Businesses hop on board community groups bus tour

The charity Business in the Community is holding a bus tour for local companies

The charity Business in the Community is holding a bus tour for local companies

A charity employee is getting Wigan businesses on board with a new bus tour taking them to meet the borough’s community groups.

Sonya Bithell, who works for Business in the Community which is part of the Prince’s Trust, is setting up the unusual scheme to forge partnerships between firms and grass-roots organisations.

The community groups are really excited about showcasing what they do and businesses are keen to understand how they can help

Sonya Bithell

More than a dozen businesses will join the pilot bus tour next month and visit four of Wigan’s most established and successful community groups.

The companies will discover ways they can exchange ideas, knowledge and skills with groups tackling everything from food waste to homelessness and providing artistic, cultural and social activities to the borough’s residents.

Sonya, the charity’s business connector for Wigan, said: “Wigan has a thriving business community and equally a really active community sector, but the two don’t really seem to meet.

“When I first came to the borough I went to business networking groups and even though there were some really big community organisations no-one at these meetings knew anything about them.

“They had no concept of things like holiday hunger, social isolation and these other issues which are predominant in our town.

“I want to really raise awareness of the types of groups working in Wigan and how well they are doing, so we came up with this plan to take a handful of businesses out into the community and start to forge relationships so they can work together.”

The first tour on March 2 will start with breakfast at the town hall before visiting Wigan Steam, which uses the arts to build interest in technology, engineering, science and maths, and Scholes community hub Sunshine House.

The minibus will then drive to The Brick, which provides homelessness services and a foodbank, before heading to The Real Junk Food Project to see how volunteers are preventing food going to landfill.

Groups working with the Armed Forces have also agreed to drive the minibus and take part in the day so they can tell the companies about their work.

Sonya is attempting to restrict the trip to one firm per sector and hopes to have representatives from areas including PR and marketing, health and safety, funding bid writing, office furniture and supplies and printing.

She says it looks like every seat will be taken for the pilot journey and is already looking to expand the project.

She said: “The community groups are really excited about showcasing what they do to a completely new audience. The businesses have said they are looking forward to it and keen to understand how they can help.

“We’re hoping to replicate it in other areas of the borough. There are several places with lots of organisations within a square mile.

“We will also be following up to see what support has been exchanged, what has been given and been gained.”

The pilot minibus tour taking businesses around the community groups of Wigan is on March 2.

To find out more about the project, contact Sonya by emailing sonya.bithell@bitcconnect.org, ringing 07725 427883 or following her on Twitter @sonyaconnects