Show 70 – Business & Government Partnerships

CIPR members receive 5 CPD points and PRCA members receive 10 CPD posts for listening to this podcast if they log it at their respective CPD programmes.

Show 70 was produced in partnership with the Cabinet Office where we discussed how the work being carried by its Business Partnerships team, is building successful, long-term partnerships between business and government to deliver the voice of business into policy development and transformation, with the main aim of tackling the UK’s biggest social and economic challenges.

Russell Goldsmith was joined in the studio by:

·         Shevaun Haviland, Deputy Director for Business Partnerships at the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office

·         Ann Pickering, CHRO and Chief of Staff at Telefónica UK (O2 in the UK)

·         Caroline Mason CBE, Chief Executive Officer, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Co-Chair of the Inclusive Economy Partnership.

Russell Goldsmith is joined in the studio by (L-R): Shevaun Haviland, Ann Pickering and Caroline Mason CBE

Topics covered included:

  • Motivations for being involved in the Business Partnership Team
  • Importance of Purpose within business
  • Inclusive Economy Partnership
  • Social Mobility
  • Modern Industrial Strategy
  • Brexit
  • How to get involved

Shevaun started by explaining that the Business Partnerships Team has three main aims

  1. Help business navigate government and find the right places to go to help fix their problems and work on their issues.
  2. Deliver business expertise into government – building long term relationships with around 120 of the UK’s biggest businesses
  3. Deliver meaningful policy and campaigns – bring the voice of business and help drive innovation in policy development so that the Government can find better solutions to issues.

Motivations for being involved in the Business Partnership Team

Shevaun has worked in government for two years and with twenty years prior to that in the private sector.  She explained that she had been involved in early social impact investing with social enterprises as an angel and has always had a passion of the idea of profit as a force for good/ profit with purpose and so when she came across the team at the Cabinet Office, she thought of it as big business with government working together for social change and that it would be amazing to get involved in profit with purpose on a big level.

Caroline’s background was 20 years in financial services and then 15 years ago moved into social investment / impact investing and so her motivation for being involved in the Business Partnership Team lies in her interest in how you can use finance to do good rather than to exploit and how you can be in a position to encourage more of that. She believes that people are the answer and said that you can find the most extraordinary in the most ordinary.  So, she is keen to find how we can capture that energy that exists in the country in ordinary people and how can that be reconnected back into the economy and finance because she feels it has become disconnected.

For Ann, she became HR Director of O2 10 years ago and she feels that not only can her business provide a great service to its 32m customers, but that they can have a positive impact on the society in which they live.

Importance of Purpose within business

Ann said that the Business Partnership Team is a really important channel of communication for O2, making the information flow smoothly between them and government, allowing them to understand each other’s challenges and opportunities.  It means they can identify shared agendas and collaborate and work together.  This, she explained aligns with how O2 like to work with partners as it’s a good way to shape and deliver services, whether for customers or their charitable partners such as the NSPCC.  In fact, when writing in a blog for on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Mark Evans, CEO, O2, said that his company defines its purpose as “making every day better through personal experiences that count” and shared a list charities and collaborations the organisation works with from local community business partnerships to charities that naturally connects to the business.

For Caroline, she said that the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s role is to focus on the root causes of the problems [we were discussing] and to make sure those affected by them have a voice at the table alongside business and government.  She added that they also are there to fund disruptive innovation that can tackle those root causes in a different way.  She gave a couple of examples that they support:

  • Fair For You – an alternative credit provider, described on its website as ‘a registered charity with the objective to alleviate poverty through better credit solutions for lower income family households and to influence how we lend as a society to lower-income families.’
  • Auticon – who train people with autism to work within financial organisations as fully paid consultants, working in the areas of software testing and data science, which play to their skills

Ann added government, businesses, foundations or charities would not be able to make the same impact if they were to do this work on their own and so they are much stronger working together as partnerships.

Inclusive Economy Partnership

Shevaun talked about the work of the Inclusive Economy Partnership (IEP), which is focusing on its first three key issues of:

  • financial inclusion and capability
  • mental health in the workplace
  • transition into work for young people

She added that they want to:

  1. Bring action on the ground in a place that is helping people as quickly as possible
  2. Have a conversation on a national level with their business partners and civil society partners about the kind of economy and society they want to be
  3. Be seen as a nation on a global level, can be seen as a vanguard around the area of inclusive growth.

The IEP has an advisory board of 14 CEOs, seven from business and seven from civil society, which Caroline believes is the first time that civil society has had an equal place at the table alongside business and government, plus there are 150 other organisations that have been brought into the process.

