CTC’s Development Director Tim Thorlby blogs on a promising project at a City of London church…
Our latest project brings together an unlikely mix of big business, local government, an ancient city church and the communities of east London. The connection? Dirt and rubbish.
The story starts with the Parish of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe – a 13th century institution in the City of London, now home to decidedly 21st Century global businesses like Baker & McKenzie. The new Vicar, Revd Guy Treweek, has been working to re-establish the church as a base for serving the community. So, as well as regular church activities, it also now home to “Suited and Booted”, a charity which provides smart clothes and interview training for the long-term unemployed and the church has also recently become a collection point for the Hackney Foodbank.
As part of this work, St Andrew’s asked CTC to undertake some research into the social and economic needs of the Parish. So, one of our Buxton interns undertook consultations with low-income employees working in the City – an essential, but often overlooked, part of the City community. The interviews highlighted very poor working conditions for some workers.
Every day the City of London relies upon a small army of low-income workers to keep the City ticking over – cleaners, security guards, couriers and bar workers to name a few. Many work anti-social hours, with tens of thousands coming to work as the day-time City workers leave their desks. Some of them are treated well, but some less so – with low wages, poor working conditions and little scope for advancement. They have been described as the City’s ‘hidden workers’.
In response to these findings, St Andrew’s resolved to create an alternative option for some of these workers. Why not set up our own cleaning company to provide work for cleaners – with all paid at least the London Living Wage and with decent working conditions? In the City of London, a social enterprise seemed rather appropriate. Such a business would also seek to invest in its workers – to help them develop new skills. Many, for example, are migrant workers and don’t speak good English. The business would benefit low-income and disadvantaged residents of the City and its surrounding communities in east London and beyond.
Why should cleaning be a sector where workers just ‘survive?’ Let’s see a cleaning business whose workers thrive.
The vision is to establish the City’s best cleaning company, delivering excellent services but also providing its employees with decent wages and working conditions, recognising the valuable role that cleaning plays in our lives. This new not-for-profit business will combine the City’s historic principles of both enterprise and fair play.
Is it a crazy idea?
The Corporation of London doesn’t think so. It’s now given the Parish a grant to fund the development of a Business Plan.
Social enterprise leaders don’t think so either. When the Parish’s Corporate Responsibility Officer, Miriam Goodacre, pitched the idea to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ recently, they awarded the project top prize and offered support and training.
And we don’t think so either. St Andrew’s have asked us to help them develop the Business Plan and we are delighted to be doing so. Part of our mission as a charity is to help churches mobilise their assets and opportunities, and social enterprise is one important way of doing this.
So, watch this space!
And if you’re interested in supporting or investing in the City’s newest business….let us know!