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Employment and training

The sweet spot: how to find a great CSR partner

A group of professionals gather in a meeting room. Some are working on laptops and others on tablets. They are all actively listening to the conversation.

We have learned a lot from building our partnership with Microsoft. This blog from former Head of Partnerships, Kat Dixon, outlines some of our five top tips for finding a great CSR partner.

Catch22 recently partnered with Microsoft to offer training for disadvantaged young people to enter digital apprenticeships. ‘Disadvantaged’ could mean anything from belonging to a ethnic minority, to having experienced homelessness and poor mental health. We believe apprenticeships offer an amazing opportunity for everyone and we are thrilled to be working with Microsoft to open up these careers.

Great partnerships between charities and businesses tackle a social problem whilst addressing a business need. That is the sweet spot – and whether you’re a funder or a charity, a strong collaboration can create something better than the sum of its parts.

1. Get inspired

I first met the Microsoft teams at an event where we heard directly from apprentices. Listening to these amazing young people talk about Microsoft’s apprenticeship program, I was inspired. I wanted to learn more about this work, and the more I talked to the people involved, the more I wanted Catch22 to be a part of it.

2. Know your strengths

Catch22 works with vulnerable people in lots of different situations, but we are particularly skilled in supporting people into work and apprenticeships. We run employability programs, helping people with barriers to work find work or training; and we deliver apprenticeship training.

This means during partnership-building, we could have informed and intelligent conversations with the Microsoft teams; we understand how to inspire confidence and build the skills of those facing barriers to work, but also how to practically deliver programs like this. We understand what employers and learning providers might need, and how to overcome practical challenges when doing something new.

3. Trust your gut

In my experience, working well with new partners is about trust and attitude from both parties. From the beginning, I could sense that the Microsoft teams were committed to creating a project together. I had feedback from them almost immediately, that they liked our approach and could feel our commitment. When you are creating something new and being bold, it is vital to say yes, to carve out time, and to focus on it together.

4. Find a partner who speaks your language

From the beginning, our teams have had the same goals in mind; we want to pilot something new together, with the long term aim of embedding it at scale. We want to find a space beyond philanthropy, where people facing disadvantage or diverse backgrounds can have access to the amazing opportunities on offer. Finding a partner on the same wavelength means you can stay focused, and achieve more than what you could do solo.

5. Share your passion

The joy of this partnership has been how much we all care. Running workshops with a combination of Catch22 frontline workers and Microsoft colleagues is fascinating – we all have so much knowledge to share with each other. But it’s also inspiring to see people get together and see genuine excitement and motivation to get a project off the ground.

– Kat Dixon, Head of Partnerships