Sofia Alexandrache FICRS - Responsible Business and Events Manager, Team London Bridge
How did you get into CRS, and why did you choose this profession?
I’m incredibly lucky to have had enormous support from my family and teachers, and despite my modest upbringing in Romania I worked hard academically and came to study in London. It wasn’t a dream, but rather a necessity in order to help me progress in life and do better. Looking back, I think it’s only now that I truly appreciate what social mobility really means. So at the heart of it, this is why I’ve always wanted to give back, by becoming an agent that makes those connections happen – especially for those that wouldn’t otherwise have a great supportive network. I worked in primary and secondary schools, introducing students to inspirational entrepreneurs and professionals. I then went on to work for the National Citizen Service programme where I gained an on-the-ground understanding of how residents, businesses and charities come together to create a community and the value of place-based giving. I think it was around that time that I realised my interest would lie in working closely with businesses and harnessing their enthusiasm to give back. And what a time to be in this sector! It’s been growing so much in the past 10 years and it’s great to have been a part of that, I’m sure there’s more to come!
What do you need to do your job brilliantly?
In terms of qualifications, I am very passionate about the idea of constantly learning, and ever since I discovered Coursera and other online platforms I’ve been making the most of it. Every couple of years I choose a course that resonates with some skills I want to get on top of – we’re so fortunate to have these opportunities so easily available! Experience – having worked in education and a national charity I gained great insights into what makes programmes and interventions work, what is it that each stakeholder can bring to the table, and the intrinsic role that businesses have as part of communities. Capabilities-wise, what I’ve found to be key is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and really understand where they’re coming from. When you take the time to zoom in and focus on such a small geographical area like London Bridge, in order to understand all the layers that make the civic society around it, it’s humbling to see how much good will and already existing expertise there is! And it’s coming from very different types of stakeholders, so the challenge is to ensure that everyone ‘speaks the same language’ in order to achieve the same common goal.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your role?
The favourite part of my role has to be when I have a catch-up with one of our business members and they tell me how much the partnership with one the local charities has grown since I last put them in touch. My “match-making” role involves spending good time getting to understand the local charities and their real needs, and on the other hand exploring what it is that businesses can actually offer. There isn’t always a match! But where there is, and it’s going well and growing – I feel very proud of my small contribution to ignite their partnership. The not so favourite part of my role is when I have to contact charities that applied for our grants and sadly have been unsuccessful. In most cases, it’s not because of their application being poorly written or the project not being good enough, but simply because we have a limited stream of funds. If that wasn’t the case, we would accept about 85% of applicants!
Who or where do you look to for inspiration on CRS topics? And, who do you follow on Twitter?
I stay up to date by checking what’s going on in my professional network on LinkedIn almost daily, this gives me a good idea of what the London Bridge business community is up to. Equally important for me are the newsletters, I subscribed to quite a few so I save them all in one folder and read them either at the start or the end of the day. To name a few: ICRS, Corporate Citizenship Briefing, BITC, London Funders, but also more sector-specific ones. For example, London Bridge is boasting a growing dining scene so the Weekly Plateful from the Sustainable Restaurant Association is a great source. Similarly, for the arts & culture – Julie’s Bicycle.
@KateRaworth if you haven’t heard of the Doughnut Economics, you have to! I watched Kate live at an event a few years ago and was absolutely fascinated, this should replace Adam Smith’s theory in all schools and universities – and board rooms. They’ve recently launched a Lab, so here’s an opportunity to get involved.
@TrewinR I love Trewin’s work and in particular the weekly newsletters from Hubbub – weaving behavioural insights into all their projects that benefit the environment and are aimed at long term systemic change. Simple, but very clever concepts that work!