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Why Is Business Not Instinctively Included in Our Thoughts About 'Community'?


I'd like to add the voice of small and start-up businesses to the fantastic Big Lottery Fund debate on 'the future of doing good'.

In the report framing this debate, Sonia Sodha discussed the role of the private sector in 'doing good' and the importance of communities. Businesses of all sizes, and the markets they belong to, are driven to compete by the profit motive. But as the report suggests, there is a trade-off: 'competition v collaboration'.

What then is the "business community" that is so often referred to, how can it 'do good' and what is its social value?

When we hear that phrase we tend to think about the bosses of FTSE-100 companies, quarterly performance reports, and iconic clusters like Canary Wharf and the Square Mile. Yet the UK's business community is far more diverse. What's more, companies don't necessarily need to have massive economies of scale and huge corporate investment programmes to 'do good'; good can be achieved by businesses large and small, through partnership working and the sharing of ideas.

In my experience working for Camden Town Unlimited, a Business Improvement District (BID) elected by local companies, community has been at the heart of what we do. We are one of 50 BIDs across London helping to do good by working with businesses to improve our local areas.

Quite simply, our objective in Camden is to make the area a better place to work, shop and visit. We do this by pooling the resources of the area's companies and delivering a shared vision for regeneration. Yet generally, people fail to see the integral role business can play in the concept of 'community'.

I began to realise what the term 'business community' meant when we embarked on the Camden Collective project. Now one of our flagship initiatives, this provides subsidised co-working spaces and training academies for creative start-up businesses. These workspaces are small hubs offering a shared space where people can develop, ideas can be exchanged and innovation can take place.

Alongside Camden Collective, the projects we have worked on with local businesses have involved building coalitions of support with the private and social sectors. We receive grant funding from the Mayor's Office to improve the local area and transform the high street. We have worked with Transport for London to ensure major infrastructure support local communities, and ultimately we worked with our business members to establish our local priorities.

My view is that the 'business community' is certainly alive and well in my local area, and in other urban pockets around UK - particularly where public-private partnerships like BIDs have been set up.

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