Action Resource Centre

After three experimental years, Action Resource Centre (ARC) sought a national director: “to encourage the inter-dependence of the business and community sectors by the practical application of business skills to help meet the social needs of the community.” I was selected for the job and started July 1976.

In his assessment study of ARC’s experiment, Professor Barry J B Cullingworth stated that it was a fragile organisation, but recognised its potential. His concluding comments fired my interest: “. . . the ‘benefit to business’ approach is fundamentally opposed to the social responsibility philosophy of ARC.” The concern must be the means by which ‘corporate citizenship’ is implemented.

Cullingworth said Britain in the mid-seventies had more social divisiveness than ever before. Sounds familiar? He stressed David Rockefeller’s statement: “Businessmen [people] have no choice but to respond by becoming reformers themselves, making a conscious effort to adapt the market system to our changing social, political and technological environment.”

I proposed a two-year, then five-year, plan concentrating ARC’s interface between business and the community primarily to support local communities create their own long-term employment, As well as matching secondees from business to projects within agreed criteria; after careful research involving local people, ARC would also innovate projects to create jobs, with secondees using their skills in challenging new situations.

Chairman of ARC, John Hargreaves, director of public affairs, IBM (UK), was supportive of my proposals except that he had: “yet to find any worthwhile project emanating from other than the top.” In my experience and researches, worthwhile projects in a local community had firm upward growing roots.

At ARC’s tenth anniversary in 1983, Stamp Brooksbank, chairman and managing director of UK Provident, and chairman of ARC for six years, wrote: “ARC has been in the forefront both of demonstrating what can be achieved when companies and communities co-operate, and also of persistently warning government, companies and communities alike of the dangers of drawing general conclusions from any particular success story.”

ARC proved itself. Business and community practical co-operation grew, changed attitudes and bore fruit in local communities. But, within two decades, some big businesses started to ‘take over’ ARC’s ideas but with top down panacea projects and glossy PR. The community sector once again became more passive. In 1989, I researched the issue1 and produced an 87pp independent thesis as a discussion document. It received many positive notices. Today there is urgent need for Rockefeller’s words (above) to be heeded, read more.

1Company Community Involvement in the UK by Ruth I Johns [ISBN 0951696009] 1991

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