Formed in September 2017, the Inclusive Economy Partnership (IEP) aims to build a stronger economy and fairer society where all community members are invested and engaged in improving the UK through partnerships between businesses, civil society, and government. Through the IEP, organisations who want to play a positive and purposeful role in society can come together to create systemic change in the economy through cross-sector collaboration, using innovative approaches to solve age-old problems faced by those of us who are less included,  and a shared vision of making the UK a better place to live.

Making collaborative partnerships for social change requires a deep commitment to aligning working practises and approaches, even when the purpose is aligned.  All social movements contain a careful balancing of partnerships at the centre. This week we speak to Shevaun Haviland, Deputy Director of Business Partnerships at the Cabinet Office, and the driving force for the IEP to take a deeper look at the role of government in the IEP as well as to understand why partnerships are key to building a society where every citizen belongs and contributes.

1. What were the motivations behind creating the IEP? Why is it especially important for businesses to get involved in the IEP?

The motivation behind creating the IEP is the vision of a fairer society, with an inclusive economy and growth underpinned by business and civil society. The IEP is a vehicle to celebrate this vision as well as providing an opportunity for businesses, civil society, and the government to do more to support inclusive growth. Currently, the IEP is focusing on three social challenge areas: financial inclusion and capability, mental health at work, and transition to work for young people.

The reasons why it is especially important for businesses to get involved with the IEP is linked to emerging trends of customer expectations and social norms. For example, pressure from purpose-driven consumers and shifting norms in society are making businesses consider the social and environmental dimensions of their services, operations, and products. The first reason has to do with attracting and retaining talent. It is important for businesses to put social purpose at the core of their strategy because emerging trends point to young recruits entering the workforce that want to work for employers with a social purpose beyond profit. That is, if businesses want to stay competitive in the labour market, they have to evolve to stay relevant to attract and retain quality employees.  Related to this, is employee engagement. In today’s society, employees want more from their employers than just adequate pay and working conditions to be met but for careers that offer meaningful connections and engagement.

2. We’re now seeing a movement of businesses move beyond the CSR model and instead placing social purpose at the heart of their corporate strategy, how does the IEP contribute to this global movement?

Beyond the answers provided above, the IEP contributes to the global movement of businesses placing social purpose at the heart of their strategy by bringing the different components of the “system” of government, businesses and civil society together. It is not about re-inventing the wheel but to find answers together through an innovative model to do things differently. Nationally, the IEP aims to drive and build on the national conversation about what an inclusive society means and internationally, the IEP demonstrates how the UK can be the vanguard of this movement.

3. In partnerships or networks, a convener is important as they bring people and organisations together to address an issue, problem, or opportunity. In the context of collaboration, it usually involves convening representatives from multiple sectors for a multi-meeting process, typically on complex issues. In this context, what would you say is the role of government in the IEP? How does the government foster and facilitate collaboration in the partnership?

The role of the government in the IEP is a convening role: it is about bringing together business and civil society, to build a community which can tackle social challenges by working in partnership. Part of this is to provide a neutral space through workshops to foster the conversations needed to identify the issues and barriers of working together between bigger corporations and smaller social innovators for example. Second, the government plays a financing role in partnership with Nesta by giving grants of £20k to 18 innovators over a 6 month period to accelerate and deliver their innovations in the three challenge areas –  financial inclusion and capability, mental health, and transition to work for young people. You can find out more about the social innovators here

4. To benefit collectively from collaboration, sharing insights and learnings is important so that organisations facing similar issues can draw on pre-existing knowledge to work together. How are ideas, knowledge, resources, and insights shared within the partnership?

Ideas, knowledge, and resources are shared within the partnership through workshops, working groups, events, and an advisory board of businesses and civil society champions that are split into three groups – one for each challenge, as well as a digital community of IEP Bulletin subscribers.

5. What are some of the most exciting initiatives you’ve been working with through the IEP and why?

All of the initiatives are very exciting. Nationwide and other IEP members have launched a prize that will help scale ways to improve financial inclusion using Open Banking – the process of giving third parties controlled access to your financial information. Another example would be the West Midlands pilot where Accenture, Movement to Work, O2, UnLtd, Youth Employment UK and other organisations are partnering with the West Midlands Combined Authority to find an innovative and fresh approach to supporting young people into sustainable work. There are other very exciting projects which you can find out about here

6. Looking forward, what does the future of the IEP look like? How do you see it spreading  the message to the wider business sector who may not already be convinced of the value of IEP?

Currently, we have 174 organisations involved with the IEP and heading into year 2 our vision for the IEP is to continue to grow to create more impact. With respect to the three social challenge areas we are currently focusing on, we would like to show results to help businesses build a narrative around purpose.

7. To further build the movement of purpose-led business. How can non-business organisations/people/NGOs etc get involved?

The best way to get involved with the IEP is to sign up the IEP bulletin which keeps you updated on the upcoming events, new initiatives, and who to best connect with. To know more about what the IEP is doing and how you can support it, you can sign up to the bulletin here

You can read Shevaun’s blogs about the IEP here and here