Putting it into practice

This has been designed to help you and your organisations address the priorities under the Community section of the LSC Strategy for Sustainable Development and will address each of the six priorities in turn. (You must bear in mind that this strategy was published in 2005. Whilst the priorities contained within it provide a good framework for action you should always be alert to the latest research, Government strategy, guidance or developments that might help to refine or improve your plan).

The six priorities:

1 - Community engagement

Ensure good communications and involvement exists with the local community at all levels, including employers

Stakeholder Engagement

As mentioned previously, you and your organisation will have a wide range of stakeholders within the local community such as:

  • Local residents and residents associations
  • Staff
  • Learners and parents
  • Local authorities
  • Police
  • Religious groups
  • Health providers
  • Voluntary and not-for-profit organisations
  • Local businesses
  • Disadvantaged individuals
  • Black, minority and ethnic groups
  • Schools
  • Local universities
  • Other LSC funded providers and initiatives
  • Libraries

Techniques of engaging with your stakeholders will vary according to your local circumstances. Some broad examples are given below:

Have a provider community council to bring together representatives of the provider and local stakeholders including the local authority, community groups, businesses and key employers, business links, the Local Strategic Partnership etc. This approach has a two-way benefit; it enables the provider to promote its curriculum and provides the local community with a better understanding and awareness of the provider’s activities.

Encourage local links make links between the activities of the provider and the interests of the local community. For example, the provider could encourage stakeholder participation in its ongoing research or training activities such as with food-related Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs).

Develop and publicise a skills strategy to meet the economic and learning needs of the local community including key indicators for monitoring performance such as the organisation achieving an accreditation as an Action for Business College

Work with partners on international community projects but adapt them according to local circumstances and share best practice in the dissemination of results phase. The Memento Project is an example of an international community based project.

Employer Engagement

The FE system has a key role to play in the vocational skills delivery required under FE White Paper and The Leitch Review & Implementation Plan and in generally providing provision that meets employers’ demands.
Employer engagement can be seen as an important part of the wider stakeholder engagement process. Providers can benefit from having a wide range of interactions with local or regional employers. Providers can be a source of new employees for the businesses, can provide training or other courses to employer staff, and can host lecturers from local companies. They can also be a recipient of voluntary or charitable exchanges with local employers. For these kinds of reasons it is very important that providers maximise the level of engagement they achieve with employers and become their partner of choice.
Bishop Burton College provides a good case study on successful employer engagement.
There are many best practice initiatives being undertaken by employers working in partnerships to improve links with their local communities. You can use these as examples or, potentially, become involved in them. Many inspirational case studies are contained on the Business in the Community website from companies such as Ginsters, KPMG, Lloyd's and Toyota. Seeking recognition for good links with employers and business can provide an excellent focus for activity as well as an outcome to celebrate and support. A new employer standard developed by the LSC in collaboration with key employer representative organisations will soon be launched. This will allow providers to demonstrate their flexibility in helping sectors and individual employers and their ability to design and deliver provision that meets the needs and demands of the local economy.

2 - Local and Regional Networks

It is important that as a learning provider, you establish good dialogue with the key partnerships within your local area, and that you are also engaged with regional partnerships and policy issues at the regional level.

Active membership of local networks can help to ensure that the different stakeholders are able to collaborate productively and that the sustainable development ethos is at the forefront of the local community’s aspiration. Examples of ways in which you can make a meaningful contribution towards relevant local networks include:

  • Participating in “communities of practice” shared sectors, industries, activities etc.
  • Contributing to local websites, newsletters or other media outlets
  • Participating in local events, fundraising, or other communitywide projects.
  • Developing your branding as a provider so that it actively promotes your links with the local community.
  • Working with professional organisations, e.g. the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC) purchasing officers, to ensure best practice and to share experiences with other FE providers.

