Six ways to make a real difference in 2017

You don’t need a vast corporate social responsibility department to give something back. Here’s five ways to do something good 2017 with time and skills rather than money...

1. Make work experience count

Offering work experience is a great way to inspire young people. But there’s got to be more to it than just making the tea. At creative design agency CAB Studios, work experience students are given a bespoke brief around their passions, from sport to film. "We do this so they can get really excited and feel motivated from the moment they read it," says Ben Wood - Executive Creative Director (and Co-Founder) of CAB Studios. "Every student leaves CAB Academy with a highly professional piece of work for their portfolio. By inspiring one person the hope is they can inspire many. We love what we do and we want to help other people to love it too."

2. Write a book

The rise of self-publishing platforms and crowdfunding sites means it’s never been easier to write, design and sell your own book - which can be a great way to underline your brand’s purpose. Sophie Deen, founder and CEO of edtech start-up Bright Little Labs, wanted to show kids positive role models. So she used Kickstarter to crowdfund adventure stories for kids starring Detective Dot, an eight-year-old coder who uses tech to solve global problems. There’s a digital book, a hard-copy book and a school pack with teaching resources.

"Working in a school in London - where 70 per cent of kids were from mixed backgrounds, and half were girls - I realised that my kids were rarely the leaders, coders or engineers in their stories, and this affected the choices they made," she says. "We were able to create the book to a professional standard, with a much smaller team and budget than something like a cartoon or game. Crowdfunding is a very cool way to bring a product to market. I love the idea that lots of people can get behind a good idea and back it. It’s democratic and collaborative."

3. Visit a school

The local school is an integral part of every community - so it’s a great place to start getting more involved. Inspiring young people is good for society and good for business. Tom Craig is co-founder of digital marketing agency Impression, which visited a local academy to introduce the digital industries to a group of sixteen students between the ages of eleven and sixteen. "It’s definitely worth devoting time and resources to employ the next generation now, so that we can reap the benefits in a few years’ time," he says. "Being an active part of our wider community is also important for building our reputation as an agency that thinks beyond the screens."

Read: An entrepreneur's guide to taking on 2017

4. Share your skills

When a business succeeds, that success has a huge positive ripple effect, bringing jobs and innovation. But when a business fails, the opposite happens. Creative agency Impact’s Catalyst scheme selects a dozen of the most inspirational and enthusiastic new businesses in the county and works on their branding for free. "Even the most innovative and exciting startups can fail through lack of experience," explains managing director Wayne Hall. "To make its way in the post Brexit world, the UK needs to be sharper on this and work together. Companies that have the financial stability, which Impact has, and the passion to help smaller businesses, which we have, should be helping the UK move forward. We decided as a team we can effect change by donating our experience at no cost. If we don’t, who will?"

Follow your passion

As former CEO of Slow Food UK, Cat Gazzoli has always been an advocate for eating well. Less than a year ago, she co-founded organic baby food company Piccolo, now stocked at both Waitrose and Asda. It works alongside the UK’s largest parenting charity, the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), creating and running healthy eating workshops in Sure Start centres for parents in disadvantaged areas of London, helping them to make healthy food for their families. "We have that social DNA running through the company," says Gazzoli. "Every product has the NCT logo on it, all the time, not just one product at Christmas, or a limited edition flavour to support a charity. It was something that we had in the company from the start, not tacked on half way through. Everyone, including investors, knew that was our purpose and they signed up for that from the beginning."

Create a tool

Use your expertise to make something that people can use - a piece of content, a how-to guide or even an app. Serial entrepreneur Jerry Brand’s Brand Foundation charity is making a free-to-use secure online app, BizKit, available from January 2017. It helps budding entrepreneurs model their business idea, forecast their first three years’ trading and avoid the mistakes that lead to startup failure. "With Brexit, the UK needs to ramp up the number of people who run their own business to generate self-esteem, career and financial security," says Jerry. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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