According to Green, the innovation of Instant Neighbour is trying to break the cyclical nature of foodbanks. In the case of Instant Neighbour, its foodbank has seen second and third generation of the same family return. Green’s perspective of this is that “food parcels does nothing but apart from making you less hungry for a couple of days. Doesn’t solve the issue.” She is glad that companies like ASDA or Tesco are investing money into organisations like FareShare, which redistributes surplus food to foodbanks however remains doubtful of this solving the problem. In Green’s eyes, this only kicks the can down the road and does not solve the core issue.
Glasgow School for Business and Society
In Instant Neighbour’s case, it was decided to create a position that would look at the fundamental issues that causes poverty and hunger amongst foodbank users. Green created the position of “Community Connector”. John Mulhern provides advice and help to foodbank users in order to try and break the cycle. One of the services John provides is how to budget properly. This attempt at breaking the cycle should be more effective in tackling food poverty than handing out food parcels as it tries to solve the root of the problem rather than brush over it. In addition, John helps clients know more about what benefits they are entitled to in an attempt to take them out of poverty.
As mentioned previously, at the time of its formation the inspiration behind the creation of Instant Neighbour was to get young men back into work. However, as time went on they realised that the problem lied with the lack of an address. The new focus of the charity was to help homeless young men find and maintain a home. However, nowadays Instant Neighbour helps all aspects of society and not just young men
Sophy Green’s ambition is to help address the issues that exist in our society and essentially, work herself out of a job. Green carries on this inspiration by facilitating both men and women to gain work experience . In 2017, approximately 101 people received a proportion of 8000 hours of workplace experience (Instant Neighbour 2018). By giving these people work experience, should in turn make them a more favourable candidate when applying for work. Again, this is trying to break the cyclical nature of poverty amongst families.
Instant Neighbour keeps accurate internal records of its impact. Each year it publishes statistics such as amount recycled, foodbank usage, work placement and additional services. As mentioned in the Inspiration section, Instant Neighbour provided 101 people 8000 hours of workplace experience helping to make them more employable. Green claims that, “In terms of our figures the number of volunteers went down but that’s because we’ve been working with them in a different way, the number isn’t the important thing for us it’s what we do with them”. The researchers argue that Instant Neighbour helps contribute towards SDG 1 and 8 (No Poverty & Decent Work and Economic Growth) as these recipients of workplace experience should now be better equipped to find employment and therefore escape poverty.
Mentioned previously was the work of John Mulhern, Community Connector, and how he helps clients discover what benefits they may be entitled to. In 2017, John was able to find an extra £500,000 of benefits for clients which they were entitled too but had not been aware of thus helping to alleviate some financial pressure. This helps contribute towards the SDG 1 and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequality) helping benefit claimants receive a better standard of living.
In 2017, Instant Neighbour recycled 20.0 tonnes of waste comprising of textiles, books and bric-a-brac. This was a massive increase from the 9.1 tonnes of waste recycled in the previous year. The organisation has an agreement with other external charities who buy any textiles that cannot be sold by Instant Neighbour and send them overseas. This helps generate some income for Instant Neighbour and also avoids sending waste to landfill. In addition, 126.3 tonnes of home goods were reused. This is a clear contribution towards the SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities, as it is reducing the amount of goods that remain fit for purpose being sent to the landfill.
Furthermore, in 2017 the organisation was able to provide over 56 tonnes of food to 2443 different clients. This is a direct attempt to trying to tackle SDG 2. However, as previously discussed Sophy Green believes that there is a better, more effective way to contribute to this and that’s by trying to get people out of poverty and breaking the reliance on foodbanks.
It is in the researchers’ opinion that by alleviating poverty and hunger, reducing inequality and generating decent work and economic growth for individuals, that Instant Neighbour contributes to SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing. By easing financial pressure, worrying about going hungry and providing advice it can be argued that Instant Neighbour helps its clients’ mental health. Furthermore, Instant Neighbour provides less expensive home services such as a joiner and carpet fitter. By offering a cheaper alternative to its clients, Instant Neighbour allows users of the service to have more money which can be spent on essentials like food and housing, again keeping people out of poverty or having to decide between eating or housing costs.
In Sophy Green’s eyes, the high point of her involvement was the decision to buy their main premise on St. Machar Drive. At the time of Sophy’s arrival, Instant Neighbour had spent a great deal of time and money on developing some premises. There was a £300,000 outstanding loan to be paid. Concurrently Instant Neighbour was 4 years into a 150 year lease. Green had the lease valued and it was roughly £800,000. It was decided to sell the lease. This allowed Instant Neighbour was able to buy the St. Machar Drive premise outright, pay off the loan and leave it debt free. In Green’s opinion, this decision secured the future of the organisation and actually helped the organisation survive during financial difficulties.
Instant Neighbour currently has 4 shops, two of which operate under the banner of Home Comforts. The decision to use a different name was taken deliberately. These shops offer what Green likes to refer to as ‘the John Lewis’ of charity shops. The shops bring in revenue helping the organisation continue to operate. Sophy claims that the organisation felt it financially when she decided to close the stores over the Christmas period a couple of years ago. This shows the importance of revenue generated by the stores.
Additionally, Instant Neighbour has been successful in retaining a contract with Aberdeen City Council (ACC). Instant Neighbour had to submit a tender to ACC and lower their fee in order to secure the bid for the contract. This contract means that Instant Neighbour is responsible for the storage of belongings for tenants of the City who are being evicted.
As mentioned previously, Instant Neighbour benefits the local community by providing services such as food parcels, work experience and recycling. These three primary activities only help on a local level but do help massively. Sophy Green argues against the need for Instant Neighbour to grow into a larger organisation, as advocated by the Scottish Government’s agenda of businesses expanding to be deemed successful. She sees the success of the organisation and its impact within the local area. Sophy states that she has no intentions on setting up Instant Neighbour in different towns or cities. However, the idea of Instant Neighbour and the services it provides could be replicated elsewhere in the country as a means of tackling the SDGs in Britain.
Sophy Green, CEO
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Business Website: http://www.instantneighbour.co.uk/
Year Founded: 1984
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Instant Neighbour is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status based in Aberdeen, UK. It was established in 1984 by two local ministers in an attempt to address the issue of helping single young men find work. They encountered the problem that most of the men did not have a permanent address which was needed in order to get work. They decided to change the focus of the charity to helping homeless young men find and maintain a home.
Presently, it is headed by Sophy Green, the CEO of Instant Neighbour and chairperson of Social Entrepreneurs Network Scotland (SENSCOT). Mrs. Green’s involvement with Instant Neighbour started in 2004 with a background in the Arts and Stage Management. Under Green’s stewardship Instant Neighbour has become an effective organisation in tackling social issues throughout the city of Aberdeen.
Instant Neighbour is one of the many organisations throughout the world that are contributing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)