Examples where you can become effectively involved in wider, more strategic networks, partnerships and initiatives to both assert your own influence and to better understand what is happening at the local and regional level include:

  • The Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) is a key stakeholder that providers could become involved with. LSPs represents a range of the most relevant interest groups they bring together organisations from the public, private, community and voluntary sector within a local authority area, with the objective of improving people's quality of life and will have also have direct links to regional debates, particularly through the development of Local Area Agreements.
  • Local Area Agreements are three year agreements, based on local Sustainable Community Strategies that set out the priorities for a local area agreed between Central Government, represented by the Government Office (GO), and a local area, represented by the local authority and other key partners through Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs). Providers should be actively contributing to the development of a Local Area Agreement with the LSP, ensuring that new initiatives and ways in which the organisation can benefit or contribute are appropriate both for the provider and for its neighbours.
  • Become involved in relevant planning decisions at the local level. For example, a provider can provide feedback on Local Development Framework documents (The Local Development Framework (LDF) is a non-statutory term used to describe a folder of documents, which includes all the local planning authority's local development documents) as well as related sustainability appraisals as part of the public consultation process.
  • Help to shape other plans e.g. the Local Transport Plan (The plan sets out the resources predicted for delivery of the targets identified in the strategy. Local transport plans should be consistent with the policies and priorities set out in the Regional Transport Strategy as an integral part of the Regional Spatial Strategy). A five-year integrated transport strategy, prepared by local authorities in partnership with the community, seeking funding to help provide local transport projects.

3 - Local Markets and Ethical Trade

Individuals and organisations are increasingly aware of the important contribution that they can make to local economies through informed purchasing decisions. Many providers are now implementing policies through which they can support local markets, contribute to the local economy and to other socially responsible initiatives within the community. Many also support ethical and fair trade in international markets.

Providers are large consumers and purchasers with significant purchasing power. They can have a real impact by purchasing responsibly, opting for goods with sustainable credentials and by demanding goods with higher sustainability credentials through clear specifications. Procurement specifications should consider not only the source of the materials the product is made from and its longevity in the work place, but also its eventual redundancy and disposal.

Providers should think about putting together a specification / purchasing policy that prioritises procurement of goods with the emphasis on local sources and also to cover issues such as:

  • Examining the product's life cycle analysis this looks at the sustainability impact of a product from cradle to grave.
  • Building partnerships with suppliers to develop more sustainable supply chains for all the products.
  • Ensuring that the ethical and green credentials of all suppliers and sub contractors are built into any bid and quotation process.
  • Ensuring a transparent tender process.
  • Ensuring any catering / canteen food is fresh, local, genetically modified organism free, and ideally, free range, fair trade and organic.
  • Reducing the contribution to climate change by prioritising the purchase of low energy products, having energy efficient buildings and transport fleets and buying energy from renewable sources or installing micro-generation of energy
  • Ensuring that the chemical products used do not adversely affect the health of residents, staff or the environment.
  • Ensuring that ethical trade is covered in the curriculum e.g. materials use in fashion and design courses.
  • Encourage learners and staff to think differently e.g. have days to promote buying Fairtrade products.

Some useful guidance on sustainable procurement is outlined below:

  • Forum for the Future, working with the Welsh Assembly Government's Procurement Initiative (Value Wales), have developed a Public Sector Sustainable Procurement Assessment Tool. This is a Self-Assessment Tool that enables a health check of where your organisation currently stands in its capacity to delivery sustainable procurement. It helps to identify strengths and formulate a plan to address deficiencies. This is not available on line but can be obtained from Sarah Hills.
  • There are also opportunities to engage proactively with environmentally and socially responsible employers in a provider’s local community. They can be approached to identify ways in which the provider can use the business as a local resource. Organisations such as Business in the Community can provide good examples of relevant businesses. Their directory of members provides a list of more than 750 companies, including 71 in the FTSE 100. For example, the Cooperative Group, with headquarters in Manchester and 70,000 employees nationwide, promotes sustainable development principles, including fair trade, ethical policies, environmental and corporate community involvement.
  • The section on Buildings and Estates Management provides more detailed guidance on how to procure locally, ethically and green goods and services.

