Neighbourly is an online platform for social good, connecting local community projects with businesses to activate their social purpose together. In March it won a DigitalAgenda Impact Award for sharing & partnership. Chief executive Nick Davies tells Shivvy Jervis about the business and its ambitions for growth.
Neighbourly has a vision that is nothing if not ambitious – to bring communities together to solve social issues and help business become nothing less than the world’s greatest force for good.
Since launch in 2014, the Bristol-based ‘profit-on-purpose’ business has made good progress towards that goal: more than 5,000 UK projects are signed up to use the platform to help them achieve their goals. And big brands like M&S, Lidl, Starbucks, Heineken and The Body Shop have come on board, along with their networks, staff and customers.
At the heart of the Neighbourly project is a simple belief: connect businesses with community projects and social good will follow. For chief executive Nick Davies, it’s an idea whose time has come. “People want to do more today. They want to participate more in the communities where they live. We all need to find our purpose.”
“They want maybe to get a little bit of funding,” he continues. “But they often don’t know where to start. They don’t know what’s happening on their doorstep.”
“So Neighbourly is a place that brings community projects together, but also helps business and other stakeholders who also want to help and make that contribution. We bring them all together so amazing things get done.”
Davies set up the business back 2012 in response to what he saw as the breakdown in trust between business and society after the recession. An ex-marketer, Davies was convinced that the best way to rebuild trust was for corporates to “talk less and do more”. He was a convinced that brands that used their creativity and influence to lead people towards a better, more inclusive society would reap rewards.
Visitors to the Neighbourly social network simply search for what’s happening where they live. They could see community projects that inspire, or they could see a company supporting a local campaign, such as a river clean-up or a litter pick.
The platform’s project pages are designed for social sharing, so supporters can follow and spread the word. Neighbourly allows causes of all types and sizes to publicise and gain community support for their needs. It offers its community features for free.
“It’s very community focussed because this is largely focused around what business can do to really unlock the potential in communities,” explains Davies. “Business wants to do more, and what they have is brilliant ideas, creativity and resources.”
Davies insists Neighbourly’s work is no mere nod to corporate social responsibility. “In the old world that was CSR and that was about how deep are your pockets, how much can you give. With Neighbourly it’s about using that contribution to get things started. Almost like seed capital, to get ideas and flowing at community level so that local people say, we want to take control of that, and we’ll work with business to do that, all across the country.”
The company secured £1m in angel funding in 2015, allowing it to expand its team, grow its product and look overseas, including to the Netherlands. And, it has now moved into food redistribution, arranging for the equivalent nearly 1 million meals to go to good causes that otherwise would have gone to waste.
Neighbourly has set itself up as a B-Corp, building purpose into its structure alongside profit. And in March it picked up a DigitalAgenda Impact Award for sharing & partnership, in a ceremony at London’s Barbican.
With reasonable growth and funding, Neighbourly looks set fair for the future. But for Davies, a higher profile is high on the agenda for the next few years.
“What we really need now is to get Neighbourly famous and find that media partner and make sure that everybody knows about it,” he says. “Because there is so much content and capacity to unlock within the platform, if more people knew about it and came to see what they could do there would definitely be more people involved.”
Shivvy Jervis has worked as head of digital content at Telefonica, as well as on her own video and presentation projects. Her focus is on the technologies that are helping to transform lives and the world around us.
Video produced by Joe Madden at Paradigm Creative