Celebrating Connect Dacorum’s 10th year
I was delighted to asked to speak on the occasion of our supper at the House of Commons celebrating Connect Dacorum’s 10th year. The evening had started with a tour of the Houses of Parliament led by both MPs serving the Dacorum, Mike Penning and David Gauke, who hosted the evening.
I am the Chair of Community Action Dacorum and have been a member of the steering committee since we set up Connect Dacorum.
Mark Mitchell, the Chief Executive, has also taken a very active role in supporting the project, which we regard as an important tool to enable Community Action Dacorum to reach out to the business community, particularly to encourage volunteering from employees.
Cindy Withey, our Connect coordinator came up with the initiative to hold our celebration at the House of Commons and did a brilliant job. Jeoff Colls was our coordinator from the beginning of the project and also attended.
Connect Dacorum was initially set up through Dacorum Borough Council, which received European funding to set up a local CSR initiative. At the conclusion of this funding, Community Action Dacorum took over the lead role and employment of the staff members, with DBC providing office space and continued membership of the Steering Group. The project now relies principally on the membership fees paid by the many local businesses who are members.
Connect Dacorum currently has around 6 networking events a year when charities and other voluntary groups, schools and government agencies can meet together with business to share opportunities to work together for the benefit of the community. Our Christmas lunch, shared with Dacorum Community Trust is an established highlight of the festive season. As our menu card said, these events allow connections to be made between people who would otherwise not have the chance to meet. Many initiatives have blossomed from the connections made at these meetings.
I expressed my grateful thanks to all of the businesses who have given opportunities to disadvantaged members of the community to have some work experience, who have come into secondary schools to help students with CVs and interview practice, and have volunteered time and goods which were needed.
Connect Dacorum’s presence is particularly to be celebrated in encouraging young people to become involved in the community through the Dragon’s Apprentice scheme. The teams of students nominated by their schools are each allocated a business mentor to help them put together a plan and implement it to raise funds for a local charity. This initiative has raised over £30,000 for charities since 2012 – the most recent winner in April was a team from the Collett School.
I gave special thanks to our sponsors for the evening:-
- SA Law -which has consistently sponsored Community Action Dacorum’s events over the last 4 years and allowed me and other SA Law staff to give their professional time in supporting Connect Dacorum and other CAD projects.
- Abode Bed & Continental –Martin has been a great supporter and had been to practically every networking event since joining in 2010. Abode Bed & Continental have serviced apartments and self-catering flats in Hemel Hempstead offering an attractive, affordable and comfortable alternative to staying at B&Bs, guest houses or hotels.
- RES – Renewable Energy Systems – have been a member of Connect Dacorum since 2009. Based in Kings Langley RES has been at the forefront of the renewable energy sector since the early 1980s. RES also support community charity initiatives and host school visits.
- Osbornes – since gaining Dacorum’s contract to repair and maintain its housing stock Osbornes have been prominent in supporting local volunteering indicatives, which they regard as key to distinguishing their business profile from other contractors and to motivating, engaging and retaining their staff.
Cindy is already looking for Dragons for next year’s Challenge and would welcome offers of help.
I am proud of what has been achieved so far and hope that we can continue to build upon this in the years to come.
The final toast for the evening was given by David Gauke who then led us onto the terrace to enjoy the wonderful view and the echo of Big Ben resounding from St Thomas’ hospital across the Thames.