Rachel Baker is UK Group Marketing Manager and CSR Lead for GL events UK’s, Overlay delivery of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. With grace and an unmistakeable passion for social value, it’s clear that Rachel is well-suited to this vital role.
CSR stands for Corporate and Social Responsibility, which encompasses everything relating to ethics and environment within the project. “Initially, my role was working on GL events’ tender to win the contract for Overlay at The Games. This led to me developing our social value programme, and my role has evolved from there into leading the social value element.”
Rachel believes that the social value programme sits naturally within the legacy that The Games is trying to create. “The Organising Committee (OC) were clear from tender stage, that the strands within their Social Value Charter needed to be woven into all aspects of delivery at The Games, from planning and procurement, through to delivery and aftermath. As such, the social value programme is not something that feels shoehorned in as an add on. It feels like an organic extension of what The Games aim to provide. The OC’s vision is: “a Games for everyone”, and this is really key. As I see it, The Games and its legacy is so much more than a sporting event. It’s about reaching out to all communities in Birmingham, to make a positive difference to as many people in some shape or form.”
As GL events UK’s social value lead, Rachel feels strongly about the role of the company’s programme at Birmingham 2022, and the importance of authenticity. “Social value to me is about providing something meaningful and long term, not just about delivering things here and now. Some of the people we are able to work with through the social value programme are probably not going to come to one of The Games’ sporting sessions, or access the cultural festival but if, through the work that we are doing with our incredible partners, like Jericho, Change Kitchen and Disability Resource Centre, we can generate a positive change in someone’s life, that is a catalyst for a change in direction.
Rachel goes on to add: “Teaching someone how to cook – cheaply and healthily gives life skills to improve not only the individual’s health but potentially that of their kids, and to pass on those skills. Similarly, helping someone into a work placement provides employment and life skills which can have a positive impact on aspiration, confidence, mental health, and ultimately getting onto the employment ladder. Our contribution is obviously very small compared with the work that our social value partners do every day, but if we can generate positive long-term change in even a small number of lives it will be worthwhile.”
”Our social value partners' resolve to tackle social inequality, poverty and injustice is incredible. I'm proud to be working alongside them.Rachel BakerUK Group Marketing Manager & CSR Lead - GL events UK
Rachel’s career with GL events has spanned almost eight years. Yet her role in the Birmingham 2022 project is not what you would usually expect from a marketing position. “It may seem odd that delivery of social value sits within the marketing function. At GL events UK, tender writing and design sits with my team, so I have always been involved in development of our client offer. In recent years, CSR has increasingly been a part of major event tenders, as more and more clients want their suppliers to demonstrate sustainable commitments, and I guess, put their money where their mouth is, in terms of alignment with the client’s social values.
Rachel goes onto advise that she is fortunate to be able to draw on relatable experience acquired through previous roles:“Since I have a background in Not for Profit marcomms, having previously worked in the charity and social regeneration sectors, my involvement in GL events UK’s CSR commitments has developed quite organically. But this is the first time I have been involved in the operational delivery. It’s nice to be able to see the process through and hopefully it gives me the opportunity to be involved in more projects of this kind, and maybe another Commonwealth Games.”
A prestigious role such as this, requires an individual who is inherently passionate about the cause which Rachel displays effortlessly. “Of course, given that I’m leading on the social value, I am personally invested in ensuring that it is success. It goes without saying that I want to help amplify GL events UK’s reputation for this kind of work. But more than that, I want it to have been a positive experience for the partners we’re working with, and their beneficiaries. When working on something like this, it’s impossible not to genuinely care.”
So, what have been the challenges in developing this social value programme, which is now so integrated within the project delivery framework? “It was challenging putting our objectives together. It’s such a massive topic! I was obviously guided by the OC’s Social Value Charter, but even then, the themes are so extensive you could easily focus on sustainability as a stand-alone issue, likewise with inclusivity and so on. So I guess the hard part was to touch on enough of the themes in a meaningful way, not spreading ourselves too thinly, and to make our targets realistic. It took quite a lot of research and thought. By spending time with the charities and organisations, the objectives became clearer.”
With fondness, Rachel continues to reflect on time spent with GL events UK’s social value partners and admits that this is her favourite part of the project so far. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with our partners. When I listen to the personal journeys and stories of our partners – individuals like Birgit Kehrer at Change Kitchen who are so incredibly knowledgeable, passionate and courageous – I know that “inspirational” is an overused term – but in this case it is absolutely the only word. Their resolve to tackle social inequality, poverty and injustice is incredible, and I am glad we can work alongside them in a small way. I am sure that Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be remembered for many “firsts” but if there is only one thing, I hope it is putting social value at the heart of an international sporting event. And that the footprints of The Games have a positive impact in the lives to the most vulnerable in our society.”
Stay tuned for more candid interviews with the GL events UK’s Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Project Team.