Working together

Oxford Saïd has many colleague-run employee initiatives to help staff and students get involved in projects, charities and causes they are passionate about. We shine the spotlight on three

Twelve months after announcing their three-year partnership with the charity Homeless Oxfordshire, volunteers at Oxford Saïd can look back on a year in which many goals were achieved despite Covid.

The charity, which was chosen by staff and students at the School, provides short-term accommodation for homeless people in the county alongside high-quality support and initiatives to help them regain and maintain independence. The Oxford Saïd team offers support by sharing expertise and knowledge, organising events and fundraising, and offering use of School facilities.

The School’s first campaign for the charity was to buy £2,000-worth of Christmas presents for residents at the centre, which accommodates over 200 people. ‘The residents gave us a list of things that they wanted, and we bought these for them,’ says Madeline Hall, Website Manager at the School, who helps run the partnership.

‘We also raised £500 from a raffle and donated several bags of clothes. We’ve pledged £58,000-worth of courses to them, and donated office equipment and furniture that was no longer needed.’

When the pandemic intervened, the School had to rethink its operations while remaining fully committed to Homeless Oxfordshire. ‘We have lots of volunteers raring to help,’ says Hall. Visits to the centre were scaled down, though, and meetings had to be done remotely.

With the Oxford half-marathon postponed until 2021, the team of ten runners, who had planned to raise funds by taking part, will now run the same distance elsewhere in Oxford this year.

Hall says the School has provided advice and expertise, also arranging a networking event and webinar with local businesses. ‘We have a fundraising arm and obviously they do too,’ she says, ‘so the two leads have had some really good exchanges of ideas about, for example, nurturing major donors. Whenever the charity needs an expert, we always try to help. Recently they wanted an expert in media crisis management, so we offered up our Head of Media. That kind of access to information or resources is just as important to them as money.

‘We sell education and we’ve helped the charity through our high-level executive courses — so they get access to a certain level of thinking and strategy. It’s very much a working partnership.’

To donate to Homeless Oxfordshire click here.

Green Impact at Oxford Saïd is a group of staff and student volunteers determined to boost climate action. It aims to reduce the School’s environmental impact and contribute to local sustainability.

Green Impact started in 2017 with 10 members and has expanded over the past year to a current mailing list of more than 100. Its structure has also become more formal, says Co-Chair Heather Saunders. ‘We have people responsible for marketing and outreach, events and data officers, and a secretary. We have a number of project groups specifically related to certain issues such as biodiversity and sustainable food.’

The initiative’s aims are shared by the School, says fellow Co-Chair Kristine Homoki. ‘One of the great things Heather and I appreciate about our School is that we place importance on sustainability. It talks about solving world challenges, and one of its main missions is to teach our students to become better leaders. It is really important for us to be able to walk the talk and make sure we are also doing it in our own facilities.’

Initiatives this year have included a plastic-free July, which encouraged those on the mailing list to share stories of how they’re reducing waste, some of which were featured in the newsletter. September’s cycling campaign would have seen participants cycling to work and logging their mileage, had Covid not intervened. ‘Instead we asked people to share stories of where they’ve cycled to during lockdown, along with photos, to encourage others to cycle,’ says Saunders.

For Halloween, the group drew attention to food waste, focusing on the vast number of pumpkins that are thrown away uneaten.

The University gave Green Impact an award for Outstanding Continuous Improvement. ‘That reflects the different things we do,’ says Saunders. ‘Every month there’s a new campaign or something people can get involved with.’ Long-term goals include upping the recycling rate, reducing general waste and cutting their carbon footprint.

‘Carbon offsetting is a big topic,’ adds Homoki. ‘The University’s climate experts have just launched the Oxford Offsetting Principles, so we’re ensuring we’re compliant.’ Homoki also wants to create an information pack for colleagues. ‘We want everyone to understand what the School is about and how important sustainability is for us all.’

Although official and unofficial women’s networks are now commonplace in business, until last year there was no dedicated network to support the career aspirations and needs of professional women at Saïd Business School — despite the success of homegrown initiatives such as the Inspiring Women series and a range of smaller support groups within the faculty and wider University.

In November 2019, in response to a university-wide staff survey the previous year, the Professional Women’s Network was launched at the School.

‘The aim is to build a connected community that encourages and supports opportunities for personal and professional development and advancement,’ says Jo Fawkes, a founding member of the organising committee. Now numbering around 80 members, the network advocates for policy improvements that positively impact women and increase the talent pipeline.

Wellbeing is a key target, with recognition of the challenges women face across life stages, from pregnancy and maternity leave to parenting and menopause. Two workshops have already been held, with more to come, and a buddy scheme is also being launched, through which volunteers help colleagues to understand the support they may require. ‘The purpose is to provide women with a safe space to talk about the challenges they may be facing and to access advice on career development,’ says Fawkes.

Inspiration comes through a programme of motivational talks and events, including the inaugural event, in March that saw Gill Aitken, Registrar of the University of Oxford, discuss her career journey with the members.

And while the pandemic has created a series of challenges, plans are in place for future events and coaching to support members — particularly those having to contend with remote working — as well as ‘skills stretch’ opportunities for members to participate in projects outside of their usual sphere of expertise. It’s a reminder that progress continues to spring from vision and energy, even during a difficult time.

As Fawkes says: ‘The network showcases another side of the School’s community and the positive actions we as employees are taking to contribute to the School’s focus on gender equality and diversity.’




The Annual Review looks back over the past year’s milestones, events, awards and research helping us fulfil our mission: World Challenges : Oxford Answers

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At Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, we create business leaders who lead with purpose.