Your business skills can make a big difference to charities

Rob Partakides | 5 February 2020

After many years of volunteering for charities, I can safely say that giving back has always been on my agenda. It’s a core value at Morgan Stanley, and I feel very privileged to work for a company where doing the right thing and giving back is so important. However, I’d never really thought about how my business skills could be useful, and it wasn’t until I participated in Morgan Stanley’s skills-sharing programme, the Strategy Challenge in London, which is delivered by Pilotlight, that I got a glimpse of how much my skills and experience could help.

The challenge

The Strategy Challenge is an intensive eight-week programme, where teams of senior leaders at Morgan Stanley work with the leadership teams at five UK charities to provide strategic recommendations and detailed implementation plans to address the mission-critical challenges they face. The challenge for my team: should this charity open a café to help increase and diversify its income strategy? Now, looking at a charity from a strategic point of view was a new one for me. We got the chance to visit the charity to learn more about the societal issues it tackles every day, and all I can say is that it was a very humbling experience. The more and more the charity discussed the strategic challenges it faced, and specifically the need to diversify its income streams in order to be able to fund the services it offers, the more my eyes were opened to the world it operated within. By the end of the programme, we recommended that the charity should not open a café, and instead presented other options it could implement that would have a greater impact. I’ve kept in touch with the charity since, and I’m delighted to see that five years on, having taken on board the recommendations we gave them, the charity is doing really well.

Sharing the inspiration

I was so inspired by this experience that I wanted to do more and I’ve now participated in two projects on Pilotlight Insight, a programme Pilotlight runs in partnership with Morgan Stanley. This programme gives Morgan Stanley Associates a chance to share their skills to help a charity on a particular operational issue. It’s been a joy to mentor the teams and share my experience. Whilst on the Strategy Challenge I learnt a lot about myself as well, such as how to be a more effective communicator, the need to ask really focused questions and the importance of building trusting relationships in order to understand different perspectives. All skills which I’m passing on to my junior colleagues, whilst watching them become inspired by the charity they’re working with.

Looking at the world differently

A significant memory for me from my most recent project with The Felix Project, was a statistic the Pilotlight Project Manager mentioned, which has stuck with me ever since. She told us that one third of all food produced globally goes to waste. Now isn’t that just incredible? It had a massive effect on me at the time, and I’ve shared this fact with my family, friends and colleagues since, and it’s got us all thinking about how we can reduce our food waste. Working with charities through Pilotlight and Morgan Stanley, the learnings I gained and the impact my skills have had, has inspired me to really think about what I can do to help some of society’s biggest challenges. There really is so much more we can do to make a difference.