Working Together: Businesses and Communities

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On the 3rd of June, The Future Economy Network (FEN) and Future Leap hosted an online event titled “Working together: Businesses and Communities”. It was sponsored by TLT as part of the Evolving Cities Online series. Before the event began, the attendees enjoyed some pre-sessional networking in breakout rooms.

The Panel 

Katherine Piper, of Future Leap, welcomed the attendees before giving an insight into The Future Economy Network and Future Leap and the many benefits they offer. Each panelist then introduced themselves and gave their most inspiring example of businesses and communities working together for sustainability. Examples included Onion CollectiveAmbition Community Energy and Bristol Energy Cooperative.  


Katherine then kicked off a 30-minute Q&A with the panel, a brief summary outlined below: 

  • City vision – what does this mean? We are “one city” that is made up of many kinds of people. How do we get everyone to engage?  

Jack: City vision has to be about a sense of self and sense of direction and must be rooted in the many neighbourhoods that make up this city. It will inevitably mean compromise but must be adaptable. 

  •  How can we help organisations understand what impact investment really means and what its role is?  

Sally: We have to help people to understand the language. Charities and investors have different languages and we need education so that people understand how investors work. 

  • How can we engage marginalised communities and have voices heard?  

Ben: You need to build relationships over time and engage local people on their terms, supporting them on their wants, needs and interests. There should also be an element of devoting resources to scale up what people are already doing. 

  • What are the barriers to getting partnership models off the ground? 

Bethan: Giving the skills and support is crucial, funding is another major barrier. It is important to make sure projects have a really strong narrative and that they are motivated enough. 

  • There are a lot of barriers between businesses and communities due to language. Can you tell us more about the importance of communication and the “how”?  

Jack: Start conversations without a strong agenda or business model and let it grow naturally, being open to experimentation with business models. 

  • How could we coordinate grant givers and communities so the process is better for everyone?  

Sally: City labs are a possible avenue. They are time limited initiatives where communities and experts come together intensively to turn a project into something that can be put forward for funding.  

  • When it comes to measuring the success of businesses and communities working together, quantitative data is most efficient and yet displaces the importance of storytelling. Could you tell us more about this and what we could do to improve our method of measuring success?  

Bethan: Instead of relying on just quantitative data, include story-telling methodologies where people’s stories and experiences can be collected to find common themes.  


To finish the session, each panelist was asked to give a call to action: 

  • Bethan: Do something to support your local community and interact on facebook groups. 
  • Ben: Broaden your connection to the wider community so no voices are neglected and marginalised communities are supported and can become part of the solution. 
  • Sally: Make sure we don’t go back to business as usual. 
  • Jack: Start a conversation with someone on the street, think about what you want to achieve in sustainability. 

Katherine closed the event by thanking the events sponsor TLT and all the speakers and attendees, which without our events calendar would not be possible.  

Event Notes by Jessica Thomlinson-Blount, BA(Hons) Geography, University of Manchester 

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