Published on in EducationResponsible Business

At Fujitsu, responsible business is at the heart of what we do.

But we don’t do it alone. For the last 14 years we’ve had the privilege of working with Business in the Community (BITC), an organisation that seeks to transform communities by tackling issues where businesses can make a difference.

As part of our collaboration with BITC we sent talented Fujitsu team members for short-term secondments with charities and social enterprises through the Business Connectors programme.

The programme aims to increase the positive impact of business in local communities by harnessing expertise from business to tackle local issues.

And for Fujitsu participants, it’s a great chance to develop new skills outside their expertise while doing good for the community.

This year, we sent three grad alumni out to spend three months on the BITC Connect First programme.

  • Hannah Boots, HR Consultant Fujitsu UK&I was seconded to Basingstoke Voluntary Action, an organisation supporting charitable and voluntary sector organisations across the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane
  • Louise Dirs, Service Delivery Manager Fujitsu UK&I, was seconded to Barking Enterprise Centre, a community interest company providing work spaces, mentoring and business training workshops to young entrepreneurs in the area.
  • Leo Lopez, Project Manager Fujitsu UK&I, was also seconded to Barking Enterprise Centre.

Here are the key challenges and successes they uncovered…

An opportunity for growth and for good

The three had a range of reasons for wanting to be part of the programme.

One of the major appeals of the secondment is that it allows participants to get involved in a different side of business to the one they normally see.

Take Hannah as an example. In her day-to-day role at Fujitsu she’s a HR Consultant. But in her work at Basingstoke Voluntary Action she was called upon to develop business strategy, conduct market research and delve into the finances.

Similarly, Leo got involved in everything from logistics to design when it came to building a recording studio at the Barking Enterprise Centre (BEC) Collective. This made for an exciting and enriching change from the office.

But the programme’s main appeal for the Connectors was the chance to give something back to the community.

All three Connectors were determined to use their skills to solve social problems. Their passion was inspiring, especially to the board reviewing their applications for the programme.

Originally there were only two spaces on this year’s programme, but Leo, Louise and Hannah were so impressive we persuaded BITC to take on three.

Research to get ahead  

A big challenge for Leo, Louise and Hannah was time. Three months is a relatively short secondment, so it was important the Connectors hit the ground running.

Research played a big part in this. Hannah surveyed 60 groups involved in the Basingstoke Voluntary Action (BAV), as well as meeting with five groups to hear their feedback in depth.

Their responses helped identify the services groups valued most and the ones that could be improved. This information was a key driver in shaping the five-year strategy and one-year business plan.

In developing a strategy for the BAV, Hannah also spoke to other successful community organisations. Their advice turned out to be crucial, highlighting a point they had missed and showing that collaboration with external partners is always valuable.

Charities and social enterprises always operate with a huge range of stakeholders. This is unusual in a business setting and it was great experience for the Connectors.

Louise had a good way of handling it. She created a stakeholder map to understand her network and make sure she was communicating with them all.

This research set her up for a successful secondment.

Expect change – and roll with it

All three Connectors had to deal with changing circumstances.

Leo found this in particular. The original plans to build a recording studio for the third member of the BEC Collective fell through when an acoustic consultant discovered the room was not sound-proof and wouldn’t work as a viable studio.

This meant Leo had to improvise. He developed a new plan, making the room into a post-production suite.

Hannah also had to adapt to change. After working at BAV for a little while she realised that focusing on the organisation’s financial stability was not the best way for her to add value.

She proposed to the CEO that she should change her priorities and start assessing the needs of the community. At first Hannah found it difficult to demonstrate the value of this change to the staff at BAV, but eventually it proved to be the right decision.

Thinking on your feet is a key skill the Connectors learned through their secondments. It will prove hugely valuable to all of them throughout their career at Fujitsu and beyond.

Expertise should be shared

A clear theme to come out of the Connectors’ experiences is the importance of sharing your expertise.

Leo, Louise and Hannah are highly talented individuals with specialisms in particular business areas.

When they shared their specialist expertise they achieved some of their best results.

Leo is normally a project manager, and he shared his skill by arranging workshops with the BEC Collective to help them map out a process for selling their time or work.

He utilised his knowledge of the Fujitsu Statement of Work process and his experience with customers to create a template that the Collective can use to calculate costs.

At BAV Hannah applied her background in HR to help the organisation write some job specifications as they looked to bring in some new staff.

Louise similarly employed her skill for managing clients and stakeholders in her role at BEC.

These examples really demonstrate what the Connectors programme is all about: collaborating and engaging with new partners in order to learn new skills and using your own expertise to make a difference to the local community.

This is a principle that stands at the heart of Fujitsu, as we share our technology expertise with our partners to make life better for people everywhere.

These values are important. Like the programme itself they keep us, our customers and our community connected.

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