The Intranet Focus 2016 good cause

As many of you know each year I donate the money I would have spent on Christmas Cards and postage to a good cause.

I expect that most of you will have stood in Trafalgar Square, looked up at Nelson’s Column and across to the National Gallery. However I suspect that few of you will have spotted a large church on the north-east side of the square with columns as the façade that faces onto the Square. This is the church of St. Martins-in-the-Fields, which it certainly was when the first church was built in 1222. The current church dates from 1762, and so is older than the Square, which was not completed until 1844.

What is not visible is a vast Crypt, with a 200 seat cafe/restaurant and it can also host conferences and meetings. All the profits go to support the outreach activities of the church. If you enjoy classical music you may know of the global reputation of the Academy of St. Martins-in-the-Fields, a chamber orchestra founded and directed for many years by Sir Neville Marriner, who died earlier this year. The church gave it space for rehearsals and for its first public performance in 1958.

So why have I have chosen a church in the middle of London for my good cause this year? Well once again this year digital workplaces have been centre stage, now enriched (!) with social networks, cognitive search and artificial intelligence. Work (we are assured) is going to be so much more productive and enjoyable in the future.

But do we think for a moment of the people who do not have a home, let alone a job? We talk of the Future of Work, but not of a future without work for those who for usually no fault of their own are now alone and have no future, or have no access to the training needed for digital working. Will the digital workplaces we are building create a the digital divide?

Even in the centre of London, one of the most affluent cities in the world, there is despair, poverty and homelessness. It is easy to say that the UK Government should be doing more. However it’s not just a question of money but of community. Someone to talk to who will not judge, a hand to shake and be hugged by and a sense of security and peace within one of the most beautiful churches In London.

For 90 years St. Martin’s has cared for these people, especially at Christmas when it usually raises over £2.5 million with the help of the BBC.  As well as the support it provides for people in the immediate area of the church (Connection at St. Martins) this church in London cares for people across the UK.  It makes small grants available within days when other sources of support have failed. These grants are often to buy a cooker, a bed or a fridge for people moving into unfurnished accommodation. If the funds I have donated buy someone a cooker or a bed then that is a gift that could  be one small step for them along a road to a brighter future.

I would ask that in the year ahead we never lose sight of the fact that every employee in a digital workplace has a family. I feel we sometimes see ’employees’ as a sort of persona, and forget they are individuals, people who are trying to keep a balance between their commitment to their work and a concern about what the future will hold, not just for themselves but also for their families.

With my best wishes to you for 2017

Martin White