Introducing Bett’s 2022 charity partner: LetsLocalise
When the precocious son of the founders of LetsLocalise started at a prestigious state school in Berkshire, he was shocked and more than a little disappointed by what he found.
Despite the limitless energy and creativity of the teaching staff, he found the school to be in a shabby condition, its equipment often aged or broken and the opportunities to engage pupils in external trips and activities that might broaden their horizons to be limited at best and non-existent at worst. The conversations at home triggered by these observations led to an idea with the potential not just to transform the prospects of state schools; it also offers an opportunity to strengthen local communities, by bringing multiple people, organisations and businesses into close relationships with their local schools.
The lightbulb moment for Divya and Gaurav Garg, based in Wokingham in Berkshire, came when surveys results showed that in excess of 60% of people in a given community were keen to help their local schools. They just had no idea how to do so. What if this reservoir of goodwill could be tapped into and piped into local schools?
Given the background of the Gargs and friends and colleagues in innovation, technology and community activities, the solution emerged in the shape of a digital platform, LetsLocalise, that could highlight the demand in schools and connect it to ‘supply’ out in the community. A critical perception in the framing of the idea came in the realisation that support for schools needed to come in a variety of formats. Yes, financial support would be important but so too would be volunteer time, expertise, work experience – in fact, anything that would help pupils get a clearer window to the world beyond the core curriculum.
The idea behind the concept is that state schools register on the platform and, between them, headteachers and their teaching teams identify the programmes and activities that they would most like to pursue but currently cannot, due to insufficient financial or human resource. A typical selection for a single school might be a campaign to raise funds for basketball hoops, a request for help with painting and decorating, an appeal for volunteers to act as exam supervisors, an appeal to experts to talk about their chosen profession and a request for internships or work experience opportunities for pupils.
How LetsLocalise works
Once a school has posted the details of these programmes on the site, individuals in the local community, local organisations and local businesses are approached and asked to register on the platform too. Those registering can then browse through the range of requests across a range of schools and choose how best they can help. A critical stage in the development of these school-community connections is in finding ways of reaching beyond pupils’ parents and bringing in support and resources that would not normally find their way into schools. Reaching the very people who said they wanted actively to help but did not know how.
LetsLocalise has managed to break down ways of supporting schools into neat categories, which can be easily navigated on the website. So, for example, there is Pledge a Penny, Pledge a Minute, Pledge a Resource, Social Events, School Shop, Expert Talk and Marketplace with offers from external vendors to help school save funds.
No headteacher or teacher will ever have had access to a platform with the scope and range of LetsLocalise in their professional lives. It is a multi-sided platform that enables multiple participants to engage at the same time. So, instead of Websites through which schools can simply share information with their pupils’ parents, LetsLocalise can bring individuals, organisations and businesses onto the platform simultaneously, creating multiple connections and offering scope for engagement between schools and would-be supporters in a wide range of relationships.
The LetsLocalise story moved from the drawing board to the real world in November 2019, when the founders and the team of colleagues and supporters they had built up, launched a pilot across five schools in Berkshire. In fact, the company had to cap the number of schools it first engaged with because virtually every headteacher to whom the idea was outlined wanted to participate.
“Like all brilliant ideas, the LetsLocalise concept is rooted in simplicity. Headteachers can see that tapping into that reservoir of goodwill that we are convinced exists out there in every community is a ‘no brainer’. Why would a school not want to tap into the support networks that can be constructed from their local communities?” says co-founder, Gaurav Garg.
For Divya Garg, who has a strong background in community schemes, the way in which the LetsLocalise concept can strengthen communities is as exciting as the support it can bring to schools.
“From the retired person with years of experience but at risk of social isolation to local companies looking at how best they can invest in their local communities, LetsLocalise can offer a fail-safe means of engaging. Pledgers who sign up can do so confident that the programmes they are supporting are priority programmes for their local schools. This is not chipping into a charitable pool, perhaps unsure about how one’s support is going to be used.”
The Gargs have no illusions about the challenge of reaching beyond the parent cadre and bringing in a wider range of pledgers; but they have the support of experts from the fields of digital networks, behavioural science and innovation to help them navigate this.
Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, despite claims from across the political spectrum that schools would be better funded in future after 10 years of austerity, few people involved in state education expected to see radical change any time soon. Now, given the economic impact of the virus, it is likely to be even longer before a dent is made in the 8% fall in spending per pupil over the last decade and headteachers’ estimate of a £5.7bn gap between need and funding.
In this environment, it makes sense for schools to tap into all the external support that is available out there. In an ideal world, all state schools would be properly funded and the personal development programmes of our pupils would reach well beyond the core curriculum out into the world beyond the classroom. But we are not in an ideal world, so it is to initiatives like LetsLocalise that we need to turn. If the resource and the support is out there, who wouldn’t want to access it?
“Our first ambition is to improve the lot of 1m British schoolchildren…but that is just the start of the revolution!” says Divya Garg.
Bett 2022 is taking place in just two weeks’ time! Join us at the ExCeL London from 23-25 March to hear more on the future of education. Register today here.