Building and sustaining community connections

Felixstowe's Port Community Fund supports a wide variety of grassroots charities and groups. Credit: Suffolk Community Foundation
Felixstowe's Port Community Fund supports a wide variety of grassroots charities and groups. Credit: Suffolk Community Foundation
Tyne sponsors the Durham Cricket Club Foundation. Credit: Port of Tyne
Tyne sponsors the Durham Cricket Club Foundation. Credit: Port of Tyne
Port of Seattle volunteers take on tree planting work. Credit: Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle volunteers take on tree planting work. Credit: Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle commissioner Fred Felleman gets stuck in with a community tree planting work party. Credit: Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle commissioner Fred Felleman gets stuck in with a community tree planting work party. Credit: Port of Seattle

The benefits go both ways when ports focus on community engagement, reports Felicity Landon

From beach clean-ups to breakfast clubs, ports support a variety of ‘good causes’ in the community through one-off grants or longer-term sponsorship. But are the benefits worth the effort?

The Port of Tyne has a particular reputation for getting involved in the community and has recently drawn up revised criteria for its supporting projects and initiatives.

“As a trust port it’s in our remit to support our local community and create a great place to do business – we recognise that a thriving business relies on a thriving community for jobs, inward investment, lifestyle, education and future sustainability,” says a spokeswoman for the port. “However, aside from our status as a trust port, we feel any responsible business should support its operating area.”

Being engaged with the community supports a sustainable business for the port and for its customers and stakeholders for now and into the future, she says.

The criteria set out by the Port of Tyne include helping communities thrive, building stronger local communities, supporting children and young people to thrive, and improving health and wellbeing. The port puts 1% of its pre-tax profit into the Port of Tyne Community Action Fund, which is managed by a panel of port employees who meet regularly to discuss grant applications and award funding.

Extra support

In addition to the fund, the port supports a number of CSR projects through sponsorship or corporate membership – for example, the Durham Cricket Club Foundation enables more than 1,000 primary school children to participate in projects that inspire confidence, teamwork and wellbeing.

Other projects that have been supported for several years include The Mouth of the Tyne Festival, which adds £1.8m to the local economy and attracts more than 100,000 visitors ever year.

Last year, as part of the port’s 50th anniversary celebrations, it supported the Great Exhibition of the North and invested in restoring the historic timber decking on the Swing Bridge spanning the River Tyne.

This year the port has taken over the lead of the Clean Tyne Project, which it set up 30 years ago with four local councils. New sponsorships include a football club foundation, children’s holiday clubs and two breakfast clubs, the latter supporting two schools in areas of high deprivation in South Tyneside and North Tyneside.

Overall, the port invests about £50,000 in community sponsorships, supporting an estimated 400-plus organisations and around 500,000 people directly every single year.

Importance of partnership

The Port of Felixstowe is one of the partners in the Port Community Fund, which supports charities and good causes in Felixstowe, Ipswich and the surrounding area. Administered by Suffolk Community Foundation, the fund marked its tenth anniversary last year.

Other partners include Pentalver, Maritime Transport, Maritime Cargo Processing, Grange Shipping, Freightliner, Coscon, Harwich Haven Authority and Trinity College.

“Since its inception, the Port Community Fund has awarded over £400,000 to more than 200 local grassroots charities,” says Suffolk Community Foundation’s head of philanthropy, Judy Dow. Alongside that, the fund is building up an endowment fund, currently valued at more than £200,000, to generate a long-term revenue stream.

“The enormous positive contribution that the port has brought to the economy of the county is incredible, but this fund is a way for individual businesses to join together to help address the needs of vulnerable people who have fallen through the gaps of all the good things that are going on,” says Ms Dow. “Together, it has been possible for them to make a real difference to people’s lives now and long into the future. We are always looking to increase the number of businesses who contribute and we would welcome conversations from anyone interested in finding out more about how to get involved.

“We are so grateful to the ongoing support through broad grant-making to help address need in Felixstowe, Ipswich and surrounding villages.”

The Port Community Fund has supported groups as diverse as bereavement programmes and sailing clubs. Its most recent grants panel meeting awarded £2,000 to a Guides group in a deprived area of Ipswich to support girls attending the county camp and the purchase of equipment and resources.

Another £2,000 went to the Felixstowe-based Level Two Youth Project, to expand counselling services for young people, and £2,000 was also awarded to Suffolk Young People’s Health Project to provide counselling to young people.

By pooling their charitable resources, members of the fund can do more to support local groups and organisations, says Ms Dow. “The fund offers members the opportunity to increase the effectiveness of their charitable giving, and has established a unique mechanism for companies to give back to their local community.”

Engagement priority

The Port of Seattle has multiple community outreach projects, ranging from specific tree planting projects to environmental efforts with partners such as the Lower Duwamish Waterway Group.

“Community engagement is a priority of the Port of Seattle in both the maritime and aviation divisions of the organisation,” says Perry Cooper, a media relations manager at the port authority. “We have a community engagement group within our external affairs department that works with the local communities for events, partnerships, outreach and equitable development practices. Our goal as a port is to be a public steward with ongoing outreach and engagement, to be a good partner to our communities and stakeholders.”

Earlier this year the port joined other organisations to launch a public awareness campaign encouraging victims and survivors of human trafficking to get the help they need – expanding a previous effort that had dramatically increased the number of people who called the national hotline for resources, including medical care, financial help and housing.

The port’s office of social responsibility aims to be a catalyst for equity and social impact at the port and in the community; it works to improve communication between the port and the region’s socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, including immigrant and refugee communities.

Recent specific projects by the Port of Seattle have included hosting a community tree planting work party to plant 180 trees at a site that had been overtaken by invasive blackberry and ivy, and sponsoring a series of education workshops with the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps which led to the creation of a giant mural paying tribute to the Duwamish River. The workshops gave participants a greater understanding of the ecological and cultural history of the river, local industries and the port they live close to. Port staff, local historians and Native American community leaders took part in panel discussions and workshops to help inspire the youngsters’ ideas for creating the work of art.

Mr Cooper says: “The Port of Seattle is a public agency and community engagement spreads the word of the projects we are working on and engaged in throughout the community. With hundreds of ways in which people get their information today, it’s essential that we find our own ways to reach out to our communities, to let them know not only what we are working on but also how they can get involved to make a difference. Working together as a team has proven to be a successful strategy for the port and the community.”



THE RIGHT OUTREACH METHOD

What works best in terms of the types of projects and the right approach to community engagement?

There are, says Perry Cooper at the Port of Seattle, a variety of ways in which to engage the public: “We work to find what fits best for that particular issue or situation. In many ways, we are engaging with the community involved to find what works best for them and coming up with strategies together. Some are information events, such as specific action opportunities with multiple stakeholders, such as stopping labour and sex trafficking, social responsibility, even murals.”

The Port of Tyne says: “Listening to what impacts our stakeholders, our customers, and our employees most and working with central and local government, one size doesn’t fit all and a mixed approach works well, involving our employees in the Port’s Community Action Panel. We are advocates of Maritime 2050, a thread that will also run through our CSR programme to improve skills and education technology, diversity and environmental management.”

Earlier this year, a report commissioned by DP World concluded that there is substantial potential among private companies in the United Arab Emirates for participation in employee voluntary projects that could contribute significantly to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

At the launch of the report, DP World group chief executive Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said: “Private sector collaboration plays a pivotal role in helping nations tackle issues such as poverty, inequality and climate change.”

Of companies surveyed, 60% said that volunteering activity was increasing among their employees, pointing to significant growth opportunities for 2019. The report found that 37% of employees already participate in volunteering activities in the UAE.

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