Shevaun also talked about the work that actor and disruptor Michael Sheen is doing in this space, with the organisation, End High Cost Credit Alliance and he was also involved in the new video that the team has created:

Social Mobility

One grant that the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has recently awarded that we highlighted was one of over £800,000 over four years to ‘Achievement for All’, a not-for-profit organisation that work in partnership with early years settings, schools and colleges, improving outcomes for all children and young people vulnerable to underachievement regardless of background, challenge or need.

Achievement for All has developed an evidence-based programme, called Achieving Early, to enable them to offer the highest quality provision, ensuring every child meets their potential regardless of background, challenge or need, and it goes on to compare outcomes on entry to Key Stage 1 and the gap that currently exists between children living in poverty and their more affluent peers and that once they can successfully demonstrate the closing of this gap, they will have sufficient evidence for the cost effectiveness of early intervention and the need for greater investment in the early years workforce and their continuing professional development.

Caroline said that this all comes back to the fact that all of these issues have root causes and if you catch them early enough and fund the prevention, then you stop the problems happening further down the line.  She said that this particular project is an important example of how, if you work with children at a very young age and catch the early signs, there are lots of interventions that work in terms of improving their confidence and cognitive skills, giving them a better chance.  She added that another interesting element of this is that Achievement for All codesigns things with young people, which is based around the idea that people can be the owners of their own destiny and that just because you might be poor, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills, assets and capabilities to bring to bare to your own problems and issues.

She also said this area is also about the idea of working with businesses and employers to say that sometimes people look a bit different but maybe there is something that businesses and employers can do to change their practices to accommodate that.   She added that there is also the need to tackle the unconscious bias that exists in all of us.

Social Mobility is also high on Telefónica UK’s agenda and the recent Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index, had them ranked at No.24 in the list for Best Employer for Social Mobility.  However, there’s still a lot of work to be done, according to Ann, before we get to a stage where we don’t need lists to recognise what businesses are doing in this space and instead it’s taken as read that business and government are giving opportunities to people from all social and economic backgrounds.  She referred to some work she did with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development a couple of years ago, where over half of 4-10 year olds that they interviewed thought that girls were better suited to roles such as nursing and hairdressing and that over 28% of young people believe that a man is best suited for the role of Prime Minister.  Therefore Ann believes that if we’re looking to create a really inclusive society, not only do we need to work with government, businesses and civil society, but with schools too.

Caroline added that if we have to think about the environment and social consequences of our decision making in our investment space or in a business model, it fundamentally changes the operating system.  She said that we’re all therefore on a journey of understanding how these models have to fundamentally change.

Modern Industrial Strategy

Back in January, Teresa May spoke at the Davos World Economic Forum back about the UK’s Modern Industrial Strategy

“Let me start by how we can embrace technology. Key to this is channelling the power of government and business in partnership to seize the opportunities of technology and create high-quality, well-paid jobs right across the world. That is why in the UK I have put the development of a Modern Industrial Strategy at the heart of the Government’s agenda. It is a new long-term approach to shaping a stronger and fairer economy – and it understands what government and business each bring to the table. Because I understand the power of business as a force for good. I know that it is free and competitive markets that drive the innovation, creativity and risk-taking that have enabled so many of the great advances of our time. But I also understand the good that government can do, creating the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and helping them to invest in the future of our nation. So, the message of our industrial strategy to the world is clear: Britain will be one of the best places in the world in which to start and grow a business.”

Shevaun believes the Modern Industrial Strategy that the Prime Minister talked about in Davos is an inspiration piece of work and despite the time being taken up by Brexit, she said it means we have a vision for the future.  She explained that the industry strategy is about focussing on areas such as R&D spend, building an economy that’s fit for the future and the future of work and that there are four grand challenges involved:

  • Artificial Intelligence & Data
  • Clean Growth
  • Future of Mobility
  • Ageing Society

Ann added that a successful modern responsible business is not just one that has a strong P&L but is one that makes a positive contribution to society, and in fact, commercially, more inclusive teams and organisations are more successful.


In terms of the impact leaving the EU may have, Shevaun said that they are currently listening to business about any issues they may have around Brexit and feeding that back into government.   They are also ensuring that all policy development, around such areas as Women Returnships, Gender Pay Gap, Ageing Society, Loneliness Agenda etc, that businesses voice are at the centre of developing those policies going forward at the other side of Brexit.

How to get involved

If you would like to find out more information or perhaps work with the Business Partnerships team then contact them on email using partnerships-team@cabinetoffice.gov.uk or visit the website for more information.


All previous shows of the series are available on this website as well as SoundcloudiTunesTuneInacast, Google Podcasts and Stitcher.

There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.

Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on iTunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

You may also like ...