4 - Share Facilities

An immediate and often very successful way of promoting community relations is to share facilities with outside groups. This is an excellent use of resources and there are many examples of where this has worked successfully, for example:

  • Summer schools or summer courses can be very popular. Offering access to appropriate courses for local residents can provide wide benefit to locals and to provider staff and learners alike.
  • Sharing sports, library or other facilities can ensure that these facilities are fully utilised, can help to draw in additional funding, and can contribute to the overall level of facilities within the community.
  • Building a portfolio of joint ventures between learners, staff and residents can add to the overall level of approval of the FE provider by its neighbours.
  • Developing sustainable transport partnerships can be a way of providing good quality transport for both learners and local residents which may be unobtainable for each group individually.

CASE STUDY: Greenwich Community College provides a good case study here.

5 - Local Economic Strategies

The Learning and Skills sector can make a valid and strategic contribution towards a better understanding and delivery of employer demand in the context of future skills and employee needs.

You should be aware and supportive of and connected to the local and regional economic strategies drawn up and developed by local authorities and Regional Development Agencies. In particular you need to understand, be responsive to and be able to influence local education infrastructure priorities, budget implications relating to education and the wider community as well as the ongoing debate about future skills needs. You should also ensure that you are aware of new grant or funding opportunities such as European Social Fund, initiatives by local agencies and the priorities of new local employers such as apprenticeships or foundation degrees.

To achieve this, you will need to engage closely with the development and implementation of local policies and strategies. Engaging with the LSPs, as mentioned previously, will be one effective route for you to have some influence and gain a better understanding here.

6 - Volunteering

Promoting volunteering is a direct and visible way in which providers can make an active contribution locally. There are a great number of ways in which learners or staff can be volunteers, and each provider can have different opportunities depending on the local situation. As a useful benchmark, Business in the Community believe that effective volunteering means that at least 25% of the organisation should become involved in volunteering activities.

There are a number of effective measures that you can take to kick start volunteering activity amongst staff and students in your organisation:

  • Have links with a range of local non governmental organisations in a wide range of areas can help potential volunteers identify an activity that most appeals. These areas could range from environmental projects, disability, mentoring, arts or design, etc.
  • Have volunteering days that everyone in the organisation must take within a year.
  • Enable learners to act as mentors to younger learners in local Saturday schools for example.
  • Get involved in British Trust for Conservation Volunteer (BTCV) projects for learners, for example with learning difficulties.

Monitoring, Reviewing, Reporting

Regular monitoring and review of progress is central to achieving effective community engagement. Successful engagement should also include setting targets and developing a clear implementation plan. This approach can be used to evaluate progress and performance against objectives and targets, and as a means of developing or revising objectives and targets for the future, with a focus on improving performance.

Regular reporting is also very important. Reporting delivers an internal overview of progress against stated values, and performance against targets. It also provides a powerful tool through which the organisation strengthens its engagement with internal and external stakeholders. It provides a route through which feedback on progress can be incorporated into future strategic and tactical reviews to achieve further improvements.

You should consider revising your approach to annual reporting by providing an annual sustainability statement, which includes environmental and social impacts as well as financial outcomes or student achievements.

One tool that can be used to help providers measure their overall performance in terms of sustainable development and community engagement is: "Community Engagement and Sustainable Development". (This is currently under development and being produced by the Worldwide Fund for Nature and CAG consultants).

The main purpose of the tool is to evaluate the impact of community engagement on people’s behaviour with regard to sustainable development. The tool has been developed for use by practitioners with two aims in mind:

  • to help practitioners evaluate the impact of projects, programmes or interventions for their own use
  • to gather information to feed into a wider WWF / CAG research programme which will explore the impact of community engagement on sustainable development behaviour

The research flowing from the development of the tool will examine when and in what circumstances, community engagement leads to change, and will be used to inform policy makers and practitioners alike.

There are also other, more formal (voluntary) routes that can be used to publicise how good a corporate citizen a provider is:

  • Corporate Responsibility: organisations can have their policies and procedures externally verified by independent companies. They can also sign up to Business in the Community's CR Index the UK’s leading benchmark of responsible business, helping companies to integrate and improve responsible business across their business and providing a systematic approach to managing, measuring and reporting their impacts on society and the environment. See Leadership and Management for more information
  • The Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is an accredited Environmental Management System under which organisations must publicise their environmental statement and have this externally verified. See Buildings and Estates for more information.

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