Empowering companies to support grassroots projects


Imagine if David and Goliath had had a chance for a pre-contest cup of tea and discovered that they shared the same goals – their story could have had a very different outcome.

At Semble we bring together two entities of similar scales to David and Goliath. We connect the two, uncover their shared goals and create something magical that brings lasting benefits to both.

On one side is Goliath, representing companies with IT teams, HR departments and hundreds, if not thousands of employees. Companies that, when driven by a sense of purpose, can enact huge positive change.

On the other side is David, representing community groups – small grassroots organisations that grow up in response to key local needs. Often started and run by one passionate individual, they grow with support from volunteers. These groups are woven into the fabric of their community and they help address a wide variety of local issues, ranging from social isolation to mental health support, food provision to climate action and everything in between.

These two entities operate on very different planes and yet they have much to gain from working with each other.

One of the few rays of light we have seen in the UK during the pandemic has been the rise in community spirit and neighbourly compassion – from each and every one of us. An unprecedented 750,000 people responded in just four days when the government called for volunteers to help the NHS during the crisis. This is layered on top of the extraordinary 20 million of us who choose to volunteer annually in our spare time.

We can celebrate the willingness to affect positive change by many on their doorstep. And businesses have also shown their support – Organisations from Brewdog to LVMH have repurposed production lines to support the effort.

Marla Kaplowitz, CEO of The American Association of Advertising Agencies, said: “Purpose-driven brands have an edge in building emotional connections that resonate more with people” and this struck a deep chord with me.

For a business to create a real advantage through purpose, it needs to tap into what resonates emotionally with customers. The past three months have visibly demonstrated that for a business to truly meet the public demand for positive impact, that impact needs to be societal – delivering for the common good and benefiting society as a whole.

Lots of companies do brilliant work connecting with large, often well-known charities to drive support for relevant causes. What many aren’t aware of is that a whole other tier of less well-known charitable organisations exists. This tier is made up of small, grassroots groups that are able to respond rapidly and effectively to the precise needs of their vicinity and are loved and treasured by their local communities.

At Semble we empower companies to connect directly with this grassroots tier of community organisations and then feedback a rich pipeline of stories in real time. What we see is not only a growth in impact at a local level, but also improved customer sentiment.

Take the beer brand Carling as an example. Just a couple of years ago, their consumer insight suggested that they should be giving away tickets to Premier League football matches in order to reach their customers. Now customers expect more of the brand. So, Carling decided to shift focus to local communities, aiming to give back to the places where their consumers live and work. They set up the “Made Local” initiative which supports local community action across the UK, to deliver lasting and meaningful impact and celebrate the people on the ground.

Semble has been working with Carling to deliver this campaign through the Made Local Fund, which enables their customers to nominate local community groups for small grants and expert support. Over 100 have been funded across a vast range of issues in their local areas. For example, Carling funded a project in Devon run by the Lions Barber collective which trains barbers and hairdressers to recognise the symptoms of poor mental health, so they can support their clients both directly and by referring them to additional services. Founder Tom Chapman said “This was an incredible opportunity which enabled us to train hair professionals … We have armed Hair pros with the ability to save lives and prevent mental ill-health”.

Tom Chapman, Founder of Lions Barber Collective running a training session in Devon, 2019

This ends up being a win for the local community, a win for the customers, and ultimately a win for Carling whose team are engaged and motivated by this campaign which ultimately creates positive change while supporting a deeper connection between the Carling brand and their customers.

In another example, the lockdown shone a light on the importance of our connection into nature and how essential it is for our mental health and wellbeing, particularly for children. In normal times this campaign is aimed at making outdoor learning and play part of children’s everyday life at school and is delivered in local communities with the help of thousands of teachers, parents and local NGOs. Outdoor Classroom Day is celebrated in over 110 countries and has reached over 9 million children in just 5 years.

This year Unilever continued their investment through lockdown, recognising that the need for children to connect with nature was as important as ever. Semble coordinated the pivoting of the campaign into a version called “Playful Nature”supporting kids to connect with nature through play despite being stuck indoors and reassuring local supporters that the campaign was still there for them, with the ultimate objective unchanged.

The community driven campaigns that Semble delivers vary in scope, scale and focus. But for the businesses we work with one thing remains the same: by connecting with local organisations that are embedded in the community where people work, live and play, they tap into a deeper emotional connection with both their customers and employees.

At the end of this crisis we can either go back to normal or we can harness the mood for change, bring David and Goliath together, and start making deeper connections with our local communities.

To find out how, go to www.semble.org/work-with-us or get in touch to talk about how the organisation you work for could support local community action.

This article was originally published in One Magazine, a publication that champions thought leadership on improving business performance while making a positive impact.

About the Author:

As CEO at Semble HQ Amanda is responsible for making sure that Semble delivers on its mission of connecting organisations to communities in order to drive positive change.