AFBI: What do you cover at the RDP workshops?

NR: The workshops we run help parishes to consider what the strengths and opportunities are in their area to engage new people who are not already involved in some way. But it also necessarily involves them in some change to being connecting with the people they identify, and that is never easy.

AFBI: How wide has the RDP expanded across the UK?

NR: Fourteen parishes have completed the programme in the Diocese of Portsmouth. Significantly, the majority of them have decided to re-assess their initial ideas since taking part and several million pounds’ worth of potential development has been identified – as well as several millions in savings from rethinking their original development plans and stopping ideas that had little chance of working. The programme has been run in a further seven churches in Hampshire and Cornwall.

AFBI: How do you assess what local people want and set your priorities accordingly?

NR: Some churches we have worked with still think of their community as it was 20 or 30 years ago. It is important to see who is around now. What developments have taken place? Why shouldn’t new people be involved in some way? The problem is that often we don’t understand the new generations of people growing up who are different to us. We have therefore been working with international business speaker and author Graeme Codrington on Generational Theory. In his book, Mind The Gap, he talks about the different values and understandings of each generation as coming out of their upbringing when young. So broadly speaking there are about four generations spanning about 80 years each: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. If you want to connect with them, you need first to understand them.

AFBI: Tell us more about Generation X and Y concepts.

NR: Remember these are sweeping sociological generalisations that are tools to help us understand groups better. It doesn’t work for everyone, but roughly speaking Generation X refers to people born between the late 1960s and 1989, now in their 20s and 30s. They were brought up in an era when there was no longer an expectation of a job for life. They tend to be self-sufficient and treat the future as a great uncertainty. They are restless and move jobs much more frequently.

Generation Y was born in the 90s and 2000s always asking ‘why?’ questions. They have supreme confidence bordering on arrogance and are usually very comfortable with new technology whilst their parents struggle. They trust their small group of friends and mistrust large groups. They are strongly attached to values and will make judgements about where they want to spend money by an organisation’s values. The good thing about that is organisations that have values will do well and those that don’t will have to start attending to them. Look at what has happened recently to organisations that are not paying their taxes or have pursued profits at the expense of people. They have all suffered huge dents in their support from customers from younger generations. We are currently working with Graeme to turn these interesting and exciting insights into a training video package which will be available in different forms. There will be a version for businesses, churches, youth and community groups and education. Back to that adage again: ‘adapt or die’.

Canon Nick Ralph, is the social responsibility adviser at the Diocese of Portsmouth and a residential canon of St Thomas’s Cathedral, Portsmouth. He was previously a vicar on Hayling Island and worked in Portsmouth and Fareham.

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