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A transformative year for Octopus Giving

07 December 2018


Four wonderful new charity partners. Two inspirational pioneers of The International Exchange. Hundreds of hours volunteered. And hundreds of thousands of pounds donated to good causes.

We asked Stuart Sheppard, Trustee for Octopus Giving, to reflect on another busy year.

New year, new charities

Since setting up our charitable foundation back in 2014, we’ve always sought to build relationships that are meaningful and sustainable with the smaller charities we support.

For us, that meant shunning the more conventional ‘charity of the year’ approach – because we felt that 12 months was simply not enough time to make a meaningful difference. But it also meant choosing to set a clear time horizon for our funding commitment. Three years felt like the right amount of time.

So, after three wonderful years with our first five charities – Beyond Autism, CALM, Greatwood, Grit, North and South London Cares – we began 2018 by starting the search for our next cohort.

This time we decided to support four charities, which mapped broadly against our key areas of focus: health, energy and the environment, education and financial literacy, and entrepreneurship.

The process for choosing them was intensely democratic. We encouraged everyone at Octopus to make suggestions, and we received 75 different nominations from around the business.

We whittled this number down to a final shortlist, before putting it to an all-company vote this time last year. We’ve been working with the chosen four: The Choir With No Name, Downright Excellent, FoodCycle and MyBnk – ever since.

Time and money

We’re supporting these four charities with an annual grant of £25,000 for the next three years.

From funding a new employee for Downright Excellent, to helping establish a new choir in Brighton for The Choir With No Name, it’s heartening to hear about the difference that it can make to the charities we work with, and the people they help.

But the magic really comes when we introduce them to the passion and energy of Octopus employees. We encourage everybody at Octopus to give as much time as they can to the charities, and it’s clear that many people from around the business have already begun to forge some lasting links.

This year, we’ve tracked over 600 hours of volunteering from Octopus folk.

It’s worth reiterating that, while our financial commitment to our first five charities has come to an end, the relationship lives on, with colleagues continuing to volunteer their time.

We’re also delighted that Emily Quilter, Development Director for North London Cares, has since joined us as one of our trustees, bringing some continuity but also a strong dose of expertise from within the charity sector that’s already proving invaluable.

Giving goes international

This year also saw Octopus Giving extend an international footprint for the first time, through our relationship with The International Exchange (TIE).

TIE is a fantastic initiative that places professionals from the developed world on life-changing, month-long placements with charities and social enterprises in the developing world.

In 2018, we had two intrepid Octopus pioneers charting a course for us on the world stage: Amira and Chloe.

Amira helped to develop new learning platforms in Recife, Brazil. Chloe threw herself well and truly out of her comfort zone, building a micro-finance programme in Malawi.

Both came back bubbling with new-found confidence and purpose. It was amazing to see.

Based on their enormous success, we’re doubling our involvement with TIE in 2019, with four new explorers soon to set off on their travels in 2019. It’s exciting to think what stories they’ll bring back.

This year has also seen a group of committed volunteers in the Octopus Energy Investments team power change elsewhere in the globe.

Over the last year, they’ve been working with the Maasai in rural Kenya, installing solar-powered floodlights on a local football pitch in Olorte, and transforming the community in the process. Talk about a brighter way – these guys are living and breathing it.

Next year they’ve got bigger and bolder plans afoot, which we’re looking forward to helping them deliver, so watch this space…

What next for 2019?

We’ve achieved a lot in a year. And none of it would be possible without the hard work of our many Giving co-ordinators and trustees.

But a special thanks must go to Gina Harper, as one of our Octopus Giving co-ordinators. Gina silently goes about her work of helping everybody that she can, always with a smile and never with a sigh.

Gina’s given two days a week of her time to Octopus Giving over the last few years and has been the rock that we’ve all come to rely on. She makes it all happen.

But it’s been increasingly apparent over the last year that if we’re to deliver on everything we want to do (and there’s quite a bit), we need to give her – and the rest of the Giving team – a helping hand.

That’s why we’re thrilled to be making our first full-time hire over the next few months, in what we’re convinced will be the start of a new chapter for us.

Whoever we come to work with will no doubt be instrumental in helping us achieve our mission: to use the unique resources within Octopus to leave the world better than we found it.

We’re really excited about what we can achieve. Roll on 2019!